Saturday, November 12, 2016

Downton Vampire Abbey, or Thoughts on Dan Stevens in Dracula

Dan Stevens, 4 years before his big break as the Earl of Grantham’s Third Cousin, once removed starred in a Granada and BBC Wales TB production of Dracula (2006) as Arthur Holmwood, a relatively minor character in the Stoker canon when compared to Jonathan Harker and Abraham Van Helsing.  If you don’t remember him, he was the fiancée of Lucy Westenra, Mina Murray’s best friend and Dracula’s first victim.  In a quiet re-shuffle of the source material the character is expanded and takes center stage in a variation of the movie and genre that you know intimately.
Sophia Myles who you may remember as another vampire, Erika in Underworld (2003) and “Saucy Wood Nymph” in Guest House Paradiso (1999, boy do I miss Rik Mayall) portrays Lucy Westenra while Stephanie Leonidas from MirrorMask (2005) stars as Mina Murray.  But the audience is here for the Count, who this time around is interpreted by the relatively unknown in the US British actor Marc Warren, Danny Blue in Hustle and Albert Blithe from Band of Brothers.
This Dracula is relatively traditional; he ages backwards, sleeps in crates of unhallowed ground, and buys up various properties around London.  He even crosses the sea in the Demeter before transforming into a bat and obsessing over Lucy and Mina.  In his final form he’s a long-haired Victorian Jim Morrison (or Liam Gallagher) rock star vampire, perfect for this sexually repressed Victorian thriller.
A spiritual cousin to Jack Palance’s Dracula (1973), it’s an interesting premise to follow the secondary characters and shows the potential to wring new dramas out of familiar themes.  David Suchet, (who will always be Hercule Poirot to me) portrays Abraham Van Helsing, but it’s not really his movie and he doesn’t appear until the final 20 minutes.
The audience always knows more than the characters in a Dracula movie, most of us have read the book at least once, and have a bank of Dracula films to reference and compare to, from Bela Lugosi’s 1931 version, Christopher Lee in 1958, Frank Langella in 1979 and all the way up to Gerald Butler in Dracula 2000 (2000) and Luke Evans in Dracula Untold (2014).  We never grow tired of variations of the same theme told over and over in endless loops, there’s a comforting ritual and familiarity in the stake and the cross, the cape and the fangs, Renfield eating flies and the dark, doomed romance.  There’s always room for a new interpretation, and Dan Steven’s version is worth a view.




my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).