Christine (gothicheroine) wrote,

Dracula on PBS

Backlogged from rosewing

So I watched the Dracula movie on PBS tonight . . . I had mixed reactions. First thing I shall say is that is was surprisingly intense, for PBS. There was the little warning at the beginning saying it was not adviseable for young viewers and my mother says to my sister's cat, "Chloe, you're a young viewer. Time to go to bed." (Chloe instead spent most of the movie staring fixedly at the DVD player, which she had been doing since a DVD was ejected from it earlier. She's fascinated and confounded by the DVD player because she can't figure out where the tray goes so she'll sit there waiting for it to come back out.)

Also this is the one fandom I am an avid purist about regarding canonical accuracy so I'm probably a little judgemental, but I still enjoyed it. Once it started really veering from Stoker (as most versions do . . . the Francis Ford Coppola version tried hard and is generally recognised as the best, but I thought some of the characterisations in there were unforgiveable) I just decided not to take it seriously and settled in for a good giggle.

Because I have gotten to the point that I think immorality is funny.

Castle Dracula was all nice and gloomy and forbidding and also green. There was a green cast on everyone and everything in it, except wherever firelight or lantern-light fell. It created a very creepy, unsettling effect but it was kind of disorienting.

Then we see Mina and Lucy standing around looking very Victorian with parasols. One of them was blonde and the other was a brunette. I got my hopes up, and then the blonde is pulled aside and Arthur proposes to her.

Tiny rant: For serious, moviemakers, how hard is it? Lucy is one of the few characters whose hair colour is actually specified (as dark) and yet she is almost always the blonde or, barring that, the one with flaming red hair. Why? They did get points for keeping her in white all the time and it was a very pale blonde so the all-white effect was kind of nice but . . . how hard is it?

She was however adorable and both of them had curly hair and got to run around being Victorian and silly for a little while, although their characters were kind of reversed, as sometimes happens too, with Mina being a giggly flirt and Lucy being more demure and reserved.

Also, Arthur is a total jerk in this. After engaging Lucy, he goes to Seward and informs him, rather coldly, that he has done so, while admitting that he knows Seward wanted to do it himself. (Quincey, sadly, never makes an appearance.) Then he goes off and joins a Satanic cult to find a cure for his venereal disease, which he was born with due to his dad fooling around before he was born and passing it onto his mother. The cult is hard at work preparing for the arrival of their dark lord, which is being expedited by the Hawkins law firm, and the hapless and innocent Jonathan Harker is sent to Transylvania to meet the investor and make all the arrangements.

So we finally get to Castle Dracula, where Jonathan shows Old Creepy Dracula the portrait of his fiancee that contains a lock of her hair. I thought it was really sweet of him to have that, and really creepy when Dracula takes it and SNIFFS it. Jonathan hangs around for awhile before getting called out of his room by a whispery and distinctly feminine voice, which had me looking forward to the brides, but instead Dracula himself turns up and savages him, becoming Young Creepy Dracula, complete with emo kid hair. This would have been totally unfortunate and kept me from taking him seriously at all except for his eyes, which were very pale, almost colourless, and creeped me out the entire time.

Meanwhile Lucy is married (Lucy gets married here, not Mina) but, on account of Arthur's venereal disease, she's still a virgin. Well done, movie! Unfortunately she's not happy being a virgin and bent on consummating her marriage, which she whines about to Mina at length. So, seeking some excitement in her life, she suggests to Mina that they go look at dead bodies. For serious. Lucy's a little freaky in this, even before she's dead (which I thought was very amusing and approved of to some extent). She likes hanging out in graveyards and suggests they go look at the shipwreck of the Demeter for fun.

When they get there they find that everybody has disappeared except the dead captain (appropriately, lashed to the wheel) including all the crew and the one passager, who was travelling under the name of Jonathan Harker. Mina is heartbroken, for one of many times. Mina really has a hard time of it in this and it was really sad to watch.

Through a series of rather unnerving cuts, Dracula tries to get into Mina's room in bat form, but then he sees that she has a rosary so he goes for Lucy instead, cos it's easier. So you know the pivotal Scene of Trauma and Blood Exchange that's supposed to happen later in the book to Mina? Yeah it happens here. Only to Lucy instead, and it is freaky and disturbing. By this point I was watching through my fingers.

Lucy isn't much bothered, except for dying abruptly of anemia despite the blood transfusion that Arthur forces Seward to give her at gunpoint. He can't do it himself because of his blood disease, you see, and his evil cult recently disbanded on account of Dracula killing everybody in it.

Mina is even more upset by this and you really start feeling bad for her. Then Seward, who is the real good guy in this, finds a crazy old guy in the cult basement. Oh, here's Renfield, a little late, I thought.

Nope. It's Van Helsing. :( He hadn't shown for so long that I was thinking maybe he wasn't coming and that was a little disappointing but he did so little that was actually useful or impressive that I kind of wish he hadn't shown up at all. But he does offer garlic and crucifixes and advice on how to take down Vampire Lucy, although that lost some of its effectiveness since he never meets the living Lucy (woe!!) and they go to the Westenra tomb accordingly.

Her white brocade coffin is covered by a white lace cloth, which they pull back to reveal . . . nothing! Ooo! Then Vampire Lucy turns up (in her lingerie, but whatever) and attempts to seduce Arthur in her creepy shadow vampire whisper-echo voice. Well done, movie! She is subsequently stuck with a rather spiky stake, and dies.

Meanwhile, Dracula has met Mina in town and is attempting to seduce her as well, and the intercutting of shots between these two scenes was interesting, but not really as effective as it could have been, because I don't think he actually got her.

Now with Lucy dead you'd think Mina would finally get more screentime, but she doesn't really. (Don't get me wrong, I love Lucy, but the story isn't supposed to be about her, she's just plot device.) Since there was no exchange of blood between her and Dracula she's not all caught in his thrall and communicating with him by thought and all that would have been cool. She just kind of wanders around being woeful because all her friends keep getting killed.

So they go to put an end to Dracula too. Van Helsing, disappointingly, totally wusses out and doesn't want to go back into the cellars so Seward, Arthur, and Mina go down and Dracula pops out of his coffin and catches her. Arthur offers himself in her place, not out of heroics but because he wants immortality to get rid of his syphilis. Dracula grants it by way of snapping his neck, making Mina even more unhappy and leaving Seward to put another spiky stake in the vampire. He dies, rather nicely.

Since they're the only two young people left, (Jonathan apparently never comes back from Transylvania?) Van Helsing declares them OTP, wishes them well, and leaves.

The end.

But wait - Old Creepy Dracula is back!

And that's really the end.

The short version: It's not the best ever, but on its own, it was pretty good, evil!Arthur, nymphomania!Lucy, emohair!Dracula and the weird syphilis subplot aside. I liked the mention of Dracula's plan to conquer London and then the British empire with a race of vampires becase that usually seems to be what he's trying to do, and apart from being bent on not being a virgin, most of Lucy's symbolism was intact. And the camerawork was interesting and the acting mostly sound.

So that's my review.
Tags: dracula, movie review
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