To figure out how cool the all-star monsters are in the May movie ''Van Helsing'' (starring Hugh Jackman), we compare them to the originals

By Gary Susman and Kathleen Perricone
May 07, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Dracula: Kobal Collection; Van Helsing: Frank Masi
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Image credit: Dracula: Kobal Collection; Van Helsing: Frank Masi


”Van Helsing”’s Dracula: how cool is he?

CLASSIC DRAC Bela Lugosi, ”Dracula” (1931)
A sophisticated count (above left) whose look included a cape, formal wear, and slicked-back hair (Drac made the widow’s peak cool). Sunlight, crucifixes, and wooden stakes could turn this vamp to dust. Early film technology limited Lugosi’s character’s transformation: He became a tiny, fluttering bat to escape.

”VAN HELSING” DRAC Richard Roxburgh
This bloodsucker (above right) is like a rock star — he sports a ponytail, tight black clothing, and a gaggle of lady friends. Surprisingly, crosses and wooden stakes don’t harm him. Sure, his 15-foot bat-demon CGI hybrid (above center) is bigger and scarier than the old version (and it owes a debt to ”Nosferatu”), but any subtlety of the classic Drac flies right out the window.


COOLER Roxburgh

BONE UP Lugosi is our favorite Dracula, mesmerizing and other-wordly. Among the dozens of other Dracs, check out 1922’s eerie, silent ”Nosferatu” starring Max Schreck as the most bat-like of all movie neck-biters (and the inspiration for Willem Dafoe’s character in 2000’s ”Shadow of the Vampire”). Christopher Lee played the most elegant vampire in ”The Horror of Dracula” (1958) and its six sequels. Klaus Kinski (1979’s ”Nosferatu”) is the most savage bloodsucker, and Gary Oldman (”Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” 1992) the most tragically romantic.

Image credit: Frankenstein: Kobal Collection: Van Helsing: Frank Ockenfels

Frankenstein’s Monster

”Van Helsing”’s Frankenstein’s Monster: how cool is he?

CLASSIC MONSTER Boris Karloff, ”Frankenstein” (1931)
A strong and clumsy illiterate with a flat head, neck bolts, and orthopedic shoes (above left). This creation of Dr. Frankenstein’s grave-robbing expeditions has a severe phobia of fire and a penchant for anger-fueled rages.

Similar in physical appearance to his classic predecessor, with the addition of a tracheotomy hole (for enunciating complete sentences), a swiveling upper body, and a glowing green heart (above right). Fire’s nothing for this guy; it’s the heart that gives him all the trouble — he’s burdened with too much conscience and too many feelings.


COOLER Karloff

BONE UP Karloff’s haunting, pitiable monster is our favorite of the original monsters, but he was even better when he struck sparks with Elsa Lanchester in 1935’s ”The Bride of Frankenstein,” maybe the best of all the classic monster movies. Christopher Lee made a surprisingly savage creature in 1957’s ”The Curse of Frankenstein,” which launched the celebrated Hammer Films cycle of British horror movies. And don’t forget Peter Boyle’s tap-dancing monster in Mel Brooks’ hilarious, affectionate parody ”Young Frankenstein” (1974).

Image credit: The Wolf Man: Kobal Collection

The Wolf Man

”Van Helsing”’s Wolf Man: how cool is he?

CLASSIC WOLF Lon Chaney Jr., ”The Wolf Man” (1941)
When the full moon rises, this unlucky guy sprouts lots of black hair (above left), but unlike, say Robin Williams, he also has claws, sharp teeth, brute strength, and an uncontrollable urge to kill. His chief weakness is a silver bullet — and we don’t mean a Coors Light.

A painful-looking morph of sloughing skin and bulging bones transforms the Gypsy monster fighter Velkan into an agile and swift wolf/man combo who can scale walls with the greatest of ease (above right). According to the movie, a silver bullet will still do him in — but it’s never used.

SCARIER Chaney Jr.


BONE UP Chaney’s original ”Wolf Man” was the best. He played a werewolf many more times in a series of sequels that were mostly dog tired, save for 1948’s lively ”Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein,” believe it or not. Other worthy wolves include Oliver Reed as a feral wolf-by-birth in Hammer’s ”Curse of the Werewolf” (1961), and hapless David Naughton in ”An American Werewolf in London” (1981), featuring the most vivid and gruesome transformation scene of pre-”Van Helsing” werewolf movies.

Image credit: Dracula: Everett Collection

Brides of Dracula

”Van Helsing”’s Brides of Dracula: how cool are they?

CLASSIC BRIDES Geraldine Dvorak, Cornelia Thaw, and Dorothy Tree, ”Dracula” (1931)
Dowdy wraiths with zombie-like personalities in plain white gowns (above left) that possess your basic succubi qualities — sucking blood and taking life. They have so little personality that they can disappear from the film without consequence.

”VAN HELSING” BRIDES Silvia Colloca, Elena Anaya, and Josie Maran
These sexy beasts — while still bloodthirsty — are voluptuous and fashionably clad (above right). Like most wives, these ladies want children — the pitter-patter of a million baby demon wings — and they’ll even risk their ”lives” for it.

SCARIER ”Van Helsing” brides

COOLER ”Van Helsing” brides

BONE UP Lugosi’s ”Dracula” may be the best movie to feature the brides, though they’re largely afterthoughts here, as they are again in Hammer’s otherwise landmark ”Horror of Dracula.” But they get a big, sexy scene seducing poor, outmatched Keanu Reeves in ”Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992), where they’re played by Michaela Bercu, Florina Kendrick, and a pre-”Matrix” Monica Bellucci.

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  • PG-13
  • 131 minutes
  • Stephen Sommers
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