gall and gumption

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dracula for Blairite Cretins

It was past me bedtime but I watched a bit of that new Dracula on PBS last night. I have always had a fondness for that novel, particularly the first half. And the opportunities for campy effect and genuine creepiness are so easy, I am usually curious to see what people have done with it on film -- provided the bloodshed isn't too copious.

Well, I watched it for 30 minutes and it was, quite simply, unrecognizable. I don't know why they even called it Dracula. I mean, really, they could have called it "Fred." First of all, all the great funny moments of the Stoker novel, all gone. And in their place a story line so weak and needlessly elaborate you realize that its sole purpose is apparently to make one rather silly didactic point: Lucy and Mina are not passive Victorian virgins, they are red-blooded modern women like Bridget Jones! So they are always grabbing hold of their fiances' ears and trying to suck the faces right off their heads! Well, at least at first. Then Mina goes in for praying. I mean really goes in for praying. She sits, in one scene, in some serious acreage of draperies and says "rhubarbrhubarb" over a rosary. And it works. Dracula can't get into her room and so he goes to visit Lucy instead who he finds thrashing lasciviously about in her sleep. So he gets in there all right, and the two of them wrestle with more drapery together.

Dracula walks about in broad daylight, with 1970s pop star hair, eyeliner, and tight pants, and in one scene where he visits Arthur and Lucy (married but -- as Lucy tells Mina "The marriage is -- unconsummated") he's sort of lollygagging about the living room casting smoldering looks at the two women.

I've really never seen anything quite like it for perfectly pitched and unfailing vulgarity. There was a historical and/or dialogue howler about every 45 seconds, in addition to the story itself. The whole thing was like a costume party or one of those "theme" weddings. As done by people whose entire literary experience consists of People magazine and Bridget Jones novels. Or, possibly, by a committee of English professors representing a diverse plurality of interests and critical approaches. And of course the actors are all of them, to a man, woman and child, chewing up the curtains. I think it was Donald Pleasance who started that business of muttering dementedly in a corner, in that "Oh! Here's a nice big room and what's that sound? Oh there's that man in the corner muttering dementedly to himself again." Like it takes you a while to find the source of this state of general global demented mutteringness. Lots of that here.

Everybody's motive is mean and self-serving and still has the big numbered "Plot Device" tag hanging off it. Whereas in the book, you may recall, everybody except Dracula and Renfield is nice -- kind and earnest and loyal.

I thought it better to be asleep than watch any more, figuring it would only get worse.


At 3:55 PM, Blogger baxie said...

wise choice- you were right.

At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I watched a bit. When the guy had syphilis, I figured that this was going to be a less than literal lit-crit version. I remember reading that the book was about VD.

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