Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dracula, the Vampire & the Voivode – review (documentary)


Directed by: Michael Bayley Hughes

Release date: 2008

Contains spoilers

It is astounding, sometimes, just how you get to see certain things. For instance, this documentary was viewed because (somehow) my parents know Jason Walford-Davies who narrated the documentary. So I settled down to watch it and my heart sank because the title seemed to make the Dracula and Tepes connection.

As it began, however, it seemed professional and accurate. Then I heard tell that the latest film incarnation of Stoker’s novel was the 1992 version and assumed some age to the documentary. The documentary is very new and clearly there have been later adaptations but… hold on one moment… the documentary has just pointed out that the film erroneously connects the novel and Vlad Tepes…

Suddenly my heart is not sinking, indeed it is soaring. The first half of the documentary looks at Stoker’s Dracula and then moves to Vlad Tepes and his history but is clear that there is no real connection. What it does show is the connections made in Romania, due to tourism (incidentally, kudos to the guest in fancy dress at the Dracula Castle Hotel, at the Borga Pass, who was dressed as Santo!)

Of course this accuracy in documentary making must owe something to Elizabeth Miller who was script consultant for the film. The balance is so good that we even get multiple resting places listed for Tepes rather than just relying on Snagov and the conspiracies surrounding that. We also get some breathtaking photography of Transylvania in the process.

Interesting snippets come in all over the documentary – despite having visited Whitby a couple of times I have yet to do the Dracula Walk so did not realise that the Dracula Experience attraction is where the Captains Reading Room used to be and that the principle ship owner in Whitby, in Stoker’s day, was Captain Gideon Smales – the connection to the old sea dog Swales, from the novel, is made. I will say that I felt some tightening of script around this section of the documentary could have been done as there was a little repetition in what Harry Collett, the Whitby Dracula Guide, says – though that is probably how the Dracula Walk runs live and would likely work as you walked around Whitby with the gentleman.

So, some interesting snippets, lovely photography and a documentary direction that is (from my point of view) accurate and balanced as it looks through its theorems. Excellent. 8 out of 10.

At the time of review there is no imdb page but there is a homepage here.

8 comments:

Steve said...

Have you ever seen the Vampires documentary from the old A&E show Ancient Mysteries? It's a great informative and moody but straight-forward presentation. I recorded it off television back in the nineties, fortunately, and later burned it to DVD. Interestingly, it has two different narrators. The version I have has some guy with a creepy voice, which may sound cheesy but it works perfect for the atmosphere of the material. There's another version that is exactly the same except Leonard Nimoy narrates (it's his birthday today!). I find that Nimoy's narration is too phoned-in and listless, though, so I prefer the other one. I assume the Nimoy narration was recorded later than the other one since the one I recorded seems to be the premiere. Unfortunately, the DVD can only be acquired from A&E for an exorbitant (for a fifty minute documentary) price, and that's probably the Nimoy version. But the VHS can be had for seven American dollars on Amazon, and that would likely be the better version.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Steve, I may well have seen it but if I have I know it wasn't with Nimoy... will look into to see if it looks familiar.

A

The Headless Werewolf said...

I concur with your nod to Elizabeth Miller. I'm in awe of what she brings to Dracula scholarship. She and I attended the same conference last week, and she presented some astounding research, including information that confirmed that "Dracula's Guest" was indeed intended to be part of DRACULA (though not the first chapter.)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Cheers HW, in fact Michael Bayley Hughes has mailed me to let me know that Dublin has a Dracula month this April and Elizabeth Miller is lecturing there on the 28th.

Also, this documentary has been selected to open Whitby's Bram Stoker Film Fetival in October 09

Elizabeth Miller said...

Yes, I am lecturing on Stoker's DRACULA Notes at the National Library of Ireland at 7 pm on April 28. All are welcome. No charge!

Elizabeth Miller

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Elizabth - I'd love to be there but, unfortunately, a wee way to travel. Best of luck with the night, however.

Christine said...

Sounds interesting! And that Tepesh connection people so often make is insult to Dracula. Yes, Dracula was evil, but compared to Tepesh he was almost nice...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

it is a good documentary Christine, worth tracking down