The Romance of Dracula; A Personal Journey of the Count on Celluloid by Charles E. Butler
This is a review of a very fascinating book. After just reading the introduction, I wanted to thank the author, Charles E. Butler, for reminding me of how exciting it was to read Dracula, by Bram Stoker, and to watch the subsequent movies inspired by the same genius. In The Romance of Dracula, Butler compares the Stoker's book to the movies and points out conflicting details, such as when Jonathan Harker strikes Dracula in the head with a shovel, the scar never heals in the book - but it certainly does in the movie.
Butler also quotes Bram Stoker, and describes how Dracula's carriage is driven by "four splendid looking coal black horses: "For the dead travel fast!" Butler's own writing got my pulse to racing just like Stoker's book did. Describing movie scenes, he writes: "A dog's bark turns into a wolf howl on the soundtrack as Dracula's coach waits at the Borgo Pass, Dracula driving ... Inside, as the coach starts up, Renfield leans through the window and sees a bat as it steers the horses." (The driver seems to have disappeared.)
Yet Butler's book goes far beyond that and discusses the various actors who played various roles in the Nosferatu and Dracula films. Butler also compares details about Britain and American movie versions. I learned a number of things from this read. For instance, I had not realized that Ramond Huntley had played Dracula more times than any other actor.
I felt amused when Butler describes Dracula's mesmerizing stare as a "Victorian date rape" technique. The author's very good at twisting phrases and much later describes the "Dracula" movie's future very colorfully in his review: (page 38) "With an unknown leading man, the finished product betraying more creaks than Dracula's coffin lid."
Chapter one begins with a depiction of the Nosferatu movie and the famous but old admonishment: "not to hurry as no man can escape his destiny." Later, Butler's readers get to relive the scene where Knock, (a Renfeld-type character) who is a prisoner, "attacks both the doctor and the guards at the asylum, disregarding their importance just as quickly to lovingly gaze on spiders in their web while catching and eating flies." (Page 28.)
I utterly and completely love Butler's physical description of Count Orlock (from the movie Nosferatu) because it's so suiting: "a skeletal, sexual metaphor with rat-like ears, staring, poached-egg eyes and pointed teeth."
He explains how Florence Stoker, Bram's widow, sued Nosferatu's film makers, ordering that every copy be burned, because Prana Films was not authorized to release their movie version of Bram Stoker's book - or to change all the character's names, as they did.
MY ONLY CAUTION TO READERS: Butler offers some rather strong opinions, the least of which suggests the Dracula film director, Tod Browning, "obviously misunderstood" the film's theme and that the movie runs at a "funeral pace." Butler also claims: "when Dracula dons his top hat and walks down the Broadway version of a London street, the film loses any credibility that it might have otherwise possessed." Whether or not I could see Butler's point at this conjecture, I absolutely did not agree that the "film falls apart when comedy relief intervenes in the shape of Charles Gerrard's bemused orderly who states that "everyone is crazy!"
I seriously loved this part of the book, though, where Butler is describing John Harker's role in the movie. "He doesn't have much to do, except walk around looking decidely cheesed off - maybe because the writer has already given his scenes to Renfield?" Butler also points out, quite comically, "No one asks Harker's opinons on anything. When he does get to talk to Mina, he is interrupted by a flapping bat."
MORE REVELATIONS: It seemed so very sad, to me, to learn of (Mina Seward character) Actor Helen Chandler's demise. (Folks will have to read the book to learn what happened to her.) I was also saddened by how Hungarian Bela Lugosi's life ended (he played a very animated version of Dracula and while much happened after that he was buried in the vampire's cape).
Butler's book inspired me to search for some of these old films and I will certainly buy "The Mummy" directed by Karl Freund, soon as I can find it in a version that's not in VHS. After reading Butler's book, I'm also looking for a copy of the 1972 movie by John Llewellyn Moxey called "The Night Stalker." (I hope I can find them.)
I am very pleased to announce that Charles E. Butler will be interviewing here at Vampire Review on March 13th, 2010.
*Reviewer admission - while I received this eBook as a gift in exchange for a review, readers can tell, from other reviews posted here at Vampire Review, that my assessment is always delivered in the most honest manner possible, to serve my subscribers' best interest.
CHARLES E BUTLER RETURNS!
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