DRACULA 2020-PART THREE.

What you have to do is look at this final episode with a mind that is open. and free from all other versions of DRACULA.

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Well after watching part three of the BBC/NETFLIX production of an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA I am even more confused. But it does not take a lot to do that. I was born confused, so they tell me. This series has kind of turned the Stoker novel and the Hammer and other incarnations about the vampire lord on their head literally. The final part of the series brought Dracula into the present day, as I said previously Hammer tried this with SATANIC RITES and DRACULA AD 1972, and in my opinion this did not go well. However, vampires were brought into the present day in other movies such as COUNT YORGA, LOVE AT FIRST BITE and of course BLADE. And I have to say the BBC version as realised by Gatiss and Moffat for me did evoke the Blade concept within the last episode as in modern day and slightly seedy that packs a bit of a punch, with some of its scenes set in bars and clubs which have a pulsating dance music soundtrack. But and there is always a but isn’t there, I also began to find it a little silly, especially when Gatiss entered as Dracula’s lawyer Rheinfield.

This was I thought taking it too far, and the Van Helsing thing and the Johnathan Harker foundation, what the hell was this all about. Sorry but this was just too much for me. I know we must develop and maybe add things to established stories and this is all well and good if the situations, characters and scenarios that are added improve or make things slightly interesting. This adaptation did neither in fact it become a laughingstock by around the forty-minute mark. It’s all very well bringing this iconic gothic character into the 21st century, but where do you go from here, you can’t take him back in time can you? Well hang on maybe if Dr Who is not using his oops sorry her Tardis this could come to fruition. And whilst on the subject of the Doctor, you know THE DOCTOR, how about Dolly Wells as a contender for the next time lord, just putting it out there.

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Ok back to the lawyer bit, if you have Count Dracula locked up and are keeping him that way so that the world is a safer place, would you, I mean would you really let him go because a solicitor says you have to, really? I know the laws in the UK are slightly antiquated and barmy but, think about it. And if Dracula were here in this modern world would he really want to stay? I am really in a bit of a confused state now, not because of the elements of the last episode, but because I am actually enjoying watching it, it may be silly, it may not be Hammer but there are Hammer references definitely, and in this last episode too, the musical score came into its own, it was emotive and wonderfully melodic in places, especially in the closing minutes when Dracula finally walks into the sun light without disintegrating into a pile of dust, and realising finally that it was a beautiful thing.

I think the music as penned by composers David Arnold and Michael Price managed to bring out or at least show us that the Count maybe was not such a monster, adding a greater emotional atmosphere to the proceedings and showing us that this dark lord, was vulnerable and fragile like the humans he had been praying on for centuries. In fact, by the time the last episode reached its conclusion I felt a little sorry for him. There is very little doubt that there were some inventive ideas thrown in here by the writers and also ideas that led to scenarios that were thought provoking. Maybe I gave the first two episodes rather harsh and negative reviews, but with the last episode, I did warm to the Count, even if he did at times look a little like James Bond. So whats next for Gatiss and Moffat, FRANKENSTEIN? Or maybe the League of the Undead?

COUNT DRACULA-2020. part two.

 Again I stress that reviews are one persons view a personal opinion, and are in no way correct all of the time, so here is my own personal opinion of the BBC 2020 production of DRACULA, part two  which aired on Thursday January 2nd 2020.  

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Well after episode one of DRACULA on the BBC new year’s day night if you know what I mean, I kind of vowed not to return to it, well I lied as I had recorded the series, so as I was up late and had nothing to do the next day and really could not sit through MRS BROWNS BOYS or THE SHOPPING SHOW on the other side. I thought ummmm what shall I do? Play monopoly, no it is no fun when you play yourself, Ah,I know, chess, Yes! Umm no actually can’t do that as I remembered I had lost the black Queen about a year ago… Ummm, I know let’s look for the black Queen,,,, no…Lets watch the Grinch, wait stop what am I saying? I give in, Ok, roll DRACULA part two. Now as much as I was unsure and shall I say a tad negative about episode one I still entered into the viewing of part two with a fully open mind and also with some hope that maybe episode two would outshine episode one, let’s face it, It would not have to be that good to even do that would it? (sorry be positive, be positive). Ok lets see whats going on, right Sister Agnes is with Dracula in a walled room looks like a room or even a cell of sorts in castle Dracula, so hang on how did she get there a why is she still alive? The vampire lord surely has not been merciful, No, of course not he is using her in the same way as he used Johnathan, oops sorry Johnny Harker, living off of her blood, feeding on her and all the time he grows stronger and more Bond like in appearance, so Agnes becomes weaker and gaunt in appearance. Is this right?

