“Dracula” by Bram Stoker is a well-regarded classic of horror literature. I’ve read this book about four times, now. The first three times through (years ago) I liked it, because I liked vampires and was very interested in the part this book played in the legends that have grown up around them. I walked away from the book thinking it was okay, but kind of tame by modern standards as a piece of horror fiction. This last time through, however, my view of this book has changed. It is a masterpiece.
I think in my younger years, I was too much enamored by sword fights and spell battles, the typical fodder of fantasy fiction. This book doesn’t really have much of that. It is all about a developing plot and building suspense. It is one part mystery, one part horror, not so much a fantasy action book. The prose throughout, although somewhat dated—it was written in 1897—is still remarkable and fluid. It’s a little difficult adjusting to the diary narrative, but once you do so, it is a remarkable read. Having read the story before, I pretty much knew what was going to happen. Even so, I enjoyed pretty much the whole thing. I picked up on a number of different aspects of the story that I don’t remember noting before (of course, it has been several years).
I’ve read here and there that this book is really all about sexual repression or what-have-you. I totally didn’t get that. The only elements that might indicate that, that I picked up on, where as follows: 1) the penetration of flesh by vampire teeth, which is true of all vampire stories. 2) Lucy Westenra kind of idly comments in one of her letters that she kind of wished she could marry three different men because she didn’t want to break any of their hearts. 3) Later in the story, a tacit connection is made between love and blood transfusions and Lucy winds up getting transfusions from four different men in an attempt to save her. Taking all these things together, I think you can interpret the work as promoting polygamy if you want to go that way, but I hardly think it is definitive. There is no connection whatsoever between romance and blood transfusions; maybe at the time it was written, it was thought that there was, but really? You’re trying to save a woman’s life. What else would you do? I’ve also read that the work promotes homosexuality. Throughout the work the male characters are described as “manly men” or something along that route by the other male characters (and the female characters). It’s kind of odd from a modern perspective, but I think that was largely the manner of speaking of the time period. It’s another: if you want to go that route, I think you can, but I, personally, did not think that that was the point Bram Stoker was trying to get across. I just thought it was a mannerism of the time period.
Basically, I’m kind of the opinion that all these literary critics and analysts go looking for things in the books they read, and whether the author intended the work in that way or not, the critics interpret it as they see fit. The critics also enjoy the “shock-value” of their interpretations of classical works. Once upon a time, our society would have been “shocked” by polygamous and homosexual themes being present in Dracula. That’s no longer true today, but by now, it’s become accepted that that is what Dracula is all about. Heaven forbid someone just write a cool story.
Anyway, the book’s great, but I think it was intended for a more mature audience. I don’t think a young adult audience would fully “get” it. I know I didn’t when I first read it. I’m not going to review the plot because I think most people know it already. The Francis Ford Coppola movie from a few years back followed the book pretty closely, although it kind of went with the over-sexualized theme and changed some of the characters around to suit that end. Whatever. If you don’t know the story, and you can put up with some of the older-style language (it’s certainly not as bad as say “Canterbury Tales,” but every once in a while the language may stump you), get the book and read it. It’s well worth it.
Before I part, I’ll list the cast of characters: Jonathan Harker, Mina Harker, Lord Arthur Godalming, Quincey Morris, Dr. John Seward, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, Lucy Westenra, and, of course, the esteemed, renowned, and rapacious Count Dracula. There’s also three other unnamed vampire chics, and a host of minor characters spread throughout.
Anyway, I’ll give this book four and a half out of five stars.
This post originally appeared on Goodreads on 10/15/12.
This is a continuation of the train of thought started with my “Monster Mishmash: A Vampire Dragon” post. In that post, I examined what a creature that was the result of crossing a dragon and vampire would be like. So, I thought, why not continue the thought process and see what happens when you cross a vampire with a werewolf? Unfortunately, this one doesn’t work quite as well. Depending upon the tradition you start with, it might not be really that much of a change. I remember in Francis Ford Coppola’s film version of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” there were several instances where Dracula shape-changed into something, that to me, looked pretty much like a werewolf. A snarling, lust-ridden, beastie of fur, and claws. And if that’s the case, trying to make a vampire into a werewolf, might be something of a step down or just an insignificant change. The vampire can already control wolves, and assume the werewolf form: what would the werewolf aspect give him? Dracula is, also, already supernaturally strong. At most, the vampire might just lose-control of his shape-shifting faculties on the night of a full moon. And lack of control would certainly be a weakness gained. Alternatively, and perhaps more probably, he would just absorb the werewolf nature and continue on his way, relatively unchanged.
