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.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

excellent write up. I haven't looked at the film over at my blog as I won't review if I can't get at least a dubbed, if not a subtitled version of the film - I feel I won't do it justice - but it is a fascinating film.

Kudos for the article.

Anthony Hogg said...

Hi Taliesin,

To my knowledge, there isn't a dubbed copy or one with subtitles. But then again, I haven't conducted a thorough search for it along these lines.

I would say to give the movie a punt all the same. It's a piece of vampire movie history, after all. And besides, dubbing and subtitles don't always match on screen anyway.

Here's another review you might like to read on it, too.

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