Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Thoughts On Dracula(s)

I recently saw Tod Browning's 1931 version of Dracula at the Hackney Empire, with a live soundtrack performed by Philip Glass and the Kronos Quartet, who sound more like a system of planets in an episode of Flash Gordon than an instrumental ensemble, but I can assure you they are in fact musicians. If they were planets they wouldn't have got through the door.

Philip Glass & The Kronos Quartet: The End Of Dracula

Ignoring for a moment the appalling view from the gallery seats that meant the top of the screen was obscured by the proscenium arch, the abysmal sound quality of the film which left the actors resembling a group of teenagers mumbling into a bean bag, and the volcanic heat of the uppermost reaches of the Hackney Empire on a summer's evening, the film was otherwise brilliant, although it does wrap itself up very suddenly and unsatisfactorily. It's as if the editor spilled his tea all over the last reel and just chucked most of it away hoping nobody would notice.

Glass's music is haunting and beautiful, and although it's already on the Dracula DVD it's amazing to hear it performed live. Or it would have been if the audience had shut their fat faces and stopped laughing all the way through. It's obviously necessary to include an addition to Dracula's title card for modern cinemagoers:

Listen. I will allow you a short, sharp exhalation through the nose the first time you see a rubber bat hanging from a piece of string. And you can smile to yourself once if you think Bela Lugosi's long stares into camera are a bit camp. But that's it. What you are ABSOLUTELY NOT ALLOWED to do is guffaw like a braying donkey every single time the bat appears or Dracula gives you his Blue Steel. It was 1931, alright? Show some respect.

If it's DracuLOLs you're after I would recommend instead Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, which contains two of the funniest performances of all time in Keanu Reeves' and Winona Ryder's unspeakably miscast English lovers. Their mangling of vowels and complete inability to concentrate on both their acting and their accents simultaneously is exemplary.

Having said that, Bram Stoker's Dracula is much better than I remembered from when I last saw it in 1992, not least in the costume department. Since reading Clothes On Film, the only movie blog better dressed than The Incredible Suit, I'm constantly aware of the clobber on show in films these days. Check out some of the schmutter that won costume designer Eiko Ishioka the Oscar:

I think my favourite outfit is Vlad's ludicrously impractical but bloody stylish suit of armour; although I notice it's since been ripped off for another legendary fictional character.

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  1. Coppola's Dracula is risible. Oldman is pretty good in it, but all else is entirely overrated!

  2. DracuLOLs. hahahahahahA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  3. I bloody love a bit of Coppola's Dracula, despite its innumerous egregious flaws.

  4. I like the soundtrack to Coppola's Dracula and Oldman hams it up in a good way. I like the bit where they are in the old moving picture screening and, as you say, the costumes are fabulous.
    Why were the audience reacting in such an OTT way at the screening of the 1931 Drac?...I don't understand... it's mildly amusimg not laugh out loud funny. Irritating!
    Marge x

  5. That is a smashing suit of armor.

  6. Eiko Ishioka is down as one of two costume designers for 'Immortals' 2011 a 3D Greek mythology tale with Titans, Theseus, Poseidon, Zeus, Helios, Apollo and a Minotaur to be dressed amongst many others. Helios in the donut at the BBC Television Centre does not seem to have any clothes, being a sun god and the Minotaur is a naked man/bull, so that's two ticked off for a start. In fact since they are all mythological why not have them all naked so Eiko gets his fee for nothing.

  7. Phillip Glass. The most overrated composer of all time? The Status Quo of ensemble music.
    It is entirely possible to create Phillip Glass music automatically on any keyboard with a string patch and an appegiator: Just hold down a simple 4 note chord for 2 bars, then pick another chord that follows very obviously. Reapeat ad nauseum. Trouser large cheque.

  8. My whole view of Dracula and Bram Stoker changed when I got involved with a Romanian girl and she told me that "Dracul" means "F&@K."

    That Stoker was a riot.

  9. IMHO, the '31 version is much better than the '92 version.

    Yojimbo_5, is Dracula a declined version of Dracul? I was thinking Dracula meant "dragon."