Rage 4- The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - November 5, 1992
by Megan Abbott
Brain Stoker's classic tale of an
aristocratic vampire and his mates who
prey on the blood of the living has
consistently fascinated filmmakers.
"Dracula" has been filmed countless
times with a stunning variety of inter-
pretations surrounding portrayals of
the mysterious Transylvanian count.
With the impending release of Francis
Ford Coppola's psychosexual take on
the story (titled "Brain Stoker's
Dracula") there is arenewed interest in
the novel and its cinematic adaptations.
"Dracula" films run the gamut from
the very great ("Nosferatu, A Sym-
phony of Horror") to a string of B-
movie loose variations of the story
(usuaPy with Christopher Lee, such as
"Taste the Blood of Dracula") to low-
budget, sex-drenched exploitation films
("The Thirsty Dead"). Coppola's new
version promises to be the most literal
(and literate) adaptation Hollywood has
generated, but there are other "Dracula"
films worth taking a look at.
The memorable 1922 film,
"Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror"
renders a fairly close telling of Stoker's
story (although the names are altered).
Directed by the great German film-
maker F. W. Murnau, "Nosferatu"
(which means "undead") is a master-
piece of German Expressionism. The
vampire (Max Shreck) is a hairless,
elongated, decidedly unromantic fig-
ure. He is a figure of fear, with long,
claw-like fingers and the slender front
teeth of a rat.
The emphasis here is on the sick-
ness, plague, and death that the vam-
pire brings when he finds his way to
Bremen. There is little eroticism in
"Nosferatu," as that would signal vital-
ity. Instead, this vampire is both cruel
feeder, and pathetic victim. He can
only be defeated by the moral purity
which will rid the city of the pestilence
wrought by the vampire. This murky,
sexless vision of "Dracula" (which was
remade by Werner Herzog in 1979 as
"Nosferatu the Vampyre") terrifies in a
way the more romantic visions of
Stoker's novel can never match.
In 1931 Tod Browning made what
would becomes the most famous and
most parodied versions of "Dracula."
Starring Bela Lugosi as the count,
Browning's film was the first to for-
ward the "tuxedo Dracula." Indeed,
Lugosi is a drawing-room (and bed-
room) vampire, with his slicked-back
hair and formal attire. He also fashions
a central European accent (of sorts)
with which he gives dramatic render-
ings to the well-known lines like, "Lis-
ten to (the wolves). Children of the
night. What music they make."
Though people often mock their
version, Browning and Lugosi are ac-
tually very masterful in their work.
Lugosi is an eerie, compelling, seduc-
tive count. Through clever dissolves,
extensive use of mist, and great touches
such as insert shots of rats, armadillos,
and insects, Browning provides aseam-
less kind of horror. Granted, there is a
bitof camp to the film. For instance, the
Transylvanian peasants are broadly
sketched ("Vee the people of the moun-
tain believe the undead valk the night")
and Mina (Helen Chandler) offers
some unintentionally funny dialogue:
"Oh, I suppose (Dracula) is all right,
but give me someone a little more
However, Dwight Frye's insect-
craving Renfield chews the scenery
with true style. Moreover, the bedroom
visits by Dracula and the scene where
Dracula's wives descend on a victim
are chilling. Browning's method of
dollying in towards the motionless
count, as if in subservience to him,
inspires a genuine horror which all the
gore in current films could not match.
In 1979 John Badham's "Dracula"
tried to offer a more modern telling of
Stoker's novel. Although set in 1897,
Badham gives us a heroine (Kate
Nelligan) who considers herself an in-
dependent woman. She readily em-
braces Count Dracula as her new aris-
tocratic lover. Indeed, this Dracula
(Frank Langella) is romance-novel
ready, dancing and dining with his
But Badham poorly handles this
romantic "Dracula." The love scenes,
with all their flashing red special ef-
fects, are curiously bland and contrived.
And Langella looks more like a Disco
Age lothario, with an unbuttoned shirt
and blow-dried mane. There is consid-
erable blood and violence, but no real
horror. Everything is done too typi-
cally and with too little cinematic style.
The idea of Dracula as a proud aristo-
crat determined to sustain the family
line (he says, "I am the last descendent
of a conquering race") does not inspire
fear, only an intense dislike for his
The time is ripe for a more contem-
porary effort in dramatizing Stoker's
immeasurably seductive novel. Judg-
ing from the previews, it appears
Coppola is emphasizing the intense
eroticism of "Dracula," an interpreta-
tion which so far has largely been ex-
plored in an unsuccessful way. So there
is new, exciting ground for Coppola to
break with his "Love Never Dies" ren-
dition of the standard. Let's hope he
doesn't disappoint us.
"I could feel the soft, shivering touch
of the lips on the super-sensitive skin of
my throat, and the hard dents of two
sharp teeth, just touching and pausing
there. I closed my eyes in a languorous
State of the Art?
Mike Eisinger puts the finishing touches on the lobby of the State Theatre, no
longer merely a useless marquee over Urban Outfitters. Starting Friday, the
State will be showing second-run movies for$2.50. See page 7 for showtimes.
WRITE FOR THEATER CALL CARINA
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Schoql of Information and Library Studies
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 1992
Continued from page 1
A buddy of mine called the songs
'America's classic music."'
Referring to his performance,
Patinkin called himself a perfection-
ist. "No one could criticize me as
much as I criticize myself ... I care a
great deal about what I do - I care a
great deal about the freedom that I
want to achieve."
Patinkin's list of co-workers is
phenomenal: Patti LuPone,
Bernadette Peters, Madonna, Will-
iam Hurt,just toname a few. "Do you
want their phone numbers?" he asked
with a chuckle. "Their favorite reci-
pes?" When asked if he favored one in
particular, he named his wife, actress
Kathryn Grody ("The Lemon Sis-
ters"), whom he met in a Michael
Weller play called "Split."
0,the subjectof amentor, Patinkin
becair e instantly serious and senti-
mental. "Yes, there is [someone], but
no one knows who this person is -
it's private; it's just someone who
taught me a great deal about life."
Whoever this mystery mentor is,
and whatever he or she taught Patinkin,
it certainly paid off. His success can
be attributed to his versatility. "Dress
Casual" is a culmination of his expe-
rience in all of the genres of perfor-
mance. Patinkin is definitely out to
prove himself to be more than the 13th-
century swashbuckler Inigo Montoya.
MANDY PATINKIN IN CONCERT:
DRESS CASUAL will be performed
Friday, November 6 at 8 p.m. at the
Michigan Theater. Tickets are $29.50,
$15 rush. Call 668-8397.for info.
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Don't miss Maestro Wong on November 7th!
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