Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) (1979)

Your Daily Dracula – Stefan Sileanu, Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) (1979)

In his original outline for the novel he intended to call The Un-Dead, Bram Stoker called his villain ‘Count Wampyr’ – if he’d stuck with it, a complicated industry wouldn’t have sprung up about the fairly thin relationship between the real-life 15th Century Wallachian ruler Vlad the Imapaler and Stoker’s fictional Transylvanian vampire Count Dracula.  In all likelihood, Stoker just liked the sound of the name, the way R.L. Stevenson liked the sound of the name ‘Israel Hands’ and took it from a real pirate to hang on a fictional character in Treasure Island.  Because of the supernatural angle, the fact that Stoker found the name ‘Dracula’ in a historical record, and makes a vague attempt to imply that his vampire is this long-lived character, intrigues more than the relationship between the fictional and historical Macbeth, Cyrano or d’Artagnan.

In 1979, before the Dracula tourism industry really got started, the Romanian film industry turned out this biopic of the historical Vlad, covering many of his atrocities but nevertheless presenting the Prince (Stefan Sileanu) as a national hero rather than a monster.  The plot covers a fairly brief period in Vlad’s career – neglecting his several lengthy spells in captivity – as he comes to power, despite the opposition of a cadre of nasty nobles, and rallies the country against the Turks, so effectively resisting their invasions in several big battles shot in lovely green countryside that the Sultan resorts to even greater cruelty (kidnapping and threatening to murder the families of Vlad’s commanders) in order to persuade Vlad’s armies to swear allegiance to his Turk-friendly brother Radu the Handsome.

Sileanu looks exactly like the woodcuts of the Impaler, with Prince Valiant hairdo and a Jason King moustache, and gives him a certain grim humour and integrity (we see him impaling criminals and enemies but don’t get the oft-told stories of his casual murders of supposed subjects and loyal allies) – but the film only tries to present a woodcut rather than a real person or even much of a historical figure.  We get a great deal of dashing about on horseback and court pageantry, but no wives intrude on the story and there isn’t even a particular stress on Vlad’s rivalry with his sellout (and probably gay) brother.  Directed by Doru Nastase, who specialised in historical-patriotic-mythic sagas.


4 thoughts on “Your Daily Dracula – Vlad Tepes (Vlad the Impaler) (1979)

  1. (*sigh*) Do we judge a work by its author’s unformed seminal intentions? Or by its finished text? Count Dracula tells Harker his backstory – which happens to be Vlad’s. Van Helsing tells his intrepid band that -Count Dracula is Vlad. Therefoe, Count Dracula is/was Vlad Little Dragon/Devil. Signed, sometime Drac portrayer.

    Posted by Craig | February 17, 2021, 3:34 pm
    • Ah, the ever-tiresome Craig Wichman. Did you know he played Dracula and Sherlock Holmes once thirty years ago? No? Don’t worry, he’ll tell you himself.

      Posted by FUWich2 | October 12, 2022, 1:59 pm
      • Wow, Kim. What a charitable response (timely, too!) to an honest debate – and one with a very long pedigree. Every fact I cited is there in the text. As far as the work that I have been blessed to do, your facts are pretty far off. The Thirsty Count, the one of whom Van Helsing (I’ve played him, too) says, “In his life, his living life, he go over the Turkey frontier and attack his enemy on his own ground,” was in a benefit performance for the Episcopal Actor’s Guild in NYC, during Halloween 2015. The Great Detective, I’m blessed to have a longer history with. Yes, the first turn I had at him was even longer ago than the 30 years that you cite, in the Gillette play at the Heritage Playhouse. Since then, I’ve done two of Edith Meiser’s (she who invented Sherlockian radio) “lost” Radio scripts, THE LOST SPECIAL at the Friends of Old Time Radio convention, directed by her friend and executor, Baker Streeter William Nadel; and THE HINDOO IN THE WICKER BASKET. With the permission of the late Dame Jean Conan Doyle, my group Quicksilver first did THE SPECKLED BAND at the Museum of Television and Radio in NYC, then THE BLUE CARBUNCLE (with the rare one-act THE PAINFUL PREDICAMENT OF S.H.) I’ve redone BAND several times in the last few years with the East Lynne Theatre company. And we’ll do what ACD called “the one about the snake” again this Monday night, returning to the Guild mentioned above to raise funds for an acting community ravaged by COVID. Of course, this Doylean stuff has less than nothing to do with the Stoker question; not sure why you threw it in, but for ad hominem distraction! All the best to you and yours. – Craig

        Posted by Craig | October 13, 2022, 1:38 am
  2. The saddest thing about this film is how little information exists about it on the internet. It is truly forgotten. As is the culture of this poor eastern country that bizarrely is the site of so many film productions. Vlad was unique. A Romanian who fought back against oppression rather than submit and be a slave. He killed Muslim civilians to defy Mehmed the Conqueror and lure him to Wallachia, where he sprung a trap and whittled him down enough to send the sultan running home to dispatch his assassins. A true story and a meticulous film. The greatest part of it is the language. These same exact words were spoken by Vlad himself centuries ago. Nicolae Ceausescu financed the film to say that he was another Vlad, like Stalin making Ivan the Terrible to say that he was another Ivan. Two lies from two murderers, but they created art in spite of themselves. I tip my hat to the disgraced and hated Nicolae. Your version of Dracula is the best.

    Posted by Mike | December 2, 2022, 9:59 am

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