|Author Charles Eddie Butler|
First of all, I'd like to thank Charles E Butler, author of "The Romance of Dracula," whose visiting Vampire Review (Seattle, USA) from the UK today. I feel very lucky to have him participate in this interview. Here's the very positive review I wrote about his (above mentioned) book. TAMI: First question? Describe your book in five words. CHARLES: (Tentatively) "My Final Word On Dracula?" Though it probably won't be. TAMI: In your introduction, you depicted Count Dracula as a "frightening and selfish character. "What do you think Knock (your favorite character in the Nosferatu film, or Renfield from Dracula) would have to say about that depiction of his/their master? CHARLES: They would probably attack me and leave me hung, drawn and quartered. In the novel, Dracula promises Renfield all kinds of goodies and an incredible afterlife in probably one of the best written scenes between the two characters. When you read Dracula's seduction of Renfield, you come away feeling that Bram himself had been tempted with great things - like many of us - in his lifetime, only to be bitterly disappointed at the last minute. Again it is a scenario that Mr Stoker doesn't receive the credit he deserved for it. Other vampires in literature before this time, don't really have familiars, or lamias. This device was an original creation by the author that is now a regular staple amongst movie makers and authors. It was a master stroke. TAMI: Also regarding your claim that Dracula is frightening - why do you suppose so many female characters seem to regard him as long-suffering, perhaps someone they should rescue? (E.g., Lucy finds him fascinating, while Mina eventually feels tortured with longing for him, as Renfield also yearned for his master). CHARLES: I blame the Hamilton Deane play for this aspect of the characterization. He turned Dracula into the charming aristocrat we all love to hate so that people would want to invite him into their homes. Stoker's Dracula is a rotting geriatric that craves blood! Evil is always attractive in movies and novels. With movie stars having 'star appeal,' Dracula has always been portrayed by a plethora of incredibly charismatic actors. Ladies respond to this dark seducer in the movies without thinking about how badly the film might be written. Louis Jourdan, for me, was the pioneer in this respect, bringing out the charms of his French seducer persona. Frank Langella confessed that husbands openly thanked him in the street after their passionate bedroom antics after witnessing his portrayal on Broadway and in the subsequent movie. Bela Lugosi in interviews regularly used the story of Dracula's power to seduce young girls to plug his image. But in the novel, Mina gives a noted description of Dracula's advances, claiming that "strangely enough, I did not want to hinder him. Perhaps that is the curse when his touch is upon his victims!" James V Hart, misread these sections and worked his screenplay into a full-blown love story. Count Dracula is never described as being sexy or physically attractive to women and has a severe case of halitosis too! Lucy never meets Dracula socially in the novel and only finds him fascinating in the movies. In Dario Argento's trailer for Dracula 3D, he also mentions of the great love that Dracula has for Mina, so it looks like this thread is going to be as recurring as the Dracula story itself. My film "Dark Passions," tries to answer the distinctions between the draw of the romantic in the movies and the all-too-real horror if something like this should happen in real life. TAMI: In your review of the movie "Dracula" you write: "The brides silently prowl around and promise real menace that, sadly, is never delivered. I'm wondering what you would had envisioned for the brides or what message would you have conveyed had you written their script instead? CHARLES: I don't think that Tod Browning really had a taste for the complexities inherent in the vampire story. In Dracula, the novel, the brides are three doomed wastrels whom Dracula feeds his discards to on a regular basis, to keep them pliant. When they see Jonathon, their first thought is to kiss him - or eat him - but the underlying urges in this section of the tale are so strong that Harker feels as though he has been unfaithful to Mina on a tantamount scale. Again, when Dracula boxes their ears and states, "This man is mine!" we, the readers, are left to wonder; just what does he have in mind for this "young and strong" persona of Victorian manhood? The brides in the movie could never have indulged in the implications described here in 1931, so they are conspicuously discarded. Taking a wild stab, I don't think Bram Stoker understood the sexual tensions that he had worked into his story, but many of his prim Victorian contemporaries did! Conversely, in the Spanish language version starring Carlos Vallarius, George Melford (the director), gives us a brief, but very clear picture of the brides as caged tigresses waiting for Dracula's doggy bags! As I clarify in my book, I think that the opening scenes with Jonathon Harker were destined to be a short tale using many of the trappings of Stoker's other short horror stories. A prisoner finds himself trapped in a horrific place, with no way out. These scenarios are also evident in the works of Edgar Allen poe. The horror story at the time, was just that; a short essay on terror. