Tuesday, October 12, 2010

When Vampires Didn't Suck (as such)

Last evening I finished doing something that I have wanted to do for many years. Every October, I tell myself I really ought to re-read Dracula, seeing as I was a high school freshman the one and only time I read it. It affected me powerfully then, bringing vivid dreams and (I must confess) the very brief but memorable placing of garlic in my bedroom window.
It still packs quite the punch, though I haven't busted out with any garlic (yet!).
Stoker did an amazing job of weaving this complex tale through the first person point of view of numerous different people from different classes, sexes, and nationalities, in a very convincing way. I admired the novel from a technical as well as an entertainment standpoint, and though the Victorian prose sometimes got a bit thick, it was much more fast-paced and accessible than I remembered.
Movies have never gotten the Count just right, but for my money, the BBC's Count Dracula got the closest. My brother and I were such fans of this version we made an audio cassette recording of it when it re-played on PBS in the pre-VCR year (for us anyway) year of 1979. The cast was great, Louis Jourdan brought a suave yet decayed European elegance to the Count, and the true star of the show, Van Helsing, was played to absolute perfection by Frank Finlay. The haunting theme music performed the sublime miracle of capturing everything about Dracula: it was haunting, powerful, menacing, hypnotic, yearning, malevolent,...sad. Amazing.
I won't bore you with rants about how much vampire stuff mostly blows in this Twilight era. You know it and I know it. The modern twisting of the vampire myth to make the daemonic desirable is but one of the many illustrations existing in entertainment today that celebrates the spiritual degradation of the current zeitgeist. See The Monsters Among Us in my archive for more on that if you want.
If you haven't read Dracula, or read it a long time ago, do yourself a favor and enjoy it. If you have never seen The BBC's Count Dracula, track it down and see what I mean.
And keep the garlic handy!


Brer said...

Apparently the BBC has made another version of Dracula (2006) with David Suchet as Van Helsing. From what I can glean from the Wikipedia article on it, it sucks.

The whole "modern vampire" situation is parodied to good effect in Terry Pratchett's "Carpe Jugulem" in which the younger vampires have a faddish trend of wearing ordinary clothes, pretending to drink milk, and going by such names as "Roger" and "Betty" instead of Lachrymosa and Vlad. Even the victims are happier when a good old-fashioned Count returns to the scene.

AlanDP said...

That "heroification" of the vampire is also what prompted me to try to write my own vampire stories. Which, by the way, I haven't abandoned even though I haven't updated it in a long time. I think about it daily. I'll have to hunt down that BBC version.

AlanDP said...

Netflix has the one you're talking about. Put in the queue today.

Babel said...

Cool! There are a few production touches that are "of that time" (the late 70's) and a compromise was made in presenting Lucy's suitors, (Quincy Morris and Lord Godalming are combined into one character), but never have the Brides or the Bloofer Lady been so well done! As I said, Finlay is the Ultimate Van Helsing, FINALLY portrayed as written! Enjoy!