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Leesen to dee cheeldren of dee night

December 29, 2006

Everyone knows the BBC does great costume drama and so it was lovely to sit down last night to Dracula, a new adaptation of the Bram Stoker classic. I say adaptation and that’s exactly what it was. It was on a par with the Hollywood Keanu Reeves version as far as staying faithful to the book goes (although wasn’t it great to hear Jonathan Harker with a proper British accent?!).

Okay, so it didn’t go off into great flights of fancy like the grand love story the Hollywood version took (so I’m thankful for that at least). But it did (oddly) take Lucy and Arthur and turned them into central characters, added a character or two and somehow created some sort of weird cult thing surrounding the Count himself.

These weird changes did actually fit the main plot though. It did actually make sense – Arthur Holmwood finds out he has contracted syphilis from his father, and wants to save himself (and his future bride Lucy), so he hires members of a cult to bring over a foreign ‘magician’ who they say can cure him. He sends Jonathan Harker over to Transylvania as a solicitor to make sure the Count’s buying of various properties around London goes to plan, yadda yadda yadda.

Interesting, yes. And I loved the way they took one of the main moral panics of the day (Syphilis) and weaved it into the story (the whole blood contamination, sexual morality thing goes really well with the Dracula story). But who the hell was that John bloke with his strangely sexy scarred lip? He wasn’t in the book! Why kill Jonathan Harker? And why take Mina, who is central to the book as it is her letters and diary entries that feature prominently (alongside Jonthan Harker’s letters, Van Helsing’s diary and Arthur’s taped ponderings), and shove her into the background and make Lucy, an extra if anything in the book, a central focus. No, no, no!

By making Mina an extra, the whole reason for Dracula’s mission is watered down somewhat. Who cares that he is enchanted by her now? hair. Also (and I hate to favour the Hollywood version in any way) Gary Oldman was far more sexy than Marc Warren in this. Especially because someone in wardrobe made the dire decision that Warren should have girly hair. Ick!

The one blessing in this was David Suchet who was sadly only in it for about ten minutes. He gave a very rounded performance to Van Helsing – not at all like the one dimensional Hollywood version – and he even pulled off a decent French/Belgian accent. Good job he’d had some practise at it, eh?

As I said, an interesting adaptation. I liked the whole syphilis angle, and it was great to snuggle up and watch the mysteries unfold. But I’d love someone to do an ‘adaptation’ of the book that actually stayed faithful to it! The story is so rich, why do directors and writers feel the need to change it?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Clair permalink
    January 2, 2007 4:54 pm

    It all got changed because ITV no longer believes viewers can cope with a full adaptation – that’s why it was only 90 minutes long, as well!

  2. Badger Madge permalink
    January 2, 2007 4:58 pm

    Seriously? Now I know the beeb like to dumb things down sometimes, but that’s just ridiculous…

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