Photo: Jonathon Hession/NBC
Before we can talk about the new Dracula show on NBC, we have to get a few things out of the way first. This is not HBO, Showtime, AMC or a Netflix original. Network television means more FCC rules, especially for a show about vampires.
That being said, NBC was able to get Jonathan Rhys Meyers to star as Dracula! Wow! Meyers is a phenomenal actor and starred in one of my favorite movies Velvet Goldmine directed by Todd Haynes opposite Toni Collette and Ewan McGregor. He’s more known more for being an Indie movie king than network television star--his other stint on TV was in HBO’s The Tudors. Let’s remember him as a David Bowie-Marc Bolan Glam Rock God for a moment:
As a Dracula “enthusiast” (my favorites are Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, the Spanish language version filmed in 1931 on the same set as the Bela Lugosi version and the Hammer Films with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. I also enjoy more modern interpretations--Wesley Snipes in Blade, and the camp of True Blood) I sometimes find myself dreaming about The Borgo Pass and one time read Dracula while laying down in the aisle of a Greyhound bus from Ohio to New York because they overbooked seats. So, you could say I’m a fan (a fan-g?).
Tihuţa Pass was made famous by Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, where, termed as "the Borgo Pass",
it was the gateway to the realm of Count Dracula.
There were a lot of references to the original--or the original Dracula movie with Bela Lugosi in which much of popular culture regarding vampires is based around. We’ve got Lucy and Mina; Jonathan Harker, Renfield and even Van Helsing--all in the first episode! The twist is that Renfield is a cool, collected smart man who
doesn’t appear to be eating spiders or need to be in a straight-jacket. If he is under Dracula’s spell, he’s not teetering on the edge of insanity--he even advises Dracula in his dealings. Van Helsing is a professor but as we learn at the end of the first episode--he is in cahoots with Dracula and the one who brought him back to life after finding him in a cave. This is no Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing, who played him with such fervor and determination in The Hammer Films with Christopher Lee’s ‘s Dracula that you felt exhausted watching him. In the end of The Horror of Dracula he runs down the top of a table and leaps onto the curtains of a window which ultimately shines sunlight into the room and onto Dracula--killing him, at least until the next film. You have to wipe your own
sweat from your forehead at his persistence in the pursuit of justice. Van Helsing for president! This new Van Helsing is much more shady.
You can always put your 'stakes' on Peter Cushing's Van Helsing to get his vampire! "Count" on that!
Mina’s role in the original Dracula novel was very strong and progressive for the time period. In the book she recorded all the notes and information that Harker and Van Helsing gathered with much of her own opinions thrown in. In the end she even used a rifle! So far in the first episode of the NBC show, we can see she’s one of Van Helsing’s medical students and she has a romantic past with Dracula. That’s all we know for now.
Some nods to the original include a night at the opera (though missing the eloquent speech the Bela Lugosi Dracula makes as the lights go down) and when Dracula invites Harker over and asks if he wants wine. In many Dracula films when Harker extends the invitation back to Dracula he says “I never drink...wine” but in this he says “I never drink wine….only whiskey.” Okay hardy-har-har you got me--I laughed, but only the vampire nerds like me noticed.
Spanish Dracula, 1931. "Yo nunca bebo...vino."
There was so much setting up in this first episode of the tension between Dracula as a Thomas Edison/Nikola Tesla type of energy producer (what this energy is exactly we don’t know yet) and some old business that needs to be taken care of with an underground group ‘The Order of the Dragon’. I’m unclear as to who this Dracula
is--he plays an American businessman complete with the American accent around his London admirers and then goes back to being British when he’s just with Renfield or Van Helsing. He’s also doing investigative work like he’s Sherlock Holmes--laying out photos of people on the floor like an episode of Scandal! He’s clearly in love with Mina--they were old flames in some way that isn’t clear yet, but who is he really? He’s Dracula. That can never be a good thing. I wonder if they will play him as an anti-hero which seems to be a popular trope in TV right now. Or is he more of a good guy than we think?
The sets are gorgeous--filmed in Budapest. We’ll see where this "10 episode miniseries" takes us.