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Before 'Renfield,' revisit the weirdest Dracula movies ever made

Let's take a look back at some of Count Dracula's strangest adventures.

By Matthew Jackson
7 Essential Dracula Stories

It's been more than 125 years since Bram Stoker introduced us to Count Dracula, and in all that time we've seen the legendary vampire take on many forms. He's been to Sesame Street, on cereal boxes, and in new books, comics, video games, TV series, and so much more. He's also, of course, been in a lot of movies, and while many of them are classics of Gothic horror, others are...well, just plain weird.

RELATED: Renfield reviews hail a gory good time elevated by Nicolas Cage's Dracula

This week, we'll get another strange spin on the Dracula story with Renfield, a film that seeks to tell the story of Dracula (Nicolas Cage) and his famous and long-suffering titular assistant (Nicholas Hoult). But even that's not the strangest trip the Count's been on in the years since he made his big screen debut. From comedies to strange horror journeys, here are some of the weirdest Dracula movies ever made.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

After the original wave of Universal Horror success died down, the studio looked for new ways to use its favorite monsters, and that included inserting them into the comedy hijinks of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. While this particular film doesn't feature Dracula in the title, it does have the distinction of being the last movie in which Bela Lugosi returned to play Count Dracula, this time in a "museum of horrors," where he happens to have full control over Frankenstein's monster and must battle The Wolf Man (Lon Chaney Jr.) for Universal Horror supremacy. It's very strange watching Lugosi, who of course plays things completely straight as Dracula, facing off against Abbott and Costello's comedy stylings, but no matter how weird the premise might sound, it really works, because everyone is committed.

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

Yes, this movie is exactly what it sounds like. Produced on a low budget and shot in a matter of days, Billy the Kid vs. Dracula follows Billy (Chuck Courtney) as he tries to stop the Count (John Carradine) from turning his lady into a vampire. Other than Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee, John Carradine is probably the guy who embodied Dracula more than any other actor in screen history, and he's definitely bringing some presence to this one. As the title suggests, though, this is more of a strange curiosity than a movie you'll want to rewatch over and over.

Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1971)

Cult cinema legend Al Adamson helmed this wild team-up between Dracula and Frankenstein's monster, and from the opening credits it's clear why this one became a fascinating artifact from a storied career. The film follows a descendant of Dr. Frankenstein as he tries to create a healing blood serum, which Dracula wants for himself so he can use it to walk out into sunlight. Throw in Lon Chaney Jr. (in his final film role) as an ax-wielding version of the doctor's assistant, and a version of the Frankenstein creature that looks...well, unforgettable, and you've got one wild cult movie ride.

The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)

Christopher Lee's final film as Count Dracula for Hammer Studios, Satanic Rites builds on the previous year's Dracula A.D. 1972, which transported the Count to modern-day London and pitted him against the descendants of Abraham Van Helsing. This time around, Dracula's the head of a shadowy business operation connected to a Satanic cult that has designs on the end of humanity as we know it, which raises the apocalyptic stakes considerably. A low budget undercuts some of that terror, but it's still fun to see Lee's Dracula and Peter Cushing's Van Helsing together one last time, and it is a very strange idea for a Dracula movie.

Vampira (aka Old Dracula) (1974)

Screen legend David Niven takes on Dracula duties for this very odd film, which sees the Count living in frustration in his castle, which has been reduced to a tourist attraction so the aging vampire can have his dinner come directly to his front door. But Dracula's not just coasting. No, he has his sights on resurrecting his vampire bride, which he'll do with the help of a few visiting Playboy models. What happens next is...well, let's just say this movie probably wouldn't get made today.

Blood for Dracula (aka Andy Warhol's Dracula) (1974)

Starring Udo Kier as the Count and directed by Paul Morrissey, Blood for Dracula begins with a very straightforward premise: Dracula is sick, he needs virgin blood to survive, and he hopes that going to a good Catholic nation like Italy will give him a fresh supply of his necessary meal. Of course, the virgins aren't as easy to come by as he thought, and things get...well, weird. Darkly funny and quite stylish in its own way, Blood for Dracula is strange because of the hinge point of its plot, but it's made even stranger by just how breathlessly over-the-top the performances are. 

Dracula and Son (1976)

Christopher Lee's final time in the Dracula cape is certainly a weird one. Dracula and Son stars Lee as the title Count, who leaves his Transylvanian home, becomes a movie star, and develops a fraught relationship with his son. So, what happens next? Father and son are both into the same woman, of course! Yeah, it's an odd way for Lee to end his illustrious career as the legendary vampire, but there's something kind of charming about watching him ham it up a little after all those years of playing it completely straight.

Love at First Bite (1979)

Dracula heads to the Big Apple in this comedy film starring George Hamilton (ironically a guy famous for sun tanning) as the Count, who gets kicked out of his castle home by the Romanian Communist government and is forced to relocate. Fortunately for him, that means he can pursue a model who might be the reincarnation of Mina Harker. But getting along in New York City isn't as easy as Dracula would like, which makes for a lot of fish-out-of-water comedy and even a few memorable one-liners.

Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)

The great Mel Brooks closed out his feature directing career with this send-up of all things Dracula, from the original Bela Lugosi classic to the modern updates like Bram Stoker's Dracula. Starring Leslie Nielsen in the title role, it's a typically Brooksian spoof of the Dracula story, with a joke-a-minute style that covers everything from the costumes to the sets to the strange drawbacks of Dracula's many powers. Are some of the jokes a bit obvious? Sure, but that doesn't make it any less fun.

Hotel Transylvania (2012)

Dracula's cultural saturation is so complete at this point that he's the hero of a blockbuster children's movie franchise in which he's voiced by Adam Sandler, but that's not a bad thing. Genndy Tartakovsky's Hotel Transylvania is a delightful, inventive, even heartwarming exploration of classic movie monsters, but it's also undeniably weird. Dracula's wife is killed, so his solution is to build a secret hotel where monsters can hang out whenever they want? It's not the straightest logical line the Count has ever drawn, but it makes sense in the context of the movie, and more importantly, it works for pure animated fun. 

Renfield is in theaters Friday. Get tickets now