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Count Dracula

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Corgi, London, 1977
(price: 65p; 144 pages)

The blurb on the back:

The dark deeds of the Transylvanian Count Dracula have thrilled generations.
In this dramatic re-telling of Bram Stoker's immortal classic, Gerald Savory chronicles the momentous conflict betwen the forces of good and evil as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, Dr Seward, Jonathan Harker and Quincey Holmwood confront the menacing vampire Count Dracula, and his undead disciples.

opening lines:
Jonathan Harker felt that the massive black wardrobe in his hotel bedroom was about to topple over and crush him in his bed.

Gerald Savory was a veteran writer even before he got to TV, having chalked up a major West End hit in the 1930s with George and Margaret. In his later incarnation as a TV dramatist and executive (head of serials at the BBC), he gave us acclaimed series like The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Elizabeth R and Mapp and Lucia and - in 1977 - a two-and-a-half-hour adaptation of Dracula.

By rights, this should be the cue for ridicule, but actually I remember it as a very fine production indeed. Louis Jordan wasn't the most obvious choice for the role of the Count, but he made a decent enough fist of it and the supporting cast was excellent: Jack Shepherd was Renfield, and we were blessed by the presence of Frank Finlay & Susan Penhaligon as Van Helsing and Lucy respectively.

I believe that you can now get this version on video, so maybe I should revisit it, because - while I remember it as being pretty faithful to the original and displaying a taut narrative style - the book frankly is a waste of time. So either my original judgement was wrong, or else Mr Savory was fine at drama but not so hot on novels. I suspect the latter. He's cut the lengthy original down to under 140 pages, barely more than a novella, and it comes on a bit like a Reader's Digest abridgement. It plays up the eroticism a bit, but essentially claims - according to the Introduction - to be about 'the struggle between good and evil:

Whatever Count Dracula represents - satan, beast or virulent disease - Professor Van Helsing lays it on the line. 'Evil will not disappear just because we disapprove of it. We must fight!' (p.8)

For those of us who see Dracula as primarily a political novel about the Victorian middle class' struggle to overthrow the aristocracy, it's clear we're going to be disappointed. And ultimately, like the Coppola novelization, it's all just unnecessary: the original's not exactly inaccessible.


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Bram Stoker's Dracula

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