Adaptations of Dracula that change (or don't) the story


#1

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is both a Classic and an example of Vampire Fiction. The title character has been seen in many incarnations (thanks to the work entering the public domain in the US fairly early, and then elsewhere in the 1960s) and the work has been adapted into various other media.

Sometimes this involves changes, omissions, or additions to the story.

What were some good ones? Bad ones? Why?


For me one of the most influential (possibly due to my age) was the 1992 film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” directed by Coppola and Written by Fred V. Hart.

This version managed to preserve the feeling of the original epistolary novel by using combinations of visuals (overlay and props) and voice-over narration to establish the events were being relayed as part of a series of letters, journals, articles, etc. It also retained all the main characters (for example, Dr. Seward is not a father to one of the girls as in some versions.)

It emphasized the concept that Dracula is the same as Vlad Tepes, which wasn’t explicit in the original novel but a popular later literary theory.

It also introduced a romantic subplot suggesting that Dracula believed Mina Harker nee Murray to be the reincarnation of his deceased wife, which does not exist in the original novel. Interestingly there exists a scene of Mina tossing journal entries overboard as if to suggest these events were ‘real’ but kept from the written account.

The social issues were updated. In the original novel, terms like “degenerate” are used for Count Dracula, and there is certainly infection and transfusion of blood, but there’s not as explicit a parallel made with syphilis, whereas in this movie adaptation syphilis, infections of the blood, and infidelity are all mentioned by Dr. Van Helsing. This movie was released in '92 when AIDS was still quite topical, so the parallel between vampirism and venereal disease, in general, was clearly implied, however, there’s not the same connotation as in the novel where the one spreading the disease is described as criminal or degenerate. (Though Dracula is considered an unholy vampire.)

As well, in the original novel, Van Helsing accounts for Mina’s intellect as her having a “man’s brain” an obviously sexist statement by late 20th or by 21st Century standards. In the movie, there’s no such statement. Mina has somewhat more agency in the movie, in the sense that she is romantically attracted to Dracula as opposed to entranced by him and that though Van Helsing hypnotizes her, she appears to willingly help Jonathan and the others track Dracula. She then struggles with her allegiance and at one point acts to stop Dracula’s pursuers.

And that romantic subplot sends a bit of a mixed message in my opinion, because Dracula, believing Mina his soulmate doesn’t really consider that she has chosen another (Jonathan) in her current life and is rather persistent in pursuing her on the street. (He knows even before leaving for London that Mina is Jonathan’s finance.) Mina at first rejects Dracula but then later accepts him, sending the confusing message that stalking is the behavior of a predator, but then that men should just be persistent and will be rewarded for such with a relationship.

Even when acknowledging that Dracula has murdered Lucy (Mina’s friend since childhood), Mina professes to love him despite that.

In the novel, Dracula dies from stab wounds and this alone restores Mina’s humanity. In the movie, after he is stabbed, an additional scene in a chapel implies Dracula’s wish to preserve Mina’s humanity causes him to seek and be granted forgiveness by God, removing the unholiness and vampirism from himself and Mina as he dies. It gives the work a stronger or more overt religious theme.

Overall, it’s a well-made adaptation with reasonable updating; the Beauty & the Beast subplot is not for everyone but did reflect the more romantic image vampires had acquired in popular culture.


#2

I thought the cartoon versions kind of bite. But the book is decent, if not dry reading.