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Bram Stoker's Dracula

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Pan, London, 1992
(price: 4.99; 304 pages)

dedication: to Gregg and Charlie

The blurb on the back:

The ultimate retelling of a story that has mesmerised readers for nearly a century.
From the dank crypt of his foreboding castle in the forests of Transylvania to the bustling, foggy street of Victorian London, Count Dracula comes to claim his victims to feed the lustful hunger that has damned him to a life of lonely immortality ... and to bind to him an innocent young woman - the miraculous double image of the love that he lost four centuries earlier.
Here is the extraordinary story of a creature possessed of an irresistible sexuality and a powerful evil as old as time itself. This unforgettable classic of darkly erotic horror is now a magnificent motion picture from Francis Ford Coppola, featuring an internationally celebrated cast.

opening lines:
Ever since her young prince had ridden away to war, the sleep of the Princess Elisabeth had been tormented by red dreams of horror and blood.

Following nicely along from Count Dracula and Nosferatu, here's another retelling of the Dracula story in the guise of a novelization. The screenplay to Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 movie Bram Stoker's Dracula was by James V Hart, and the project was handed over to the experienced Fred Saberhagen (author of his own series of Dracula novels) to put back on the page.

Now the movie was actually pretty decent. Gary Oldman was on good form as the Count, successfully resisting the temptation to do ham send-ups of Lugosi and Lee, Tom Waits was an interesting choice as the madman Renfield (though obviously Dwight Frye had long since made the role his own property), and we just had to cover our eyes when Keanu Reeves came on screen. And, of course, being a Coppola creation, it was visually stunning and dripping in atmosphere. The plot modifications were less successful - Dracula is motivated by love lost, which is the kind of thing that can apparently drive a romantic young man to vampirism - but the essence of the original remained.

So that's the film. And the book? Well, the book loses out on Oldman and Coppola and settles for being deeply prosaic. To take an example, whilst we're thinking of Renfield:

Back in the asylum Dracula easily overpowered the burly madman. In his rage the prince lifted Renfield bodily from the ground and smashed him several times against the bars of the cell door.
After pausing briefly to observe the result, Dracula went on his way - through the door, moving freely now into the interior of the building. (p.232)

It's not too hard to see why Hart has a prefatory note urging us to read the original. I'd like to endorse his sentiments. Mind you, we do get eight pages of colour photographs, like this:

The undead suck all the acting ability from Keanu Reeves


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