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What’s in a cape?

Simple in design, yet evocative of the utmost drama and intrigue, capes are sartorial shorthand for imminent action. 

Go up to any kid on the street and ask him what Dracula looks like. Or any adult, for that matter. The answer is always the same. They won’t describe the figure from Bram Stoker’s novel, a gaunt old man with a moustache. They won’t describe Max Schreck from NOSFERATU, the first filmed version of the book. They won’t describe Prince Vlad III of Wallachia, surnamed Dracula and nicknamed “The Impaler.” They will tell you that Dracula has dark hair, slicked back, with a widow’s peak. And they will tell you that he wears a cape. Always. Thank Bela Lugosi for that. He forevermore fixed in the public consciousness what the vampiric Count is supposed to look like. (Even what he’s supposed to SOUND like.) But why did they choose to put Bela in a cape in the first place?

Capes are magical. Ask any little kid who ties a pillowcase around his neck and pretends to fly around his backyard. (I did it. Bet you did, too.) Look at the etymology of the word. It has the same root as “escape,” as in “to get away.” In other words, it transforms the wearer. Would Bela have been as scary without his trademark black cape?

By TheCheezman

WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS, specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced, and directed (and occasionally acted in) over two dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and True Crime genres. He obtained a doctorate in Occult Studies from Miskatonic University and is an active paranormal investigator. Is frequently told he resembles Anton Lavey. And Ming the Merciless.

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3 replies on “What’s in a cape?”

Well, yeah, Bela Lugosi did look cool in the cape, he was even buried in it when he died. When I was a very young kid I dressed up like Dracula for Halloween twice, and I wore that stereotypical Dracula look you are talking about, including a black cape with red lining. Even when it wasn’t Halloween I would sometimes put on that cape and run around in the backyard too….can’t believe I just admitted to that last part…lol.
Getting to the book, it is actually mentioned at least once in the novel that he is wearing a cape or “cloak” (and almost everyone who is a fan of that book probably loves this particular part). Jonathan Harker is looking out a window of the castle and sees Dracula emerge from the window below, crawling down the castle wall face down (very much like what you would see Spiderman do in a comic book or movie), and it says “his cloak spread out in the wind like great wings”.
Even though I love those old movies, after reading the novel I never understood why they changed the description of Count Dracula that Bram Stoker gave in the novel to this guy who looks like a damned opera singer! Sometimes it makes me angry that they did that. If Bram Stoker were alive to see some of the things they have done with his character over the years in film, television, etc, I’m sure he would be horrified. He’d probably throw up if he saw that his vampire character was turned into a muppet and some silly character on a cereal box. I actually wish they would create a major movie that would portray the look of Count Dracula exactly as Stoker meant it to be while staying true to the story as well, and it would have to be on the big screen not some low budget, straight to video piece of crap. But, I doubt they will do it anytime soon. Well, maybe someday…here’s hoping.

I doubt Bram would be too upset, David, considering the money he’d be raking in. As for physical appearances that match the book, probably David Carradine as Dracula comes closest, but I found his performance lacking in its sense of menace as compared to Lugosi or Lee.

I think it expands his presence. You get a sense of the man having great power when he opens his cape and you see more of him (in the clothes acting as an extension of his body) than you would for most people. And when he’s active, the cape moves around and is more interesting to watch than non-caped individuals. Storm in X-Men has a similar effect.

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