Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bram Stoker's Drakula?

Everyone knows about the 1931 Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. It's pretty iconic.

They might even be familiar with the 1922 rip-off,
Nosferatu, of Bram Stoker's novel. They probably even know Christopher Lee's 1958 turn in Dracula (although, much more commonly known by its American title, Horror of Dracula).

But how many know about the 1953 "adaptation", Drakula İstanbul'da (Dracula in Istanbul)?

Technically speaking, it's actually an adaptation of Ali Riza Seyfi's 1928 novel,
Kazıklı Voyvoda ("Impaler Prince", not "Vlad the Impaler" as the Wikipedia page translates it). That said, it certainly retains a lot of inspiration from Stoker's novel. As Sean notes in his May 14, 2003 entry for Bitter Cinema:
With Dracula scaling the castle walls, implied infanticide, and the ceremonious end of the vampire, with first the staking, then followed by a beheading, and then stuffing the mouth with garlic (as per the instructions in the novel), this movie adaption contains more of the creepier elements of the book than higher-budgeted and more pedigreed productions.
I'd agree with a point. Firstly, Stoker's Dracula certainly doesn't die "as per the intructions". The vampirised Lucy Westenra does, though. Dracula's end isn't nearly so "ceremonious".

Also, the film is set in "modern" times (as of 1953, of course). Thus, we see the use of automobiles and telephones. Not much gothicism here, I'm afraid. Well, apart from an incongurious carriage and Dracula's castle...

This, itself, is a surprising element. Most
Dracula-based movies are set , roughly, in a period contemporary to Stoker's novel. Filmakers generally preferred this Victorian Gothic-inspired setting and it wasn't until the early 70's that this attitude started to change. I'm thinking along the lines of Count Yorga, Vampire (1970), House of Dark Shadows (1970), Blacula (1972) Dracula AD 1972 (1972) and Vampyres (1974).

So, I guess we could argue that
Drakula was keeping in tune with the up-to-datedness nature of Stoker's Dracula, what, with its telegrams, blood transfusions, typewriters and phonographic recordings.

The other interesting aspect of the film is that it's surprisingly risque for its time. Thus, no longer in Mina (or, in this case, Güzin) a school mistress, but a bit of an exotic dancer. She even has to rebuff some untoward advances in her dressing room. We also get to see her strip (ok, we get to see her legs as she drops off her clothes), she disrobes a few times and we also get to see her taking a bath.

No longer do we have the cape-over-the-face vampire attacks. We actually get to see Dracula's "bride" going for the Harker stand-in's jugular. We witness the same thing with Dracula's attacks. And that's the other thing: we actually get to see Dracula's fangs. To my knowledge, the only other time a vampire's fangs had been depicted in movies, prior to Drakula, was in the aforementioned 1922 Nosferatu. Lugosi's snarls certainly didn't unveil any long and pointy canines. In this instance, you get to see them in the opening shot of the movie!

I'd say that derring-do visual signpost, in terms of vampire movies, is right up there with the drops of bright red blood that spill on Dracula's sarcophagus in the opening credits of Dracula (1958).

The Dracula of this movie represents an interesting transition - and fusion - of Schrek's Graf Orlok in Nosferatu and Lugosi's Dracula: Atif Kaptan's (1908-1977) "Drakula" wears the standard tux (or "head waiter" look. Thanks Love at First Bite)...but he's also fanged and bald.

The film's quite a rarity - both for its time and for availability. So aren't we lucky that actually hosts it on their website! You can view it here.

Their copy (admittedly in very low resolution, no subtitles and no English dubbing) is the one I watched for the purpose of this overview. So, it helps if you have some familiarity with the Stoker story, to know what's going on. Unless, of course, you speak Turkish. Then, you shouldn't have much problems!

Apart from the sound quality.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Vampirism and Porphyria

The link between vampires and porphyria has been in popular circulation since 1985, when Dr. David Dolphin (a prominent Canadian biochemist) presented his theory connecting the two, to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

It even inspired some real-life sufferers of the disease to make tenuous links between their condition and vampire "mythology". Tammy Evans, founder of the Porphyria Education and Awareness Foundation, authored an autobiography called Porphyria: The Woman Who Has "The Vampire Disease" (Far Hills, NJ: New Horizon Press, 1997).

I find the correlation between the two rather unfortunate. It also betrays a distinct lack of knowledge of vampire folklore.

Rather than rehash my thoughts on the subject, I'll direct you to a couple of blog entries in which I've illustrated just how flimsy the theory is.

First, there's Peggy Kolm's "Vampirism as Disease?", Biology in Science Fiction. Here's a direct link to my comment on the blog entry.

Next is Elizabeth Miller's "Porphyria and Vampirism: Crappola 101" for her LiveJournal. My comments to it are here and here.

It's good to see this "modern myth" torn apart and exposed for what it is: pure speculation with no substance in "reality".

