Within these pages are already three reviews of quite different approaches to Bram Stoker’s classic novel.
Of particular interest to music lovers is the 1931 Tod Browning film, marvellously enhanced by a Philip Glass score brought to sonic life by Kronos Quartet. Bela Lugosi lives and dies the title role with consummate skill.
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1999 version is very long on visuals and graphic horror (justly winning Academy Awards for Costume Design, Sound Effects Editing, Makeup) but decidedly short in the acting department—especially the men. Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins and Keanu Reeves are all uneven in their attempts to bring wickedness, brutal revenge and devotion into the mix even as so many of the fairer sex literally lose their heads.
By far best of class here is Guy Maddin’s superb rendering of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s finest dancers of the day (2002), most notably Zhang Wei-Qiang as the Prince of Darkness, bringing an ebb and flow to Mahler’s symphonic score and a sexuality that will warm the hearts of all sexes. Tara Birtwhistle’s Lucy is incredibly nuanced and sensual. Cinematographer Paul Suderman harnesses every frame and an intensity that catches the eye and won’t let go. A must-see production whose short runtime (75 minutes) disappears in a flash (cross-references below).
Using Liz Lochhead’s 1985 adaptation of the original novel, director Eda Holmes has entered the Dracula sweepstakes with a remarkably bloodless result which falls short of her stated goal “to tell this gothic tale that invites anxiety and desire into the same bed.”
There was never a feeling of unease, much less abject horror. Tellingly, the strongest performance came from Graeme Somerville, infusing the largely caged role of Renfield with truly manic despair.
And with so many hospital dividers flying across the cavernous Festival Theatre stage and framing a lot of the scenes, the sense of “place” much less era was largely MIA.
Lochhead’s added character, Florrie (Natasha Mumba doing the honours) maid of Lucy (Cherissa Richards), struck more of a false note than welcome addition to the understanding of her mistress’s unbridled lust. Playing Dracula, Allan Louis most certainly had the required presence and devilish laugh, but couldn’t find the inner core of unrepentant evil striking fear in anyone’s heart—least of all his “converts”.
Perhaps it would be wise—if a visit to Transylvania is wanted in Niagara-on-the-Lake—to commission a 21st century adaptation that might embrace the current trend of ego-centric narcissism that pervades so much of our social fabric today. JWR