Frankenstein and Dracula

“I considered the being whom I had cast among mankind, and endowed with the will and power to effect purposes of horror – my own vampire.” (Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, 73).  Though the modern pairing of Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster is primarily a partnership on screen, our favourite monsters have enjoyed a long and fascinating relationship.

Their origins can be traced to the famous literary gathering on the shores of Lake Geneva. Mary was inspired to write about a freaky monster made out of corpses from churchyards and dissecting rooms and endued it with life by galvanism. On the other hand,  Polidori also encapsulated a certain energy that forged the modern image of the vampire, male aristocratic and demonic.

Early, the two works were associated on stage. Peter Thomas Cooke, who played the title role in The Vampyre at the Theatre Royale in 1820, was also the first actor to play the Frankenstein Monster in the London staging of Presumption. In fact, in 1826 a theatre-goer in London could take in a double bill and be treated to both monsters. It was only a matter of time before both fiends appeared in the same production. The Devil Among the Players (1826), which was based on the story of Frankenstein, included a vampire. By the time the monsters co-starred in Frankenstein; orThe Vampire’s Victim in 1849, the link between them had been inexorably forged.

The pairing of Frankenstein and Dracula is not confined to the movies. It occurs everywhere, from novels to comic books and T-shirts. Both monsters shared the spotlight in Forrest Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland which debuted in 1958, and were popular items in Aurora’s Model Series. Both were spoofed in The Munsters. Both had breakfast cereals named after them: “Count Chocula” and “Frankenberry.”

Movies

Although Count Dracula has replaced both Lord Ruthven and Sir Francis Varney as the vampire of choice, the vampire’s association with Frankenstein has continued. In the early days of motion pictures, both novels were adapted as films: Edison produced Frankenstein in 1910 and Murnau’s Nosferatuwas released in 1922. Hamilton Deane, who appeared as the Monster in Peggy Webling’s adaptation of Frankenstein, wrote the definitive theatrical adaptation of Dracula in 1924. Over the next few years, both monsters became permanent parts of his travelling repertoire. This was the beginning of a formula that would continue to capture the public imagination for the rest of the twentieth century. John Balderston, who rewrote Deane’s play for the Broadway production of 1927 (and whose text formed the basis of Universal’s Dracula) also adapted Webling’s Frankenstein for Universal’s production of 1931. When these movies were re-released as a double bill in 1938, they broke all box office records

During the 1940s, Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster began to appear together in movies such as House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). This trend continued for decades. Both of them ventured into the Wild West in the 1960s with Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter and Billy the Kid vs Dracula. The inevitable confrontation between them occurred in 1970 with Dracula vs Frankenstein. Sequels and spin-offs continued with an endless parade of sons, daughters, ghosts, resurrections and revenges. In the less serious category, Blacula and Blackenstein, as well as Spermula and Frankenhooker were followed in the 1990s by Mel Brooks’ classic parody : Young Frankenstein (1979) with Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1996). In some cases, the boundaries between the novels have been blurred: Young Frankenstein is set in Transylvania; the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show features Frank N. Furter from “transsexual Transylvania”; and in Transylvania 6-5000, the Frankenstein Monster is tracked down in Dracula’s homeland.

Not surprisingly, the same actors have often appeared as both the monster and the vampire. Bela Lugosi was asked to play the Frankenstein monster but, according to David Skal in Hollywood Gothic, turned down the offer: “He objected to the makeup, and to dialogue which consisted of nothing but grunts” (184). (However, he did later appear as Igor in Son of Frankenstein.) One year after playing the Frankenstein Monster in The Curse of Frankenstein, Christopher Lee accepted his most famous role, that of the Count in Horror of Dracula. Dwight Frye was cast as both Renfield and Fritz, while Peter Cushing played both the monster’s creator and the vampire’s nemesis. Other actors who have appeared in both types of movies include Lionel Atwill, Evelyn Aikens, John Carradine, Lon Chaney, Jr., Valerie Gaunt, Donald Pleasance and Edward Van Sloan.

Books

The most famous vampire novel of the mid-nineteenth century, Varney the Vampyre, was originally serialized as a “penny-dreadful” and was reprinted as a novel in 1847 (the year of Bram Stoker’s birth). Although this pot-boiler is indebted to Polidori (there is even a minor character named “Count Pollidori”), it also contains echoes of Frankenstein. Sir Francis Varney’s revival by moonlight reflects Mary Shelley’s hints of galvanism, while the scene in which a disillusioned Varney leaps into Mount Vesuvius is a melodramatic echo of Frankenstein. The Model Man, a stage play in which the Frankenstein monster and a vampire are tracked to the Arctic, appeared in 1887, just three years before Bram Stoker started working on Dracula. 

The two fiends often accompany each other on bookshelves. Donald Glut’s Frankenstein Meets Dracula (1977) is intended as a sequel to both novels. As befits their portrayals in the original works, the Frankenstein Monster is a more sympathetic character than the diabolical Count. Brian Aldiss followed Frankenstein Unbound (1973) in which the Monster, his creator and the author interact, with Dracula Unbound (1991) featuring the Count and Bram Stoker. Novels such as Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (1975) contain numerous allusions to both monsters, while The Ultimate Frankenstein and The Ultimate Dracula (1991) are collections of stories which focus on the respective characters. A similar pairing has occurred in scholarly publications: Florescu and McNally’s In Search of Dracula (1972) was followed by Florescu’s study of the Frankenstein legend; Glut’s non-fictional works include The Frankenstein Legend and The Dracula Book; and Leonard Wolf has prepared annotated editions of both texts.

The two novels have been adapted as comic books, and both Frankenstein and Dracula have enjoyed their own comic-book series. Marvel Comics’ The Frankenstein Monster (1973-4)  and Topps three-part series, The Frankenstein/Dracula War (1995). They even appeared together in children’s books, such as Dracula’s Cat and Frankenstein’s Dog by Jan Wahl (1990).