 

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I think it is, this I think is a good side to the story line or the adaptation, we see the Count becoming healthier and more agile as he drains a victim of the life force blood, and by the same token the victim, becomes more fragile and less able to do things or even think straight, Agnes even loses a chess game because of his hypnotic charms, (hang on chess game, get the black Queen for me and then I can turn this off). However, Sister Agnes is one mean nun and has an iron like resistance against the vampire’s ways. The Count and the Nun sit and face each other across the chess board, at one time one thinks they are actually friends as things are so civilised. The vampire kind of flirting with his female company relating to the Nun what is or what has happened on the voyage, The second episode of the Gatiss and Moffat penned DRACULA is set onboard a ship, and yes we know in Stokers book there was a ship and a voyage from Transylvania to England, in fact to Whitby, where the Count has purchased a residence in the form of Carfax Abbey.

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In the book the Count methodically and totally wipes out the crew, in this second episode, it is a little different, and why not its an adaptation after all, the clue being in BASED upon Stokers novel, so that’s how they do it they take a classic horror story and then look at it, take bits out add bits to it and even totally change it, if you had come in mid-way through this episode you would have been forgiven for thinking it was a TV series or show based upon CLUEDO or something that Agatha Christie had cooked up, it was basically a Who Dunnit, but a mystery that was not really a mystery, as we as a viewer have the upper hand as we know who the murderer is.( get the attention of the cast)…..psst….

“It’s the tall dark debonair nobleman in the black cloak, who sits in the dinning room but never eats or drinks, obviously he got a package deal and not fully inclusive”.

But seriously, the second episode turned into this farcical mystery, filled with people from all walks of life that eventually discover that it is actually Dracula that has gathered them there, and is disposing of them one by one as a kind of dry (forgive the pun) run for when he arrives in England. But things don’t go all the Count’s way, and he eventually is dispatched by burning at the hands of a Van Helsing, (bond theme riff please). Agatha Van Helsing. So, Dracula is set on fire and he dives over the side of the ship into a fog shrouded sea. So double wammy then vampires don’t like water or running water I am told, or is that something from Hammer rather than Stoker, great that’s it then, all done vampire dispatched let’s go! Umm, No hang on a stake wielding minute. That should be it, that should be the end, but we all know its not, because there is still 30 mins to go.


Again seriously, I mean come on guys really. Anyway its ends up with Dracula returning to the ship, in fact he had never left, he dispatches the Captain, the remainder of the crew have escaped in a lifeboat, and then sets about Van Helsing, but unbeknown to the vampire the Captain lives and both him and Agnes have prepared a surprise for the Count in the form of an explosion that will send the ship to the bottom of the sea. Van Helsing and the Captain are dying anyway, so what have they to lose, too late the count realises that Agnes is attempting to distract him, and the ship explodes and sinks, watched by the remaining crew members in the lifeboat. We see Agnes sinking into the depths and also the coffin of Dracula too heading to the seabed. Then the Count emerges from his coffin and walks on the seabed and eventually makes shore, as he looks around he sees the outline of Carfax Abbey, but it is in ruins, then in a surprise move a spotlight is placed upon the Count as cars screech along the beach and stop in front of him lights flashing and helicopters above him, a female walks towards the Count, “Welcome to England Count Dracula, What took you so long”?

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It is the familiar figure of Agnes Van Helsing we see, in this twist in the story’s tale. So Gatiss and Moffat have transported Dracula into the present, or at least into a modern-day Whitby. Did you see that coming, no, nor did I. And shades of the end of the Tim Burton version of PLANET OF THE APES. So, Dracula walks among us again, but a word of caution, remember what happened when someone else tried to put the dark lord into a contemporary setting, yes, his reign was short lived.
We will see the outcome tonight my children.

I will mention that the music by David Arnold and Michael Price became more apparent in episode two, and I picked out a few well written and well placed themes. I am looking forward to the release of the score, and also a quick note, the BBC are not the only ones to blame here Netflix too had a hand in it.

PARADISE WAR-THE BRUNO MANSER STORY.

