Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I've been crazy busy with Evil Cheez business, as I said. This past weekend we closed my show THE BELLES OF WHITECHAPEL (I am pleased to announce it was a big success, both in terms of attendance and in audience reception) and I immediately went to work on our annual October fundraiser. This year we're doing a live reenactment of a certain George Romero classic; we're calling it NIGHT(S) OF THE LIVING DEAD, and I'm hopeful it will be worth the effort it's taking to put it together. Safeguarding an historical site from a zombie rampage is a lot of work! The rest of my week will be consumed with the task.

I did get a chance on Indigenous Peoples Day to go see DRACULA UNTOLD. Those who know me know all about my thing with the Count. He's my all-time favorite (semi) fictional character (tied maybe with Batman and with Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan), my most beloved of the classic monsters. I've studied in great detail both the fictitious vampire and the real-life monster who inspired him, Prince Vlad III of Wallachia, surnamed Dracula and often called "Tsepish," the Impaler. (Note: The real Drac was WAY scarier than the literary one.) Thus a movie attempting to fuse the historical with the fantastical, to give the world's most famous vampire an origin story, was certain to have me salivating, all quivering with anticipation. Also, it was guaranteed to have me worried. Would it do Drac justice? Would it measure up? Would I find it WORTHY? My expectations and requirements for a Dracula movie are pretty damn high, after all. As high as that victim Vlad had impaled on the highest stake, so he would be above the smell of all the rotting corpses he'd complained about.

What did I think, then, of DRACULA UNTOLD?

I freakin' LOVED it. Luke Evans is a worthy successor to the great actors who've portrayed Dracula in ages past. And the cinematography is magnificent. My only complaint? I wanted more. Editors did a hatchet job on this film. They completely cut out the subplot, which really needed to be there. Maybe we'll get those scenes put back in for the DVD, but still. Beautiful Samantha Barks of Le Mis fame as that infamous witch of Russian folklore, Baba Yaga? Gone. And the "lord vampire" guy, the beast in the cave, with whom Drac strikes his unholy bargain? Did you know that guy was the mad Roman dictator Caligula? Probably not. But you would have, if they'd left that revelation in the movie. (Caligula provides the creepiest parts of the movie overall. I would've liked to have seen more of him.) I loved the movie in spite of the atrocious editing; Maybe it would be more accurate to say I loved all there was of it. But it felt incomplete. How much more would I have loved it had I been served the complete meal and not just the appetizer? Blame it on the short collective attention span of the typical audience today, overdosed of video games and smartphones and other sparkly whatsiwhosits, unable to follow a narrative if there aren't bells and whistles every few seconds. Or blame it on the simple-minded studio execs who try to predict the exact brevity of that paltry attention span and then try to cow to it. Whatever. I don't want this post to turn into a indictment of the Hollywood moviemaking machine. That would take me a while. Too long. Suffice it to say that DRACULA UNTOLD still remains partly untold, and that's a shame. Because what they DID bother to tell us was awesome.

(Drac and me have an interesting history. Me and vampires in general, really. I'll tell you about that next time. Right now, still too busy. Gotta run. Zombies calling!)