“There is much to be learned from beasts.”

The timing was perfect…

The timing was right…

Perfect timing…

The right timing…

Timing is everything…

Etc.

That can be said for Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”

I was a decent reader, but school wasn’t helping.  We were always asked to read boring shit I was not interested in.  Especially through elementary school and junior high.  Maybe I just had shitty teachers…combination of both, maybe.  A shame actually, as I have always had a love for language.

It was in the fall of my sophomore year that I discovered the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.  The class was Gothic Literature and the teacher was Mrs. Hughes.  It started out just like any other.  We read a few short stories (I remember, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”), we discussed them, we were asked to write an essay that was due in two days about the text, and we were assigned reading to be completed from the novel with a test to be taken in two weeks.

So I opened the book when I got settled into my bed for the evening. I remember being drawn in by the forward (the writer’s name does not come to mind).  They were able to describe the type of monster that Dracula was in so many words without giving anything that we didn’t already know away (he’s a vampire, they drink the blood of the living for food, they have a hold of power over some of their prey, etc.).  I found the descriptions from the written words interesting apart from my viewing vampires in the cinema.  This got me excited to start the story…it got even better.

The next day I was well ahead of the required reading and I was excited to talk to my friend Joseph that was in the class.

“I’m at 82,” I said to him…I was referring to pages.

He had a surprised look, “I read about 54; it’s a good book.”

“Absolutely,” I replied.

For the first time in my life I was excited about the reading time in class as well as the tests.

Between the rest of my classes and soccer practice, I was able to finish the first three quarters of the book early and Mrs. Hughes allowed me to test early.  Two more days and I was done with the book and my tests.  To top things off, I found out on Entertainment Tonight that Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” was to be released in a month.

Perfect timing right?

My friend and I were very excited to see it and we made plans to go with my father…perfect.

So we went to our local theater.  They had a rule.  All R rated features required anyone under 17 to be accompanied by their parents.  I understood it to mean, “an adult.”  They made it clear when we arrived with my friend and my dad that he was not allowed to attend without his father or mother present.

After my father told them what he thought of their business model, we walked out to the video rental store, two buildings down, and rented, “Hook,” instead.  All-in-all a disappointing evening.  I did the next best thing I could three years before the Internet was main stream…I purchased the screenplay at Hastings and read every word.

It’d be a long while before it was released on VHS.  Theatrical release-to-VHS-windows were much longer back in the 80s-90s.  I was the first to rent a copy when it came in.  Films have to take liberties when they are written, but it is the closest adaptation that has ever been made.

Like the novel, the story is told through correspondence between the characters as they describe in their letters to each other the dilemmas that they face.

Oldman as the famous Count, is brilliant.  To see Lydia Deetz as a grown woman playing Mina was a dream. Keanu Reeves was a decent Jonathon Harker and to have anyone other than Hannibal Lecter play Professor Van Helsing would just seem wrong.

Dracula was my favorite book for a time.  The movie was never a favorite, but due to the timing of my first read and enjoyment of the book and to have the adaptation come out just a month later; it felt like fate.  I don’t think I could dislike it, even if it was a sorry work of art, which it is not.  It is the last good film that the great Francis Ford Coppola made and his telling of the story is close enough to what Stoker was writing about.  

I would go on to read many other books in my life.  My tastes would change and I matured and gained a bit of education, reading other books that I now hold higher. That being said, my experience with Dracula will remain unique to me.  Another first that sparked my imagination again and reminded me just how much I love language.

I also find myself to be a “child of the night” as I finish writing this at 11:30pm.

Coincidence?

I think not… πŸ™‚

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11 thoughts on ““There is much to be learned from beasts.”

  1. Great post, Clintington. I, too, love the novel, and the movie has been a huge influence on my own writing. I saw it at a theater on 19th Street and Broadway the first weekend it came out. Even though I was only sixteen, movie theaters in New York at that time were pretty lax — they’d let anyone who could afford a ticket into an R-rated film! In some respects, I think the screenplay even improves on Stoker’s text: The explicit historical background on Vlad enriches the characterization of Dracula, and the love story gives the whole narrative motivation — you understand why Dracula has come into the lives of these particular people. Coppola (and screenwriter James V. Hart, who also wrote Hook) were brilliant to have Mina dispose of the journal pages detailing her affair with Dracula over the side of the ship, hence the reason that subplot isn’t “mentioned” in the novel! I can’t imagine there will ever be an adaptation of the book as good as Coppola’s sumptuous, operatic, phantasmagoric, Gothic masterpiece!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have yet to see another adaptation that comes even close…I have seen different actors play The Famous Count that I like (Frank Langella, Jack Palance, for example), but those stories are not even close to the novelization arc…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right. Lugosi, Christopher Lee, and Langella all made for memorable Counts, but all of their adaptations played fast and loose with the original plot. Though Coppola did take some liberties, there’s no question his interpretation comes closest to the book, and — in my opinion — even improves upon some of its plot points.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I agree. I like other vampire movies, but they make no serious attempt to adapt the novel. You’re right about the right timing too. There are things we read or watch or places we visit, at just the right time and we remember them the rest of our lives. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

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