If you think my attitude to a "harmless" theory is harsh, then you should have a read of Chapter 6 (titled, "Vampire Victims") in Norine Dresser's American Vampires: Fans, Victims, Practitioners (New York/London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1989), pp. 171-199.

Here's a sample, relating the aftereffect of the theory's popularisation:
One patient said that as soon as the media bombardment occurred, her phone rang constantly. Some friends now avoided her, but she was mainly disturbed at being the butt of jokes, many of them having to do with drinking blood in the middle of the night. She was bitter. "Nobody makes fun of leukemia or MS." (180)
Thus, it is most disturbing to hear this theory still, occasionally, being perpetuated.

Most disturbing of all, is that one of the people responsible is...Dr. David Dolphin himself!

Elizabeth Miller's aforementioned blog entry recounts her attendence of one of his lectures, entitled, "From the Bench to the Bedside to the Bank: How to Make Money from Vampires!" in 2006.

After confronting him with the harmful attention some porphyria sufferers experienced at the hands of the media and his theory, he brushed it off saying
"That is why I now refer to vampires in the Middle Ages." He seemed completely oblivious to the ethical implcations. I was reminded of Victor Frankenstein and his monster.
This is quite a shame, because, as Mark Dawidziak points out in The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Dracula (New York/London: Continuum, 2008), p. 101:
Dolphin's research credits are impressive, by the way. He is the lead creator of a medication used in connection with laser eye surgery, and, in 2005, he was awarded the prestigious Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering.
This, of course, doesn't make him a qualified vampire researcher, though.

For one thing, I could point out that the "vampires" Dolphin discusses, were not even in existence during the Middle Ages. But that is another story!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Dagmar Krauss Is Back!

I last mentioned Dagmar Krauss' blog, Dagmar Krauss, Vampyr Hunter, way back in "Journal of a Vampire Hunter".

He recently commented on that blog entry, informing me of the new location of his blog.

Warning: it contains adult themes and bad language!

So don't say I didn't warn you...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Staked Vampire Picture Source Revealed

In Daniel Farson's Mysterious Monsters (1978), there's a picture of a vampire with a stake embedded in its heart, the origin of which, I've never been able to locate.

It also appears in his earlier work, The Supernatural: Vampires, Zombies, and Monster Men (The Danbury Press, n.d. Originally published by Aldus Books, 1975) on page 22. The source given is vague ("22(BL) The Bettmann Archive", p. 144). The Bettmann Archive itself, only yields this info: "Engraving of the Death of a Vampire. PG6298| RM| © Bettmann/CORBIS."

The same image is replicated (albeit, in a highly manipulated form) on the front of the dust jacket to Wayne Bartlett & Flavia Idriceanu's Legends of Blood: The Vampire in History and Myth (Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 2005). The credit given on the back of the dust jacket is "engraving of Death of a Vampire (© Bettmann/CORBIS)".

However, I can now happily report that thanks to the wonders of eBay, I now know the title and artist of the picture!

While thoroughly browsing through it yesterday, I came across an entry headed, "Rare MONSTERS & MADONNAS William Mortensen 1948".

I was curious about its contents. So, with absolutely no intent of finding the image there (I was actually looking for books on vampires), I decided to have a browse.

And wouldn't you know it? Staring at me about midway in the page, in sepia-tone, was the image I've known for many years! It even had a link to a scan of the image.

Talk about serendipity.

It turns out the picture, called "The Vampire", was originally drawn by William Mortensen, and published in his 1936 folio, Monsters & Madonnas: A Book of Methods.

The edition being sold, by tinkerstale, is the fourth printing (1948) of the first edition.

If you'd like to know more about the book, have a read of Cary Loren's guest article, "Monsters and Madonnas - Looking at William Mortensen" for Will's Journey Round My Skull.

However, I am left with a bit of a mystery.

The image, as reproduced in Farson's books, are in colour.

I can only presume they were tinted by the books' designers or that Mortensen's original was in colour too. Or that Mortensen himself, obtained it elsewhere...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Birds of a Feather...

Until recently, I was uncertain as to exactly what Twitter was. Thus, I've been reluctant to join it.

I mean, sure I'd heard of it. But I didn't quite grasp its concept.

That is, until I actually bothered to read its homepage.

Now I get it: it's like a profile page full of Facebook status updates! Makes sense...

I guess I'll primarily use it as a newsfeed kinda thing. Might put on the occasional snippet, if it takes my fancy. So, if you want to add me, feel free. You can reach my Twitter page here. You'll also notice that I added it as a widget to my Blogger page, roughly in the bottom right-hand corner.

Anyway, here's to joining in on another fad! Hooray!

A Quick Plug

Hi folks,

Be sure to check out, Angela Cameron's blog. You can view a list of her books here.

She was also the subject of this recent post.

Well, that's enough plugging from me. Go check it out!
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