Our Favorite Vampires

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Vampires come in all shapes and forms, and they are certainly more numerous (at least at parties) near Halloween! Here's a look at some pop culture vampires.

Vlad Tepes III, also known as Vlad Dracula or Vlad the Impaler, was the prince of Wallachia (a region of Romania) in the 15th century. Although he was a cruel leader, having tortured and killed thousands of his own citizens, he was never considered a vampire. He was the inspiration for the Bram Stoker character Dracula because of the name, which means "son of Dracul". His father, Vlad Tepes II took the name Dracul as a member of the Order of the Dragon. Because of this inspiration, he is an "honorary" pop culture vampire.

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The 1922 film Nosferatu was the first widely-seen movie based on the the Bram Stoker novel Dracula. However, it was not an authorized adaptation, so the names were changed. "Nosferatu" is supposedly a Romanian word for vampire, but the origin of the word is in doubt. Max Schrek played the title character, called Count Orlok, as a repulsive and terrifying creature. The film is in the public domain, and available on the internet.

But we're just getting started! Lots more vampires, after the jump.

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Count Dracula is the best known vampire of all. He was the subject of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, and set the stage for all other vampire tales that followed. The first authorized movie featuring the chracter was Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi in 1931. He was also played by Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Christopher Lee, Frank Langella, Louis Jourdan, Klaus Kinski, Gary Oldman, and Marc Warren in later movies. Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula as a charming and erudite aristocrat is still the archtype for the character.

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The character Vampira was born when actress Maila Nurmi wore a Halloween costume modeled on a Charles Addams character (later named Morticia Addams) to a party. Nurmi was hired to host horror movies on KABC-TV in 1954. A year later, she took the show to KHJ-TV. Vampira became a local hit, then a nationwide cult celebrity. She appeared in several movies, most notably in Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space. Nurmi now runs the website Vampira's Attic.

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Barnabas Collins was the most popular character on the ABC soap opera Dark Shadows, which aired from 1966 to 1971 (also remade in 1991). The gothic series began with no supernatural elements. The vampire Barnabas Collins (played by Jonathon Frid) debuted in the second season and made the show a hit. You can see an extensive history of the character at CollinWiki. A new feature film based on Dark Shadows is in development, in which Johnny Depp will play Barnabas Collins.

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Count Chocula showed up in cereal aisles in 1971. He took the vampire back to what Halloween is really all about -sugar overload! The character craved chocolate instead of blood. Count Chocula, along with Frankenberry, were the first of General Mills' series of monster-themed cold cereals. Count Chocula has had some fame outside of the breakfast table, including a press conference related at The Onion.

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Blacula was the lead character in two "blaxploitation" films, Blacula in 1972 and Scream, Blacula, Scream in 1973. Mamuwalde, played by William Marshall, was an African prince bitten by Dracula and doomed to be a vampire (it was Count Dracula who named him Blacula). The movies are now cult classics and available on DVD.

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Elvira, Mistress of the Dark was a character played by Cassandra Peterson. She gained fame as the host of the weekly Movie Macabre on KHJ-TV in Los Angeles in the 1980s, a job turned down by Maila Nurmi. Elvira went on to guest star on TV shows, appeared in several movies, hosted a video series, and was the celebrity Halloween spokesperson for Coors beer.

Sesame Street's Count von Count taught Gen X how to count, with a weird vampire laugh thrown in with every success. He doesn't suck blood or stay inside all day, but like other vampires he isn't reflected in a mirror. He lives in a castle and counts bats, as well as anything else he encounters. Ah-ha-ha-ha!

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Lestat de Lioncourt is the main character in Anne Rice's series of novels called The Vampire Chronicles. Tom Cruise played the part in the 1994 film Interview with the Vampire. Stuart Townsend played Lestat in the 2002 film The Queen of the Damned.

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Vampire Bats are the only real vampires here. There are a thousand species of bats, but only the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) drinks the blood of other mammals to live. They are native to Latin America, only about four inches long, and feed mostly from livestock. If a vampire bat doesn't find food one night, it may ask a close relative or friend for some regurgutated blood to survive!

Vampire fans and movie buffs will also want to check out the list of The Top 70 Vampire Movies of all Time. Which vampire is your favorite?

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October 22, 2007 - 11:46pm
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