Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Reading, Renfield and Refried Beans

I picked up The Book of Renfield: A Gospel of Dracula, a new novel by Tim Lucas, as well as Voices Of Vision: Creators Of Science Fiction And Fantasy Speak, a book of interviews by Jayme Lynn Blaschke. I'm casual but friendly online acquaintances with both gentlemen, so I'm excited to read the books.

I started into "The Book of Renfield" and noticed something before getting to the text. He thanks Dwight Frye, Thorley Walters, Klaus Kinski and Peter MacNicol as the inspirations for his characterization.

Dwight Frye is from Dracula by Tod Browning and may seriously be the highlight of that film, even over Bela Lugosi's performance. Thorley Walters was in Dracula: Prince of Darkness as Ludwig, who was the Hammer homage to a character they had neglected in their original take, The Horror of Dracula. Klaus Kinski was Renfield in Count Dracula by Jess Franco. Oddly enough, Peter MacNicol is, in fact, Renfield in Dracula: Dead and Loving It, I suspect in part due to the fact that nearly all of the very few laughs in this supposed comedy come from the antics of Mr. MacNicol.

A happenstancial check of the full name "R.M. Renfield" on the IMDb shows four people credited with portraying the character. Klaus Kinski, Peter MacNichol, Tom Waits (my personal favorite Renfield, although my feelings on the film itself are more mixed) and Peter B. Brown...

Peter B. Brown is in a supposedly made-for-video (and yet not available on video) movie curiously titled Mina Seward. R.M. Renfield is the only authentic Dracula name in the cast list, however, with the title character having an intriguingly amalgamated name.

Is any of this going anywhere? Not especially. Watching Dracula movies as a kid, whether Dwight Frye in the Browning movie, which I saw first, or Tony Haygarth in John Badham's Dracula, Renfield was always the character that captured my imagination, so I'm quite curious how this book does.

Tim Lucas lists two actors in the current Video Watchdog that he imagines for a movie of "The Book of Renfield". The à la Dwight Frye, "Joe Pantoliano, whose vicious Ralph Cifaretto on 'The Sopranos' wore a hairpiece that, I felt, made him the very image of Dwight Frye." And, more importantly, the "one living actor whom I feel would be up to the task of playing Renfield, exactly as Bram Stoker and I describe him in our dovetailing novels", Eddie Izzard. Now, that I definitely would like to see.

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