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Bela Lugosi prepares to bite the neck of an unconscious woman in a still 'Dracula.' ()

Defining Dracula: A Century Of Vampire Evolution

Oct 30, 2008

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Dracula can't see his own reflection in the mirror because he is a reflection of the culture around him. Ever since Bram Stoker penned Dracula in 1897, the vampire's image has been a work in progress.

In the 43 sequels, remakes and adaptations of Stoker's novel, Transylvania's most famous son rarely appears the same way twice. He has evolved with the society around him. His physical traits, powers and weaknesses have morphed to suit cultural and political climates from the Victorian era to the Cold War.

Read on to see how the "Son of the Devil" has changed over time:

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1931: Dracula As European Aristocrat

1450: The Real-Life Dracula

The original, real-life Dracula was not a vampire, did not drink blood, and didn't worship the devil, either. But he did do many terrible things (i.e., murder thousands of his countrymen) that would make "actual" vampires pale in comparison.

Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia or "Vlad the Impaler" is Count Dracula's historical namesake. His chosen last name "Dracula" translates to "son of the devil," or "son of the dragon" — a reference to a religious order founded by his father (Vlad Dracul).

Despite his famed ruthlessness, it is most likely that his name — chosen randomly out of a Transylvanian history book — was all that Dracula author Bram Stoker ever knew of him.

1897: Modeled After Walt Whitman?

1958: Dracula As Cold War Enemy

1979: Disco Dracula

In the 1979 remake of the original Dracula, the vampire was updated for the disco era with chiseled good looks and severely blow-dried hair. Forget politics or world views with this Count. He represented a sexual creature free of moral anchors — able to do whatever (or whomever) he pleased.

It's probably no coincidence that this manifestation of the Transylvanian bad boy debuted less than two years after Saturday Night Fever. Frank Langella looks as if he plans to do "The Hustle" with Tony Manero right after he drains the blood from a few virgins.

2004: Dracula Goes Goth

Goth, gaunt and hip, today's vampires look like roadies for the Smashing Pumpkins. They exude absolute freedom and irreverent power — and they're handsome to boot.

Aussie Richard Roxburgh played the Count in Van Helsing in 2004. Despite his Johnny Depp good looks, he transforms into a bat-like orthodontic nightmare when provoked.

In HBO's True Blood and author Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, modern vampires disguise ugly evil below sexy allure. Today's Dracula reflects 21st century fears about people who are not what they seem.

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