Monday, September 13, 2010

Dracula Mash Up!!!

Okay, this is silly but I'm in a silly mood!  Suppose we had all the film versions of Dracula from which to mix and match the best in each role--who would we chose?  Actually, since this is my blog, the question is who would I choose?  Something of a Rorshach test actually...

I'll admit that to my mind Peter Cushing remains my first and most vivid image of Van Helsing, perhaps most oddly in some ways because (unlike most portrayals) he seems to be presented as an Englishman, even though of course the character is Dutch!  On the other hand, he has a German accent in the novel so go figure.  To bb sure there have been other great Van Helsings, including Sir Anthony Hopkins but Cushing is the learned vampire hunter in my mind's eye.  Probably because he was the first, when I saw Hammer's Brides of Dracula way back when during an afternoon movie.  Likewise the best Mina I've ever seen was Lupita Tovar in the Spanish-language version of Dracula made at the same time as Lugosi's version (but at night). Long thought lost, the missing reel of this almost-forgotten classic was found  in the film archives of Cub
a and can now be purchased on DVD.  Okay, that character's name was "Eva" but she was obviously supposed to be Mina--she was best friends with Lucy, engaged to Harker, was the vampire's second victim, etc.  Jonathan Harker is in many ways the least interesting role in the whole book, since he exists as little more than a good-looking leading man who is tempted by the Brides then dutifully does what he's told by others, holding his wife's hand half the time.  Or so it would seem.  When you look at Colin Redgrave's version of him in the 1968 BBC Dracula one sees a bit more potential--and all that stuff is indeed present in the novel.  He clearly feels very strongly about the Count and has some
mixed feelings about Mina, although he does love her, and is one of two sufferers of mental illness in the story.  True, in that version they were giving me the Renfield-role but Redgraves' remains the single most vivid Jonathan Harker to my sensibilities.  The same version gave us Susan George as Lucy Westenra (oddly re-named Western for some reason).  Frankly, one cannot help but wish after seeing her in this take that she hadn't been hired by Hammer to appear in some of their vampire classics.  She blended the innocence and flirtatiousness of Lucy the human girl with the dark glamour and sensual nature of the vampire in a way that grabbed
the attention and kept it.  Just as Francis Ford Coppola's ironically named Bram Stoker's Dracula gave us IMHO very nearly the epitome of both Dr. Jack Seward with Richard E. Grant in the role, and Bill Campbell as the American cowboy Quincey Morris.  Yet the Arthur Holmwood who remains most firmly fixed in my memory is from an interesting but not-quite-there version by the BBC in 2006--in the case the actor Dan Stevens as a syphlitic aristocrat (inherited from his father) horrified by all his hopes and dreams about to be yanked from him by an unspeakable (and unspoken-of) practical joke set up by Fate.  It was so interesting to see this figure portrayed not as an epitome of proper English values but a well-meaning yet weak victim of Victorian hypocrisy.  Likewise Seward, the eldest of the three suitors as an somewhat unscrupulous obsessive, coupled with a Quincey with little sophistication but a heart of gold proved both interesting and pleasing...

The Three Suitors of Lucy

Speaking (or writing) of threes, one can hardly think of that number and the story of Transylvania's most famous nobleman without summoning images of Dracula's Brides--an unholy, lusting trinity who have fueled many a young man's dreams (and more than a few young lady's as well, surely).  Again, I chose from Bram Stoker's Dracula one such, in this case one of the most beauteous creatures on this Earth--actress Monica Bellucci.  From the afore-mentioned Hammer studio production Brides of Dracula (which is technically not about Dracula per se) the image of Andree Melly continues to haunt my own musings about female vampires, and the one detail of quality in an otherwise wretched motion picture called Old Dracula is the almost cameo of Linda Hayden as a new recruit into the Count's harem.
The Brides of Dracula!

We are now left with two major roles yet to be cast from all those who've done them on screen before now.  Clearly the lesser of the two, Renfield remains a plum role.  What actor worth his salt doesn't find the idea of playing a bug-eating madman desperate for yet terrified of redemption at least tempting?  This one was close, because I really loved Tom Waits in the role, but when push comes to shove the performance of Jack Shepherd (no, not the
Lost character!) in BBC's 1977 Count Dracula the most effective and moving.  Of all the Renfields, he most touched my heart.  So naturally he is my choice.

Which brings us to our lead.  Looking back on the rest of the cast, methinks we can see a certain retro feel to the whole thing, yes?  And yet my own sensibilities (reflected herein) are modern.  So my final casting choice rests on a technicality.  He has not in fact played Count Dracula.  But he did play a real vampire recruited to pretend to be Count Dracula
for purposes of a motion picture.  Close enough for jazz, and the purposes of my blog.  So here is Willem Dafoe as an unnamed undead persuaded by F.W.Murnau to play the title character in the silent classic Nosferatu.  This film--Shadow of the Vampire.

Until some movie-making software leaps ahead by a quantum step or two, your imagination is the only place where you can see this movie.  Alas.  But on the other hand, that shouldn't be too hard, should it?  Take a stroll through this dream-version of Bram Stoker's novel why don't you?  Tell me what you think...  Or share your own ideas.

Enter freely of your own will...


Bertena Varney said...

this is really cool

Christine said...

Van Helsing - Peter Cushing.
Mina - Winona Ryder. No, seriously - I think she was great Mina, with perfectly doe-eyed, delicate Snow White look.
Lucy - I would take Sadie Frost BUT wrote the role without hardboiled nymphomania.
Jonathan Harker - no idea!
Lucy´s three suitors - Richard E Grant, Bill Campbell and Cary Elwes.
Three Brides - Eeer... wait for a moment. I really liked three brides of Van Helsing, they were great fun, but maybe too hysterical for serious Dracula film. On the other hand, Dracula was old World guy, so one of the Brides could be Rubenesque a´la Chloe Agnew. But can she act?
Dracula - Gary Oldman, for acting chops.
Renfield - maybe the guy from 1977 version.