Well, I have now watched the first episode of the new BBC Dracula TV series, and I have to say that I was NOT impressed. In fact, I found the whole episode hugely disappointing. Not only that, but I also found it extremely infuriating. I’ll tell you why.
Whenever I sit down to watch a new adaptation of Dracula, as well as for the entertainment factor, I also adopt a critical eye, as I judge it by the benchmark set by the Hammer Dracula film starring Christopher Lee, who, in my view, was the BEST Dracula ever. So when I sat down to watch this BBC version last night, I wasn’t really expecting anything that would really bowl me over, given the numerous occasions in the past when I have been invariably disappointed by each new spin on Stoker’s novel. Well, now that I have had the chance to assess it against the standard of Hammer, I have to say that, just as I feared, it comes nowhere near to that studio’s quality.
There were so many things about this new Dracula series that I hated. For instance, once I saw that the story opened with flashbacks, I thought: oh no, here we go again. More annoying jarring back and forth at the expense of a followable, steady storyline. And why on EARTH did the writers see fit to set it in a bloody convent? And why a FEMALE Van Helsing under the guise of a nun? Oh come ON. Give me a bloody break.
This series purported to be a representation of Bram Stoker’s novel, but instead it deviated in so many ways from the book that it soon became obvious that this was NOT going to be the traditional Dracula story we have all come to know and love for so many years. In changing some of the aspects of Stoker’s novel, they only succeeded in making a total mess of it. Also, the guy who played Dracula, far from being as entertainingly scary as Christopher Lee, came over as just a ridiculous, wise-cracking, smarmy bore (shades of Freddy Kruger here, methinks). The only real glimmer – and it WAS just a glimmer – of any Hammer-style vampiric terror was when Dracula flashed on screen, eyes blood red, hissing and snarling as Lee used to. But after that, well, nothing more that you could really describe as Hammeresque, unfortunately.
I especially did not care for the part where the count – initially appearing in the form of a wolf before changing back into an utterly NAKED count – confronted the nuns outside the convent gates. I thought it was ridiculous, rather odd, and a bit too drawn out. I also hated the way they revealed the crying baby, which looked more like a mutant Chucky clone than a normal infant. And what the hell were all those equally strange-looking people, which the count had apparently imprisoned in his castle, all about? And don’t even get me started on the bisexual subtext running through this film.
I could go on about the all the failings I found in this Dracula adaptation, but I think I have said enough, as the more I dwell on all the let downs, the more depressed I feel. This series could have been so much better. Such a shame it wasn’t.
I do know that there are some people who liked it, but of course this is usually the case with Marmite movies like this: you either love them or you loathe them. I would have so loved to have been in the former category, and it would have come as a pleasant change if I had finally come to watch a Dracula film, after being so disappointed with the previous adaptations, that echoed – or at least approached – the iconic, unforgettable brilliance of Christopher Lee’s count. Unfortunately, it was not to be, and whilst I do appreciate all the love and hard work the writers and producers put into this 3-part adaptation of Bram Stoker’s story, I regret to say that I just could not bring myself to like it one bit. As I said, it not only disappointed me but infuriated me.
Now, where are my Christopher Lee Dracula blu rays . . .
By Alan Toner