Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lord Ruthven the Vampire – review

Authors: Various, adapted by Frank J Morlock

Volume released: 2004

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: The Angel of Hell comes to caress his victim. Recoil – his hand is icy. Beware, young Fiancée, of the love that brings death!

In the early 1800s, young British aristocrat Aubrey travels through Italy and Greece in the company of the mercurial and fantastic Lord Ruthven.

Later, he believes his friend to have been mysteriously slain. But when Ruthven returns to prey on his sister, he realizes that the enigmatic stranger is none other than a vampire!

The character of the Byronesque vampire Lord Ruthven was first created in 1816 by John William Polidori on the same night that Mary Shelley created Frankenstein.

This volume includes the original 1819 novella, a fragment from Lord Byron showing his own take on the character, an 1920 stage adaptation by French author Charles Nodier and an 1821 vaudeville play by Eugéne Scribe.

The book also includes an all-new story pitting Ruthven against Dracula and Sherlock Holmes by renowned playwright and translator Frank J Morlock.

The Review: Polidori’s The Vampyre: A Tale was the first English Language vampire story and for no other reason than that – though there are plenty others – the story belongs in every vampire genre fan’s collection. I am forced to look at this collection and ask why you, the discerning public, should part monies for a story already in many a compilation and available free online?

Firstly, I guess, because this is more than just Polidori’s story. This is the first of (currently 3 but later to expand to) 4 volumes dedicated to the vampire Ruthven and published through Blackcoat Press. The blurb tells us the range of material available in this, the first volume. Polidori’s tale and, to a lesser degree, Byron’s fragment are often found in vampire story compilations. However, the script of Nodier’s The Vampire (adapted into English by Morlock) is not often seen and even less common is Scribe and Mélesville’s script Being Lord Ruthven (again adapted by Morlock).

These two plays are fascinating in what they actually do to the character, Nodier definitely keeping the more supernatural elements and actually has a resurrection by moonlight within the play. We also gain a beautiful imagery – within the stage notes – of the death of the vampire. “The rear of the stage opens revealing the shades of the vampire victims. They are young women covered by veils. They pursue him, pointing to their breasts from which blood still flows from the wounds.”

In contrast Being Lord Ruthven is lightweight. However, both show a versatile use of the character that foreshadows the fate of Dracula - a character both used and abused by many a writer. He, of course, appears in the Morlock story that is intriguing, has some interesting ideas but is ultimately just a tease, being fairly short.

The joy, of course, is that this is all Ruthven. For the genre fan wanting some of the less available Ruthven material then, this is a worthwhile volume. 7.5 out of 10 for the volume.


Unknown said...

I own the short story, and although I was aware of the plays, I don´t own them... Yippee!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

The next volume - which I am currently reading - has the Dumas play in it.

Unknown said...

Whaat! I need Dumas play, too! It sounds interesting.

Kuudere-Kun said...

For the books original story, I haven't read it yet, but I feel throwing Holmes it was a bit much, just Ruthven Vs Dracula is a fascinating enough concept.

But the publishing company is in love with Wold Newton, so they love to go into Crossover overdrive.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

to be fair, Morlock has thrown in crossover stories in all the volumes of Ruthven he was invovled with and I think he was more the reason than the company themselves (though they do love their crossover series, it has to be admited)

Kuudere-Kun said...

Are Morlock's original stories in these Volumes also in Stage Play script format? Plays seem to be all he ever Translates (These are by no means the only interesting French plays only available in English thanks to Morlock, but not all Morlock's are via BlackCoatsPress.)

Taliesin_ttlg said...

No Morlock's original stories are in prose.

It may well be the case that Morlock specialises in translation of plays but, to be fair, much of the Ruthven material was in the form of plays

Kuudere-Kun said...

It seems all these still only scratch the surface of Lord Ruthven plays.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

interesting, thanks for that

Kuudere-Kun said...

There where over 40 apparently. I'm gonna order that book sometimes soon. I hope it actually includes to read some that aren't available else where.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

It has crept onto my wish list, you may well have it before me so please let me know your thoughts.