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I think that it true to say that although Gabriel Yared is a multi-award winning film music composer, he is also a composer that I feel is underatted and sadly underused, his score for TROY was in my opinion excellent, and it certainly out shone the re-score by James Horner. Yared, is a talented composer, arranger and conductor and also an artist that can adapt easily to each project he works upon. The composer has the ability to create haunting and lush melodies, but at the same time is quite capable of constructing complex and intricate scores for movies as well as television projects. His style is not one that I would say is instantly identifiable as the composer scores each film with an individual and unique musical fingerprint. One of the composers recent scores is from the movie, PARADISE WAR-THE STORY OF BRUNO MANSER, Yared has fashioned an emotive and touching soundtrack, which is delicate and underlines the fragility of the environment that Manser so dearly loved and fought for. Based on a true story, the film focuses upon the renowned environmentalist Bruno Manser, who in 1984 travelled into the thick and wild jungles of Borneo and discovers the Penan tribe, his contact and connections with the tribe alters his life drastically, and when the existence of the tribe becomes threatened by modern civilization, Manser decides to make a stand against it. He attempts to halt the logging that is destroying the forests, but it is a fight that will cost him dearly. The score by Yared is highly melodic and the composer creates beautifully crafted and hauntingly affective compositions that are at times understated and simple, but because of this simplicity and its subtle style the music is not only affectingly poignant but adds greater depth and emotion to the proceedings. The score is in the main symphonic, with strings and also woodwinds being given centre stage, the combination of these and the placing of faint sounding brass gives this soundtrack a real heartfelt aura, it is a pleasing and gratifying listening experience and for me is a wonderfully melodious and truly thematic experience, both in the movie aswell as away from it. The composer also utilises choir within the score, which purveys a sadness and a celestial sound that is calming. There are also present more action themed cues, as in ESCAPE FROM THE CAR which is dominated by driving strings and brass stabs, that together create a tense and uneasy atmosphere. But for the majority of the work we are treated to gloriously effecting themes, that are filled to overflowing with melancholy and also a real sense of emotive nuances that seem to get right to the heart of the listener. Yared employing boy soprano and light sounding solo piano to achieve a sound that you will not be able to resist.  A great score, and one to add to your collection.   Available as a digital download via all digital platforms, released by PLAZA MAYOR.

DRACULA (2020) BBC TV.

 

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What we have to realise here and be conscious of is, that a review is merely a personal opinion, an opinion of the reviewer who’s taste in film, books and music or even a food may not be the same as everyone else. There are certain examples of what I call classics in literature that maybe should be left alone, there are also stories that have been filmed successfully and become popular that really should not be re-made or updated and altered, writers adding bits and pieces that they think are good or maybe will update the story and make it more appealing to the contemporary world. Movies such as GONE WITH THE WIND, THE ALAMO, EL CID, BEN HUR and their like should not be re-made, but sadly they are, and the end result is a lack lustre collection of films that fade into the mists of time never to be seen again. Now DRACULA by Bram Stoker has been made into a string of movies, each one tackling the content in a different way, the Universal pictures version with Bela Lugosi, although a cinematic classic was not that faithful at all to the Stoker novel but it certainly shocked audiences, the same can be said for DRACULA according to Hammer films, although this the first in the Hammer cycle is one of the better adaptations, with Christopher Lee taking on the role of the infamous Count. Then Hammer kind of lost their way after DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, with the films in the series focuses upon the more sexual content. Then came IL CONTE DRACULA directed by Jesus Franco, who although stuck to the story penned by Stoker, did add some of his little quirks, the director was said to have consulted Stokers novel each day before shooting.  Christopher Lee starred as a moustache wearing Count in this 1970.s adaptation. I think the best version of DRACULA was aired on the BBC in 1977 with Louis Jordan in the title role. Since then there have been many incarnations, BRAM STOKERS DRACULA as envisaged by Coppola and also the rather dark an off beat DRACULA UNTOLD as well as many films which attempted to place the count in a contemporary setting, whether they were successful or not is another matter.

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Which brings me to the most recent apparition to hit the small screen over the festive and new year period, DRACULA, adapted by the same writing team that re-booted the iconic Sherlock Holmes, successfully or not? Well that I suppose is all down to individual taste. Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat did bring the popularity of the Master sleuth back into vogue via the series Sherlock, but there is the argument if he had ever gone out of the publics mind at all. DRACULA opened New Years day on BBC 1, many had been awaiting the return of the Count, but also an equal number of fans were dreading it because they were not sure which route the writers would take. I watched with an open mind and tried to dismiss all images of past vampire movies from my memory, which is hard task itself. I was also looking forward to the musical score, which is by David Arnold and Michael Price, the same composer collaboration on SHERLOCK. A collaboration that did bring forth several interesting and haunting musical moments.

