Friday, June 4, 2010

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Have you ever read Dracula? What was your reaction to it?

I first read it some years ago, and my reaction was "My god! Why has nobody ever made a movie out of this book?" Which probably seems strange to anyone who hasn't read it, as the amount of movies featuring a vampire named Count Dracula is truly enormous, but very few of them resemble the book.

I'm hardly alone in this opinion. In his interviews with Peter Bogdanovich (I think in the 1960s) Orson Welles spoke of wanting to make a film of Dracula on the grounds that none of the best parts of the book had ever been filmed. Starting with the most iconic film version, the 1931 Universal one with Bela Lugosi, the movies have tended to be based more on the hugely simplified 1924 stage adaptation. Other movie versions, such as the Hammer version from 1958, have deviated from the novel specifically to catch the audience off guard.

I can think of exactly three honest attempts to adapt the novel faithfully and none of these is completely satisfactory as adaptation or even just as a movie. One is a cheapskate international production directed by a sleaze-meister; one is a po-faced BBC "classic literature"-style version; and one is a big-budget all-star romp. I'll deal with each of these individually in later posts.

My mission is to examine every version of Dracula. Every movie adaptation, sequel, rip-off and parody. Every novel sequel and alternate version. If possible, every radio adaptation and if I can manage it, every video game. If I can find them, every comic book version. The Complete Dracula.

I am fully aware that this project will likely take longer than the rest of my life, especially as more versions of Dracula are being produced all the time. But with any luck, my consumption of so much Dracula product will turn me undead so that after life I'll have all the time in the world.

Anyway, if you haven't read Dracula by Bram Stoker I would heartily recommend it. Your local library has it; your local bookstore probably has it; Project Gutenberg has it; the Internet Archive has a scan of the first edition; there are very few books that are easier to come by than Dracula.

If you've already read it, here is a radio adaptation by the Mercury Theatre On the Air from 1938, directed by a young Orson Welles (who also stars as both Dracula and as Dr. Seward). It sounds fully 72 years old, but it's an energetic version.

(This does not by any means signal the end of my series on ghost stories. I'm nowhere near finished those, but I've been champing at the bit to get into this Dracula series. Besides, it seems like a good idea to diversify a bit.)


  1. Yeah, I was suprised and pleased when I actually read Dracula. It's such a good book!

    It also is one of the best portrayals of a genuinely in love married couple that I've read. Mina and Jonathan are *awesome* to each other and I hated how they changed that for the 'all star' movie version.

  2. Yeah, that damned movie and its stupid "eternal love" theme. I didn't get the feeling that Winona would stay with Keanu for long after the end credits (I just can't think of them as Mina and Jonathan).

  3. When I first saw that Dracula movie (Coppolla's one) I thought it seemed ok. But then I read the book with my book club (which was only me and Sean and my friend Karen, who used to live with us), and we watched some of the movies, and the one that made me angriest was THAT Dracula movie, because it pretended it was telling Bram Stocker's story, but actually was betraying it. Mina Harker is one of the coolest characters ever, and the story is so much more complex. I agree with Jenny about the good portrayal of a married couple who actually love each other.

    Possibly my favourite adaptation of Dracula is Vampyros Lesbos - which, apart from the fact that the protagonist is both the Mina Harker character and the Jonathan Harker character, and that both she and 'Dracula' are women, is the same basic story as Dracula, except stylier and saucier.

    I'm enjoying your series Pearce.

    Oh, and also, I have your sunglasses that you left at that party at my workmate's place.

  4. Helen: I'm right there with you regarding Vampyros Lesbos. The first half-hour of that movie is particularly amazing.