Tuesday, June 15, 2010
This is exciting to me. I should explain--one of my projects this year is getting a new web series off the ground. One hero for me in this effort is the staff of The Guild, but another is a gentleman who goes by the name Theodore Trout. He is the star and evidently guiding force behind an amazing, original production of Bram Stoker's novel. Dracula, Lord of the Damned looks like it was done on a budget that would pay for maybe a nice car, but with a startling imagination behind it (as well as lots of elbow grease).
In essence, the conceit of this production is that Dracula truly is the Lord of the Damned--the literal anti-christ who feels himself a great benefactor. After all, does he not bring truth and eternal life?
Well, he believes he does.
This version fairly drips with atmosphere, a dream like quality in virtually every frame. The costumes and sets cannot help but be rudimentary (see comment about the budget above) but one hardly realizes this. For one thing the camera work almost defines simple but effective. When Harker first approaches Castle Dracula, for example, it is by boat and the interplay of Harker's POV approaching landfall (with a suitably erie, ancient staircase) as well as a shot from land showing the boat bringing him is so simple--yet works extremely well.
Kudos also to the retention of virtually every major character. Usually, Lucy's three suitors are reduced to one or two, often none. This, like Bram Stoker's Dracula and the BBC adaptation with Louis Jourdain, includes the whole trinity. As far as I know this is also the sole version that ever has had Renfield the object of Victorian-era brain surgery (as he is in the original novel).
Is it perfect? No. The biggest weakness is the cast. When compared to some of the fine performers who have taken on these roles in the past--Kate Nelligan, Gary Oldman, Christopher Plummer, etc.--the repertory company here suffers. It isn't that they do a poor or even mediocre job. Not at all! In fact, they manage to capture the style of the film with their performances very well. But honestly, this Van Helsing is no Anthony Hopkins nor this Dracula a Denholm Elliott. Yet, they are good if overwhelmed by the style of the production.
Below you will find a trailer. You can get a lot more information (including other teasing clips and a way of ordering a copy) at Mr. Trout's YouTube Channel.