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However, on the new series opening, I was somewhat put out to see that it began with two nuns basically interrogating a dead looking individual who we soon discover to be Johnathan Harker (John Heffernan) Were there nuns in the Stoker novel? If I am wrong here I apologise, but it has been a while since I read it, there was a tiny section I think that had a convent mentioned, but other than that?  But, go with it, it is after all an adaptation, which like all adaptations are based upon maybe characters or even a scenario included within the original work. Harker tells his story to the nuns, one in particular Sister Agatha ( Dolly Wells) who questions him and enquires about the Count and Harker’s experience at castle Dracula is more focused on the task whilst the other sits quietly listening. It is a strange conversation, because the Nun is like no ordinary nun, and confesses that she does not believe in God to Harker, and then asks him did he have sexual intercourse with Count Dracula? Which left me somewhat puzzled, why would a nun ask this? Harker’s account of his time at castle Dracula is a nightmarish one, the nuns sitting listening intently , but every so often Sister Agatha questioning him deeper about his host. It was at this point I longed for something that resembled the Stoker story, which thankfully did manifest itself, and briefly there it was DRACULA as we know and love or loath or even fear it. Harker is driven to the castle, enters and begins his meal which has been left for him, the Count (Claes Bang) who is at this stage a haggard and ancient looking individual, enters and introduces himself to Harker. Harker offers the Count a drink to which he replies “No, I don’t drink (pauses) wine”. He then tells Harker he longs to go to London as the people in Transylvania lack flavour, which is something that Harker corrects saying “I think you mean character”.

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The Count relays to Harker that he will not return to England the next day, but he will stay ay Castle Dracula for a month, to teach the Count English or at least better English. Harker is shocked, but sort of resigns himself to this situation. And this is where things begin to move faster, and also become somewhat hammy and stupid. The Count is obviously feeding off of Harker as he sleeps, and this is done well because we see the count becoming younger and more agile whilst Harker begins to look older and gaunt. We also see Harker exploring te nightmarish castle and sense his desperation as he can find no way out in the labyrinth of corridors and tunnels. The story goes back and forth from the interrogation with Sister Agnes to castle Dracula as Harker continues to tell the nuns of the horrendous times at the castle. I will say here that I was impressed with the sets and the staging of the production, but it was the dialogue I began to have a problem with, especially the Count himself, at first the accent was connivingly eastern European, but as he grew more youthful and stronger his accent slipped and became something that resembled more east end than east Europe.

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There were the stupid one liners aswell, which for me evoked a similar aura to the wise cracks of James Bond when Roger Moore was in the role of 007, rather than a proud, noble if not evil Prince of Transylvania that had fought the Turks and vanquished many enemies, but there were no mention of these as is laid out in Stokers novel. Then we see that the so called journal Harker had kept, apparently contained none of what he had related to Sister Agnes, instead it was more of a love letter to Dracula, Dracula is God, Dracula is good etc.

 

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It’s a funny thing I thought that DRACULA was a kind of love story but was a tale of a love lost in tragic circumstances, and the Count discovering the beautiful Mina (Harkers fiancée) and imagining it was his lost love, not a love story between Harker and the Count? But maybe that is the Coppola version filtering through snd mingling with my hazy memories if the book. By the time the stories both caught up with each other and were on the same timeline, I was even more confused, Nuns armed with sharpened stakes, and Sister Agnes, refusing to invite the vampire into the convent, the stand off between the Nun and the Count was impressive, each one attempting to get inside each other’s minds and the Count trying to trick her into letting him have access to the convent. It is at this point we discover that her full name is Agnes Van Helsing. so the plot thickens, or does it just now become even more silly?

 

The transformation of the Count from wolf to himself was also impressive and  something that was touched upon in John Badham’s DRACULA which starred Frank Langella. Hammer films I don’t think ever entered into the realms of Dracula changing shape or persona.(apart from in THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES) So, the Count eventually gains access to the convent because of Harker, and decapitates the Mother Superior before setting a pack of fierce and blood lusting wolves upon the remainder of the nuns, sitting and delivering such classic lines as “I AM UNDEAD , NOT UNREASONABLE, and OH THAT’S GOT TO HURT”. And before the carnage begins, throwing the Mother Superiors head over his shoulder in the same fashion a bride tosses her bouquet at waiting women, into the assembled Nuns.

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Its all a bit bizarre I think, but was it entertaining, well actually no not really. Do I want to see more, Umm, again no not really, I might be wrong about this series, but somehow, I don’t think so? Only time will tell, as I can already see there is a very mixed reaction to this new style DRACULA.

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The score by David Arnold and Michael Price, was nothing outstanding, even the theme for me was lacking something, but I will say I never actually heard any of the score whilst watching the episode, so maybe its doing its job and enhancing and supporting, God knows this production needs all the help and support it can get.

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Bang has his moments as Dracula, but it is the one liners that spoil this, without the jokes and the sometimes too modern sounding dialogue, this could have been something worth watching.  In finishing, If I was at the BBC I probably would have re-run the 1977 production, at least it was credible, this new version is more like a British comedy from the 1960’s or 1970’s, Maybe it should have been called I,M ALRIGHT DRAC?