This week on Svengoolie: The movie that popularized vampire fangs
Yes, I Love Lucy predates vampire fangs.
Image: The Everett Collection
It somewhat boggles the mind, but I Love Lucy is older than vampire fangs. Bram Stoker created his Count Dracula at the tail end of the 19th century, but most of the common vampire tropes we know today came much later.
Hungarian-born actor Bela Lugosi — born just over the border from Transylvania in Lugoj, which lies in Romania today — gave Dracula his accent, slicked-back hair and cape in the 1931 horror film Dracula. Surprisingly, though Dracula bites Mina (Helen Chandler) in the Tod Browning classic, he did not have fangs.
F.W. Murnau German gothic chiller Nosferatu, an unauthorized 1922 movie adaptation with Max Schreck as the batty monster, gave "Count Orlok" pointy teeth — but they were rodent-like incisors. His mouth resembled a mole more than a vampire.
Vampire fangs — with the sharp, projecting canine teeth — did not arrive until the 1950s. And the origin lies in Turkey.
Dracula in Istanbul (Drakula Istanbul'da) featured Atif Kaptan in the lead role. His portrayal was somewhere between Lugosi and Schreck —bald, but dressy in a tie and cape. And, yes, indeed, he had two canines jutting out at angles from the corner of his mouth.
Another black-and-white obscurity, the 1957 teen flick Blood of Dracula, an American International Pictures B-movie in the family of I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, pioneered vampire fangs. It also featured a female vampire, a schoolgirl named Nancy Perkins (Sandra Harrison) who transforms into the monster. Her sharp teeth also looked somewhat similar to Nosferatu but spaced further apart.
The movie that truly established the modern characteristics of Count Dracula and vampire, in general, was the 1958 British production Dracula.
Retitled Horror of Dracula in America, this Technicolor marvel from Hammer Films cast Christopher Lee as Dracula. Lee imbued the count with a seductive appeal, and his snarling mouth inspired so many Halloween costumes, not to mention the wax fangs given out as treats. The vibrant colors certainly helped ingrain this image of Dracula in the public's imagination.
Lee would go on to play Dracula in six sequels, squaring off against Peter Cushing's Van Helsing. (Star Wars fans, take note.)
See how Lee crafted an icon in Horror of Dracula on Svengoolie, Saturday, March 21 on MeTV!