Monday, February 19, 2007

BBC's Dracula lacks bite

The BBC aired a single tele-film version of Bram Stoker's Dracula in December 2006, the latest in a long line of Draculas to haunt out screens. This adaptation - like most Draculas - strayed from the original Bram Stoker novel.

The threat of syphilis was at the heart of this particular interpretation - a fatal illness residing in the victim's blood, the corollary of sexual deviance and/or promiscuity, which could be passed from generation to generation. Syphilis was topical to its time, but there was a sense that syphilis was acting here as a metaphor for AIDS too.

The protagonist of this version was Lord Holmwood, played here by Dan Stevens (The Line of Beauty, who turns to a sinister, Satan-worshipping underground cult, to help cure him of the syphilis he has inherited from his father. He is desperate for a cure as he longs to bed his luscious, newly-wed wife, Lucy Westenra, enthusiastically played by Sophia Myles. Jonathan Harker - a criminally under-used Rafe Spall in this version - is dispatched to his doom in Transylvania, running an errand for Dracula, who is using Holmwood's cult to his own fiendish ends ... which soon leads to Dracula's sneaking into Britain via Whitby, seducing poor frustrated Lucy, who then becomes a vampire herself, while developing the hots for Mina, Harker's fiancee (Stephanie Leonidas).

Marc Warren took on the iconoclastic role of Dracula. Warren is a favourite actor of mine, but there was something a little lacking here. Similarly, David Suchet as a hoary-headed, melodramatic Van Helsing, failed to impress - strange really, in view of his fine acting credentials.

Sets, locations and costumes were suitably dark and gothic. But the screenplay from Stewart Harcourt was lacklustre and direction (Bill Eagles) was dull and predictable.

Overall, this Dracula lacks bite.

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