Fangs and Stuff

Dracula 2013

I consider myself a bit of a Dracula aficionado. I try to see just about every production I can of the character (as well as Frankie, the Mummy, and Werewolves... really, just about any horror I can), and own most of the ones that are available on DVD/Blu-Ray. I wouldn't call myself an expert on all things Dracula, if for no other reason than i just can't manage to make it through the original book. It's just so boring. I've tried four times now, and every time I get stymied by about page 80.

When it comes to movies, though, I am all over that. The Universal series never thrilled me (although the Spanish version of Dracula is absolutely fantastic -- a must watch for anyone interested in classic cinema). I have a special place in my heart, though, for the Hammer Dracula productions. Horror of Dracula kicked off a series marked by high production values (even if the acting and writing wasn't always as good as the sets, costuming, and cinematography).

As with any character, other productions of Dracula vary drastically in quality. The 1973 version (with Jack Palance) is an interminable bore, but the 1979 production (with Frank Langella) improves vastly on the films that came before.

Oddly, my favorite production isn't even a proper Dracula: the blaxploitation classic, Blacula. The movie itself is a bit goofy, with all the trappings of the '70s in full force. And yet, despite that (or maybe because of it), Blacula clicks in a way that so many other Dracula movies can't. Part of this is the performance by William Marshall as the titular vampire. Cursed to walk the Earth by none other than Dracula himself, Marshall gives Blacula is depth of emotion (pathos), showing how much the transformation into immortal bloodsucker really ruined his life. Plus, unlike a lot of actors, Marshall's Blacula comes across as scary (and not just #1 winner of Creepiest Uncle Eyes -- that award goes to Carlos Villarías in the Spanish version, Drácula).

Blacula is a Dracula movie, despite the name changes. Like his sire, Blacula ends up in a strange land, stalking the night for his lovely ladies. He converts a couple of wives, falls for a Mina stand-in, and is persued by vampire hunter. The setting is '70s soul, but the story is pure Dracula.

All of that is to show that I do care about the films series and all its various productions (hell, I willingly bought Dario Argento's Dracula knowing full-well it was going to be the most interminable piece of shit I'd watched in quite some time; it lived up to my expectations). So it was with a bit of hope that I went into the 2013 mini-series (well, mini now, since it's presumed cancelled) Dracula.

I guess I should take one more pause, though, to cover my initial thoughts on the casting of Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the titular Count. Most of my exposure to Meyers's acting chops came from The Tudors, which, while high in production values, was not a very good series. If you want some nudity with a medieval veneer, Tudors is okay. Just don't go in looking for a historically accurate, well written, well acted show.

However, on Dracula, Mr. Meyers does not disappoint. Any trepidation I felt about his casting fell by the wayside once I got to watch his Count in action. Meyers here plays Dracula (often working under the pseudonym of Alexander Greyson), recently arrived in England and working behind the scenes to bring down the Order of the Dragon. Dracula is aided by his man-servant/lawyer/all-around bad motherfucker Renfield (a complete rewrite of the character that works so well, I feel like this version should be in every future production of Dracula) and by Van Helsing, a scientist with plans for revenge on the Order.

Production values are as high as you'd expect, and the acting is quite good as well. Aside from Meyers, Nonso Anozie as Renfield is the second best actor on the show (as previously touched upon). Thomas Kretschmann (Van Helsing), Jessica De Gouw (Mina Murray), and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Johnathan Harker) help to round out the high-caliber cast of familiar (but not quite the same) characters.

In fact, if there's any weak place in the cast, it's Lucy Westenra as played by Katie McGrath. She comes across as a fairly one-note, uninteresting character, although part of the blame for that could be the scripts, which don't provide Lucy much to do. it's obvious the creators put her in there because every production of Dracula has to have a Lucy, but then, once established, they obviously had no ideas what Lucy should really be up to.

That aside, Dracula is a well-acted, well-produced series with just enough twists and intrigue to make getting through the 10 episodes of the series a treat. I highly recommend giving the series a spin. Who knows, if enough people pay attention to it on DVD, they might just order a second series of it. (Editor's Note: They did not.)