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein aside, I think that Stoker's own enthusiasm gave birth to the first full blown novel of the fantastic almost by accident because he was being constantly barraged with new ideas that he worked into the tale over a lengthy period. Actually, I am in the process of making a short film about Dracula's Brides. It is based on the staking sequence in Van Helsing's memorandum and I try to work out the complexities of vampire seduction from a male perspective. TAMI: Why do you suppose, when Hutter is bitten, he wants to escape the Nosferatu's castle, but when Renfeld and female victims are bitten, they feel love-lorn for their vampire? CHARLES: Nosferatu and Dracula movies are really two seperate entities on a similar theme. In Murnau's film, the director focuses on the fear of being afraid, not of the unknown, sexually or otherwise, but his characters are very aware of the dangers they are in in the shape of Graf Orlock. Orlock has no interest in love or emotion and making new vampires. He is the king of filth and degradation on a devastating plane. He is coming to destroy the World and he wants everyone to know it! Murnau's theme concentrates on invasion and Hutter feels as if HE has been invaded when the vampire makes his advances. There are no underlying sexual metaphors in Orlock's kisses. In appearance and action the vampire in Nosferatu is about as sexy as a head butt. But, referring to my overlarge monologue for question 4, the USA and the UK literally hinge their plots on mortal love affairs with undead melancholic travellers, a staple characterization originally dreamt up by Lord Byron. Ton Holland did an excellent job fusing the two characterizations for a movie-going audience in his 1985 film Fright Night. TAMI: In your introduction, you describe Stoker's failure to offer a clear description for exactly why Renfield gets murdered as an "ambiguous mishap" (as though Renfield's eating bugs and maniacal screaming from his cell wasn't murder-worthy enough). Yet, later, on page 40, when you describe one of the subsequent movies, you admit: "it is understandable that he (Renfield) would get on the Count's nerves... You actually feel like applauding when Dracula takes him by the throat and throws him down the stairs." Can you explain this seeming conflict in thought? CHARLES: As with a lot of areas in the book, Stoker seems to lose the plot many times and I think this is the case with Renfield. He has built up this relationship (as described in Answer 1 above), but fails to explain how, or where Dracula and Renfield met. But the best sections of his tale flow so well, that by the time the lunatic is murdered, we realise that we STILL don't understand the connection between the two. As I say in the book, I think Stoker himself, loses the necessary focus. For Renfield on screen, Dracula almost goes into a double-act with the madman, who's subplot almost upsets the entire story. But, as stated, the Count is now a glorified dandy and man-about-town, whilst Renfield would be of no more use to him than a shoe shine boy as Renfield loses all of his mental faculties when the Count makes him his slave. TAMI: Regarding the Nosferatu movie, you stated that you felt irritated that the castle was in Transylvania and not Germany, which you perceived to be more conventional. I noticed later version of Dracula were filmed to depict a German Castle location. Do you want to elaborate on this observation? CHARLES: I can understand why the geographical changes were made - from Germany to Bremen to Transylvania to London - in the new titles for the movie. We live in a totally different world to the makers of Nosferatu. When this film was originally made, it was a metaphor for the very real uprising of the Nazi Regime. All the major expressionist film makers of their time made propagandist warnings in their films of the terror that was coming and turned out some of the best horror movies ever! Graf Orlock was probably the most accurate depiction of the Nazi invaders as seen through the eyes of it's director. The irritation is my own pernickety feelings of having someone's work altered to stem the flows of the original meaning inherent in the film itself. When copies were ordered to be destroyed, I don't think that the hidden caches were to be a preservation of cinema, but rather to preserve as a warning against future incidents taking place. Murnau and others were showing that the Emperor really HAS no clothes. As for filming in authentic German Castles as opposed to the real Transylvanian retreats, I can only hazard a guess as to it being like placing Dracula on a power level say, of King Arthur, who resided in the strong fortress known as Tintagel. The German castles do hold the forebearance that would house a vampiric king! TAMI: Thank you Charles for agreeing to this incredible interview. I really enjoyed reading your book and hope my subscribers will consider it as a very worthwhile read. CHARLES: Thank you very much Tami.