Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dracula remakes

Dracula by Bram Stoker was published in 1897. It was, as such, 25 years old at the time of Nosferatu, the first cinematic adaption. At that it was the same age as Stephen King's Different Seasons collection is today. It was 34 years old when the Tod Browning version, the first remake, was released in 1931. That's the age Carrie will be next year. At the time Terence Fisher returned to the material, the previous, very famous, version was 27 years old, more recent than the original Salem's Lot miniseries is today.

I won't go into what any of that means exactly, because it's more complicated than I've made it here. Studios made many more movies back then. There was no video.

Nevertheless, I think we forget to remember the timeline under which these things actually took place when think about it, as they all took place before our time. It's easy to imagine "Dracula" as always having been some long ago piece of literature and not one that was tangibly contemporary to the people who first adapted it or the iconic movies not being released comfortably within the memories of those remaking them. It was not Shakespeare.

Like I said, much different world, but I was sitting down to the BBC Count Dracula and feeling glad that there once was this other time, so I could be enriched by these various and intriguingly different adaptation of this novel.


Ed Hardy, Jr. said...

That's an interesting point. Classics weren't always so, and we would do well to remember that. Of course, I wouldn't quite say that DRACULA has now, with age, turned into Shakespeare, but...

Jonathan Lapper said...

First off, I briefly misread your line that IT was 34 years old when the 1931 Dracula was released and thought you wrote I was 34 years old. For a brief moment I thought, "Goddamn Neil's old!!! Like over a hundred!!!"

Secondly, I just watched the 79 version again with Frank Langella. Oh my god! What a shredding of the story! Mina dies first (and is the daughter of Van Helsing) and Lucy is the lost love in the Mina role. Then Langela has no fangs or anything that would indicate he's a Vampire. Nothing. The film looks beautiful by the way in widescreen, but there's just nothing there for any serious fan of Dracula to like. It's a bust, through and through.

Neil Sarver said...

Ed, thanks. Here's where I have to confess, without getting into a debate on the merits of "Dracula" that I totally blanked on examples of 17th or 18th Century literature when I was writing and finally just tossed Shakespeare in there, but, of course, that always brings the quality factor in.

Jonathan, sometimes I feel that old, but that's another story.

I have a certain affection for John Badham's Dracula, but that's tied closely in to it playing over and over on Showtime when I was 11 or so. It certainly is pretty goofy.

And then just to anyone...

It occurs to me that the better example to compare Terence Fisher's Dracula to its predecessor and its influence in terms of sequels and rip-offs is most likely if someone now was remaking Alien.

I was attached to my Stephen King comparison, though. King was the first writer I remember hearing about being discussed as new and exciting. I remember my uncles discussing his work and knowing I had to read it.

And then I remember my best friend handing me a copy of "Night Shift" with what I imagine must be about the same look someone would give if they'd just gotten hooked on heroin and were offering you some, "This is wonderful and terrible. This is life and death. This is the alpha and the omega."

Ed Hardy, Jr. said...

You're right, Neil, the ALIEN comparison really does put your point into perspective.

And I wonder how Shakespeare would feel about it if he knew his name was a shorthand for "quality."

Neil Sarver said...

I know if it was me, I'd just feel awkward about it, and be leaping up from my grave to point up all the flaws in this work or that. But then I'd hardly suggest my hang-ups and those of The Bard are the same.

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