This is one of the least timely reviews I’ve ever written, but I have been reading some classic books on and off, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula is one of them.
After seeing so many movies about a subject, I get curious about the source or original material. And face it, Dracula has spawned one of the most romanticized genres of all time, vampires. With its humble beginnings as a novel in 1897, the myth of the vampire has launched hundreds of variations in books, movies, and comics and has captured the imagination of millions of fans, worldwide.
The draw of the myth from being near immortal, incredibly strong, fast and virulent and with various powers of the dark at one’s disposal is unmistakable. And as time went on and others plagiarized the theme into their own visions, we have now, what is unmistakably, a very saturated yet popular genre with movies like The Lost Boys, Fright Night, From Dusk Till Dawn, 30 Days of Night, the Twilight Sagas, I am Legend, Blade, the yummy and good looking Underworld, and World War Z. On the TV front we have True Blood, The Vampire Diaries (Which actually came out in its book form before Twilight), Dark Shadows, Forever Knight, Being Human, Angel, Moonlight. and the incredibly popular Walking Dead series on AMC.
Vampires are a persistent genre just like the myth. And as time goes forth, the vampire (vampyre) seems to have fewer and fewer weaknesses as new creative minds take hold of the genre and try to make it their own.
The notion of Dracula himself has spawned a zillion books and movies and continues to do so to this day. The notion of the bipedal vampire has also grown from the evil lurking in the shadows to the frustrated hero vampire who must suffer the curse of daylight to get his job done.
But going back to the classic source material is like looking through the window of a time-machine. In this 1897 novel we see how things got accomplished back then. If you wanted to find something out you had to walk across town and have people send posts (letters). You had to go to government offices or read newspapers. Egads man!
All joking aside, it’s a fascinating perspective.
When Bram Stoker first penned the story of Jonathan Harker, Professor Abraham Van Helsing and the others in 1897, it was originally titled The Un-Dead but at the “last minute” it was changed to Dracula. The book later spawned a 1922 movie titled Nosferatu but it was an unauthorized movie. Later, Stoker’s widow sued the filmmaker and one of the conditions of the suit was to have all copies of the movie destroyed. Of course they weren’t all destroyed but what I found interesting was that the title/term of Nosferatu was not an original title, as that term is also used in Stoker’s book.
The official movie adaptation of the book came out in 1932 from Universal Studios titled Dracula, with Bela Lugosi in the titular role.
But after having seen so many Dracula movies I was impressed to learn just how close to the material Francis Ford Coppola‘s 1992 movie, Dracula, stuck to the novel. And it’s a good movie, which makes sense, considering how entertaining the source material is.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula [Blu-ray] on Amazon.
There are times that you might pick up an original novel and read it and it’s interesting at best. In reading an original, antiquated novel, you discover that authors took a lot of time to describe moments or things. (I learned that painful lesson in one of my favorite stories, The Count of Monte Cristo!)
But Stoker takes us through this tale in such a way that minces words nicely and we have a reason to read lengthy exposes of thought. He uses the different character perspectives as they keep journals or write letters, as a way of telling the tale. Stoker brings the various works of “character pen” together nicely. Each diary is each person’s perspective or experience and each letter written to a friend, is a self expressive moment of the heart to a trusted or beloved one.
And the chase of this monster is so well constructed that it takes a great piece of solid detective work and patience by our primary characters in order to strike at the heart of evil, in the best, most precise fashion possible.
The other interesting facets of Dracula that may have escaped the general purveyor of the vampire lore are his abilities or powers.
Now we all know that vampires can’t come out in the daylight… right? But in Stoker’s vision, Dracula did not have such a restriction. But what restrictions he did have were things like the following,
“The sun that rose on our sorrow this morning guards us in its course. Until it sets tonight, that monster must retain whatever form he now has. He is confined within the limitations of his earthly envelope. He cannot melt into thin air nor disappear through cracks or chinks or crannies. If he go through a doorway, he must open the door like a mortal.“
Ah, did you know or remember that small detail? I had no clue up until I read the book.
It seemed that despite our popular modern-day lore, writers have confounded or stylized the myth a bit to their liking. Throughout the tale, we see references of Dracula getting out and getting things done during the day. But he’s stuck in whatever form he was in when the Sun rises. And without his immortal powers.
Other aspects of the story is the compelling chase. The last half of the book shows us how the mortals put the demon spawn off-balance and Dracula actually runs away from London and tries to get back to Transylvania. It is this pursuit that truly captures the imagination of the reader because like I noted earlier, our heroes had to deduce information, interview dozens of people to learn of various aspects of Dracula’s plans.
Despite this being a story over 100 years old, Dracula is still a surprisingly captivating read. Hence, standing the test of time itself across the ages, like the nemesis of our heroes. Sure, thousands of writers can expound on the subject, but Stoker truly innovated in his day when he came up with this truly timeless premise. It’s a great read and being the classic it is, the Kindle version if priced just right, being FREE!