Dracula, the vampire count from Transylvania, has been a staple of the big and small screen for decades. Bela Lugosi remains the most famous actor to put on the formal dark suit and cape and bite the necks of beautiful young women. Christopher Lee also played the count in a number of films ranging from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Dracula even showed up on an episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.
Dracula has almost always been depicted as a villain, a menace for the protagonists to put down by the end of the movie or TV episode. But one episode of Rod Serling’s classic TV series Night Gallery entitled “The Devil is Not Mocked” cast the blood-sucking count in the role of a hero.
The episode starts with a Nazi general named von Grunn invading a castle with an army of soldiers in an unnamed Balkan country in the middle of World War II in search of resistance fighters. Instead, he is met by an urbane gentleman in the iconic dark suit and cape and his servants. Since General von Grunn has apparently never seen the Lugosi film, he accepts an invitation to dinner.
Much of the episode involves banter between the Nazi and the nobleman. At the stroke of midnight, the servants all turn into werewolves and other occult creatures and finish off the Nazi soldiers while the nobleman, revealing himself to be Count Dracula, polishes off General von Grunn in his unique style. The episode ends with the count relating the story to a small child with a medal for heroism on the mantelpiece in plain view.
The episode has some slight historical basis. The historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, defended his Balkan homeland against Turkish invaders in the 15th Century. If one imagines that Vlad became an immortal undead vampire and lived into the 20th Century, one could further imagine his doing the same thing against Nazi invaders.