Dracula (2013/14)

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An occasional series where I write about works inspired by Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula…

These reviews reveal plot twists.

Setting: London, 1890. (The show was filmed in Hungary.)

Faithful to the novel? Vaguely… This British/American TV show uses Bram Stoker’s basic elements and character names but rearranges things quite a bit. The vampire Dracula (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) moves to London and poses as an American entrepreneur called Alexander Grayson. In public, he promotes scientific endeavours; in private he seeks revenge on those who have wronged him. In episode one he meets Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw). She’s the reincarnation of his long-dead love, Ilona – a plot device stolen from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) – so Dracula/Grayson works hard to keep Mina close to him without giving the game away. He even takes an interest in her boyfriend, a journalist called Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), and helps arrange their wedding. Elsewhere, Mina’s friend Lucy Westenra (Katie McGrath) is secretly in love with her, while her university professor is Abraham Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann). However, this Van Helsing is very different from Stoker’s version. For a kick-off, he’s in league with Dracula. The two team up because they both have beef with the Order of the Dragon, the sect that killed Ilona, turned Dracula into a vampire and murdered Van Helsing’s family because he wasn’t loyal to them. While all this is going on, Dracula also has a fling with non-book-character Lady Jayne Wetherby (Victoria Amurfit). She’s connected to the Order of the Dragon, but doesn’t know that Grayson is a vampire. The only other person in on Dracula’s secret is Renfield (Nonso Anozie), here repurposed as a non-insane African-American lawyer-cum-enforcer.

Best performance: The cast is mostly either boring or actually rubbish, so let’s champion the production-design team. Some stunning locations have been used to represent London of the 1890s, while the interiors are regularly gorgeous. There’s a steampunk/Victoriana vibe to everything, while the warm, candle-lit colours are often very pretty too.

Best episode: Episode five, The Devil’s Waltz, is centred on Mina and Jonathan’s engagement party. Several plots bubble to the surface.

Review: This recent television show was axed after just one season of 10 episodes. It did well to last that long, frankly. Cheesy dialogue, poor plotting and a weak cast made it a slog to sit through. As mentioned above, the look of the series is really nice, while Trevor Morris’s incidental music is often fantastic – almost John Carpenter-like. But the superficially similar Penny Dreadful (2014 onwards) beats it on every level.

Five words guaranteed to dispel any manner of mediocrity masquerading as conventional wisdom out of 10

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