Broadcast on:
July 11, 1938
Based on:
'Dracula' by Bram Stoker (1897)

"Take care how you cut yourself. It is more dangerous than you think..."

Originally intending Treasure Island to be the first of the Mercury Theatre broadcasts, the 23-year-old Welles abruptly changed his mind a week before the recording and set about adapting Stoker's novel in a series of wine-soaked meetings with producer John Houseman. Stoker's epistolary novel, which lurches from place to place, from narrator to narrator, was the ideal starting point for a series Welles believed should fully exploit the freedom of location that radio could provide.

The full script (PDF) can be downloaded here.

One of the most remarkable features of this first radio outing of the Mercury Theatre is the almost continual soundtrack of effects and music, a relentless assault on the senses. The man responsible was Bernard Herrmann, who was to become one of Hollywood's most recognised composers. The pair had worked together once before on Welles's production of Macbeth, two years previously, but after Welles insisted on placing an interminable, screeching set of bagpipes over the orchestra, the collaboration ended somewhat acrimoniously. Thankfully they forgot their bagpipe differences, Herrmann later composing the music for Citizen Kane, Welles's first film.


The Novel

Stoker's 1987 novel, so well-known it is barely worth summarising, was one in a series of sensational novels Stoker wrote whilst managing London's Lyceum Theatre. It was not the first vampire novel - Sheridan Le Fanu's lesbian vampire horror "Carmilla" had been published 25 years previously - but has become the template for an entire genre of film, literature and television. Beyond any question of literary merit, there is no doubting the masterfully frantic plot, the ease with which Stoker flits between different mediums and the skill with he crafts an entire 'vocabulary' of vampires.

Full Cast

Orson Welles (Dr. John Seward, Count Dracula), Elizabeth Fuller (Lucy Westenra). George Coulouris (Jonathan Harker), Agnes Moorehead (Mina Harker), Martin Gabel (Dr. Van Helsing), Ray Collins (Russian Captain), Karl Swenson (Mate).

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Mercury Theatre

All eighteen surviving broadcasts from the Mercury Theatre on the Air, free to listen to and download.

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Les Miserables

Welles's interpretation of Hugo's epic tale, which inspired CBS to commission the Mercury Theatre.

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Original scripts, other Welles recordings, further reading and lots more besides.

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"We're born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we're not alone."

Orson Welles