Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TV’s Takes on Dracula

In light of the new television series “Dracula,” it might be worthwhile to consider past adaptations of the book to TV. Namely, the two Masterpiece Theater-Type approaches aired in 1977 and 2006. Both appear to be available to view in their entirety on Youtube. The question is, should you?

The 1977 miniseries is widely considered to be the most faithful adaptation. That is an accurate consideration. Apart from some minor changes (like the combination of two secondary characters into one) it sticks for the most part to the story as presented in the novel. That is usually the point of Masterpiece Theater. (In this case it was actually a part of “Great Performances.”) The big stumble of this interpretation lies in some poor choices in editing and effects. They try to convey the supernatural with stuff that might have looked cool and innovative in the seventies, but I doubt it was good even then. If you want a good idea of what the book is like but are too lazy to read, then this is the adaptation for you.

The 2006 film is more of an interpretation—as most film versions of the story tend to be. That being said, it makes some really interesting choices. The novel is rich in that it is open to a wide variety of interpretations. This film version is unique in that its changes and deviations from the book highlight the religious/faith based reading. Here, Dracula isn’t just an evil force, he is a satanic one. In the book, Dracula’s motivations are vague and the reasons for his move to London are not revealed. Here he is summoned by a satanic cult using the desperation of a sick man seeking a cure. The film does not shy away from the Christian faith of the protagonists. It even makes a point in one scene to emphasis that this is a battle engaged through faith, not science.

Characters are changed around, the plot is streamlined, and—as always in film versions of Dracula—the sexual enticement of evil is highlighted. In this case, none of those things hurt the story. For this viewer at least, this version focuses on themes that are the real strength of the story. (And thankfully, there is no romantic subplot about Dracula trying to regain a long-lost love, something that every adaptation since the Jack Palance version of the early seventies has had to incorporate. The new TV series seems to be banking heavily on that tired invention.)

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