Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Classic Literature: Dracula: The Ultimate, Illustrated Edition of the World-Famous Vampire Play

Authors: Hamilton Deane & John L. Balderston

Editor: David J Skal

First Published: 1924 (Deane), 1927 (Balderston), 1993 (this edition)

You may recall I looked at the Stoker stage treatment of Dracula as classic literature. Part of the reason for that was the closeness to the original text and partly because I don’t want to get into reviewing theatre scripts.

The latter reason still stands but these two distinct scripts are classic in their own rights. Although they stray from Stoker, in some respects, the earlier script by Hamilton Deane was the first official treatment as agreed by Florence Stoker. When it was taken to the States it was substantially rewritten by John L Balderston for the American market. The subsequent play featured Bela Lugosi in the title role and was part of the basis for the eventual Universal Dracula (1931) screenplay (for the full, convoluted, story of the development of the screenplay I recommend the volume Tod Browning's Dracula). The 1931 film (and star) perhaps shaping the popular understanding/view of the story/character more than the actual novel did.

This volume contains both treatments and, being edited and annotated by Skal, is a treasure trove of sidebars and illustrations. Deane made the story much more of a sitting room drama and also did some interesting things such as make Morris a female character (the gender swap simply designed to open an additional female role, but is interesting just the same).

Another thing that is of great interest is the fact that, in the 1920s, werewolves and vampires were still conflated. We know that much of the Count’s appearance in the original novel owed a debt to Sabine Baring-Gould’s the Book of Were-wolves. In a later volume, the lady of the Shroud, Stoker definitively conflates the two types by saying: “The Wehr-Wolf is but a variant of the Vampire.” In Dean’s play we get the line from Van Helsing: “the present illness of madam Mina, is the work of a ‘Were-Wolf’ or vampire.” If one imagines the wily old Dutchman is just edging his bets, one needs to remember that all his apotropaic devices are geared towards vampires.

Balderstone is perhaps more explicit. In Balderstone Mina and Lucy’s names are swapped and so when they read of the turned Mina preying on children on Hampstead Heath the question is asked, “You think the Werewolf has done this too?” This underlines how the werewolf and vampire were interchangeable. In fact, whilst Deane uses garlic as an apotropaic, Balderstone uses wolfsbane.

This interesting point aside, this is an essential volume for fans of Stoker’s novel, the Lugosi film, the stage play (if lucky enough to have seen a revival of it) and the genre generally.

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