Release date: 1992
Whilst this – being an opera – might have a limited appeal (though I am perhaps doing it a disservice there) it does seem a shame that the BBC would not release it on DVD. Indeed it is only available on vhs.
However, for the collector of vampire movies, at the very least, this is a necessary piece that has a pre-Stoker pedigree. You see, the modern vampire craze was far from the first. Back in 1819 when Polidori published the Vampyre it caused quite a reaction, adaptations of it appeared in book form, plays and operas. One of the operatic adaptations was by Heinrich Marschner, entitled Der Vampyr and premiered on 29th March 1828.
|Ripley circa 1793|
We are introduced to the characters at the head of the opera and a handy voice-over (narrated by Robert Stephens) tells us the ins and outs. As well as Ripley, whose natural predator instincts (and shady practices) have seen him rise to the top of the business world, we have Alex (Philip Salmon), a young man caught in the whirlwind of Ripley’s vice and also the secret lover of Miranda Davenant (Fiona O’Neill) a society heiress. Her father, Sir Hugo (Richard Van Allen), however is bankrupt.
Whilst Ruthven is immoral there is no religious aspect to Polidori’s story. This would seem to add a post-Stoker lilt to proceedings as Ripley also says, much later, that vampires are a separate race blessed with immortality at the cost of imbibing blood and relinquishing their souls. Marschner’s opera had a similar scene though it was a witches’ Sabbath that Ruthven attended and it was a Vampire Master who passes on the stricture of his survival and the three had to be virgins – not a stipulation here.
|Alex with the injured Ripley|
|a future son-in-law|
Ripley has a stag night with George (Colenton Freeman), his chauffeur, and picks up a woman named Emma (Sally-Anne Shepherdson). He goes to get his own car – having told George to stay and drink (George tried it on with Emma to no avail). Alex confronts him and Ripley admits that he is a vampire and that Alex has a choice – let him kill Miranda or die as well. This is a move away from demanding that Aubrey (the same character of Alex) maintains an oath and fits the modern setting much more. Ripley picks Emma up and subsequently kills her.
|Colenton Freeman as George|
|head of a wolf|
|classic post-Stoker pose|
The imdb page is here.