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Review: Dracula
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By Stephen W. Browne
Dec. 13, 2013 11:18 a.m.

Drac is back. In a new series on NBC to be exact, staring Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Henry VIII “The Tudors”) as the ever-popular count.
The count is by official count the second most popular movie character ever. Dracula has the lead role in an estimated 217 films, only barely edged out by Sherlock Holmes (223).
This is oddly appropriate. After the publication of “Dracula”(1897) by Irishman Bram Stoker, Holmes’ creator Arthur Conan Doyle sent him a warmly appreciative fan letter. Subsequent generations of writers have paired the two in fights to the death, and in one case (Fred Saberhagen, “The Holmes-Dracula File”) made
Holmes some kind of nephew of Dracula.
So given the plethora of adaptations and what would today be called “fan fiction,” how does this joint British-American venture differ from Stoker’s original?
In almost every way except the names of several major characters. In fact they seem to have borrowed from almost everybody except Bram Stoker.
That doesn’t make it bad necessarily. In fact, I was reviewing a series of episodes on the series website preparing to drive a stake through its heart when I found myself being oddly drawn into it, hypnotized by those compelling eyes, drained of all will, fascinated…
OK, it’s kind of a guilty pleasure.
As in the original, Dracula comes to London in the late Victorian era. Only this time he comes in the guise of an American entrepreneur Alexander Grayson, complete with the American corn belt rasp!
HIs right hand man is R.M. Renfield Esq. (Nonso Anozie). Only this Renfield is a black man, and far from being mad and a slave, he’s a highly intelligent lawyer who is fiercely loyal because Dracula/Grayson saved his life from a bunch of bigots and treats him as a valued partner.
Once in London Grayson engaged the services of Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) a journalist, not a soliciter, and meets Harker’s fiancee Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw) who seems to be the reincarnation of his dead wife Ilona Szilágyi, who was killed by Dracula’s enemies in The Order of the Dragon.
That Mina plot wrinkle comes straight from Francis Ford Copolla’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1974). It kind of gets me because Ilona is my daughter’s middle name.
The Order among other things, keeps England vampire-free. The last time they had to deal with a vampire problem in London was eight years previously during the Whitechapel murders. Which they passed off as the work of a serial killer named Jack.
Abraham Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann) is not a vampire hunter, but an ally of Dracula helping him in his scheme to wreck vengeance on the Order of the Dragon. To this end he’s trying to create a treatment that will allow vampires to endure sunlight.
Lucy Westenra (Katie McGrath) is a closeted lesbian with the hots for Mina.
And there are several non-canonical characters such as Lady Jane Wetherby (Victoria Smurfit) a member of the Order who hunts vampires with her martial arts skills when she’s not popping out of her Victorian corset-bustier.
Lady Jane and Dracula are having a torrid affair. She doesn’t know he’s a vampire, he suspects she’s with the Order. And there are hints that Lady Jane realizes that though still beautiful and definitely in great shape, she’s seeing the signs that tell her that won’t last. Unless…
Add to this, Dracula/Grayson is bringing to England a new technology which appears to be based on Nikola Tesla’s dream of wireless electricity transmission.
The Order is heavily invested financially in oil and politically in imperialism to control the sources of oil. It is strongly hinted this conflict going to burst out in the First World War in another 20 years, so we know how that turns out.
It’s ironic that writers of subsequent incarnations of Dracula probably have more access to information then Stoker did about the historical Vlad III: Voivode (Prince) of Wallachia (1431–1476), House Draculesti, surnamed Dracula (“Son of the Dragon”), member of the Societas Draconistrarum (Order of the Dragon) founded in 1408 by King Sigismund of Hungary to fight the enemies of Chistendom.
What you can do with that it to make Dracula, not exactly evil, but a ruler and politician of his time: ruthless but capable, cruel but principled in his own way. And definitely an aristocrat. I can prey upon you because I’m a prince and that’s what we do.
“Dracula” has been categorized as horror, fantasy and in the genre of what’s called “invasion literature.” And in this case it’s not just an invasion of the supernatural into the mundane world, it’s an invasion from the horrifying past.
Vampires, martial arts, conspiracies, Victorian porn!
What’s not to like, as long as your friends don’t find out?
Note: This appeared in the print-only TV Guide of the Marshall Independent.

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