Vampires have enjoyed a big makeover of late – a revamp, one could say. American TV shows such as the horribly wonderful True Blood have become addictive viewing. But the myth of the vampire goes back a long way.
Some say it is born out of bankrupts seeking sanctuary in churchyards. They would live – and sleep – there to avoid the clutches of the law. When they moved in the night, the unsuspecting and impressionable passerby would think that the dead were rising from the grave.
Others have it that the legend springs from a rudimentary Mittel European remedy for anaemia – to drink sheep’s blood.
Others yet believe that they are, of course, real.
When it comes to vampires here in England, the Hammer Studios Dracula films of the 1950’s and 60’s have shaped the British imagination. Given that the great Bram Stoker gives us precious little of the wicked Count’s look – “clad in black from head to foot” is all – it was left to the costume department at Pinewood to define it for us.
To celebrate Halloween, we examine The Dracula Look…
1. The Count
The barely-restrained opera of Christopher Lee’s Dracula is mesmeric and lurid by turns. His look is essentially that of the mythical gentleman killer from the Jack the Ripper case – a very British undertone in these quintessentially British films. For many Englishmen, he IS Dracula.
2. Van Helsing
Played by the dignified Peter Cushing. In the mind’s eye we picture him in tweed. But Cushing’s Van Helsing is often something of a dandy – velvet smoking jackets and fur collared coats being the order of the day… and night.
3. Rustic Types
The Transylvanian peasants who were so fond of warning visitors to stay away from the castle, always had the look of a grouse shoot about them. Very English for 19th century Romanians…
4. Swinging London Dracula
Dracula in Swinging London? Dracula AD 1972 is a kitsch classic. Johnny Alucard (geddit?) the sordid King’s Road hipster and would-be vampire goes for peacock frills, blood-red Mr Fish shirts, wide-brimmed fedora hats and velvet riding-style jackets. If Mick Jagger in his pomp had been a vampire, this is the vampire he’d have been…
Hornets Hire is launched for Halloween.