On the other hand, if you go with the “Underworld” series of movies, the notion of a vampire-werewolf is already central to the plot: they beat me to the punchline here. Underworld vampires are limited to human form, and not as physically strong (I don’t think) as the werewolves. In such a situation, both species benefit from the mix and you wind up with something that is “stronger than either.” There’s really not that much to add to the notion here, because the whole movie series revolves around that plot point. They have their vampire-werewolves and they have several two hour movies to develop the theme in, compared to my mere few hundred words of text. Still, I should probably say something. A vampire-werewolf in Underworld, if I recall, gains a limited shape-changing ability, and also loses the weaknesses of each respective species. He is no longer affected by silver or sunlight. So, the only way to kill him is to rip him to pieces. And if that is your plan, since he is unusually strong, you’ll have your work cut out for you.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on the vampire-werewolf. For myself, since I prefer my vampires like Dracula, I see only a limited benefit in the combination, if that. The vampire is already in possession of much of the werewolf’s strengths, so the combination is of limited utility.
I watched Francis Ford Coppola’s version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (again) a couple of nights ago. And keeping with my Thursday vampire theme, I decided to review it for my blog. I know it’s an older movie (1992), but I think it marks an important milestone in vampire cinema. The film had a formidable cast: Gary Oldman as Count Dracula, Anthony Hopkins as Van Helsing, Wynona Ryder as Mina Harker, Keanu Reeves as Jonathan Harker, and a few other talented names or almost-names. It was an early movie for Keanu Reeves, so his acting skills were somewhat unpolished, yet his performance fit the role well. He comes across as naïve, in a stiff sort of way. And that, surprisingly, worked. The other actors did fine as well. The weakness of the film was not in the actors who worked in it, but in some of the liberties the makers took with it.
Of all the Dracula movies I’ve seen—and I’ve seen a number of them over the years—this one, I think, followed Bram Stoker’s original book the best, keeping true to much of the storyline. It begins with Jonathan Harker going to Count Dracula’s castle to help the count purchase various properties in the London area. The Count goes to London, kills a couple people, and is forced to flee back to his castle in Transylvania. A desperate chase ensues. Etc… All that being said, Francis Ford Coppola did take a number of creative liberties with the script. Some of them good, some not so good.
It’s been a while since I read the book, but I don’t think Mina had actual romantic feelings for the Count in the book. She was bitten, of course, and began to succumb to his powers, but the background romance wasn’t there. I like how she was introduced to the Count in the movie, but the whole reincarnation bit, and the amplification of Mina’s role in Dracula’s demise, I have mixed feelings about.
The next topic of concern is the sexuality of the movie. It far exceeds the level of sexuality found in the novel. That’s not really a big surprise considering when Bram Stoker wrote Dracula. As vampires are supposed to be seductive forces of darkness, the sexuality portrayed by the vampires in the movie might have been a bit too brutally bestial at points, but I think it was acceptable. What I didn’t like, however, was the portrayal of the sexuality of the human characters, particularly Mina and Lucy. The whole bit with the pornographic Arabian Nights book and the two young women kissing in the rain was totally unnecessary. And, more importantly, it did not fit at all with the sexual mores of Victorian England which was when the book took place. I think it ruined a potentially very good movie.
Then there was an odd scene with blood flying everywhere (when Lucy was killed). That was just too random and should have been edited out.
Overall, I thought Francis Ford Coppola’s version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula had a lot of potential, but failed to realize much of it. It got distracted by its own efforts to sexualize the vampire to the nth degree. I’ll give it three out of five stars. It’s worth watching, but it could have been a much better movie than it was.