Tag: Dracula

Hammer: Dracula Prince of Darkness at 50 – Dead and just not putting up with it

Hammer Dracula Dead and not putting up with it

Hammer Dracula Dead and not putting up with it

Of the minor things worth celebrating in what’s been a rather terrible week is the 50th anniversary of the US release of Dracula Prince of Darkness. Jokerside breaks the gloom with a look at the glorious world where resurrection is FACT.

WE’RE NEAR THE END OF A WEEK THAT’S PILED ON SOME TERRIBLE LOSSES. AND 2015 WAS PRETTY BAD. Over the last 12 months we’ve lost two British icons whose careers seemed to defy any idea of death. Sir Christopher Lee and David Bowie. Bowie played a vampire of course, in Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983). Lee’s illustrious career would take in everything from Gremlins to Jabberwockies and heavy metal, but he will be long remembered as a definitive vision of Stoker’s legendary vampire.

Of course, this horrid week also saw the loss of Alan Rickman, most famous to millions of Harry Potter fans for his glorious portrayal role of the vampiric Severus Snape. And just yesterday, Roberts Bank Stewart, the legendary British screenwriter, father of Bergerac, was also lost. Among his many achievements was the creation of Doctor Who’s premier shapeshifters the Zygons. Ah Dracula, one of literature’s great shapeshifters.

So from the depths of gloom, where better to look that at the glorious fall, rise, fall, rise and so on of Lee’s Count Dracula. As this bloody week ends, let’s celebrate utterly ridiculous over the top and glorious concept of resurrection.

Dracula Prince of Darkness was the second of Hammer’s films to feature Lee as the eponymous Count. Of course, it wasn’t the second of Hammer’s Dracula films, but 1960’s The Brides of Dracula can be dismissed along with 1977’s The Legend of the Golden Vampires. While both starred Peter Cushing as (a) Van Helsing, neither featured Christopher Lee. The latter even attempted to replace him, painfully. If you’re after the modes of vampire slaying therein: the shadow of a giant cross and a spear through the heart.

Dracula Prince of Darkness signalled the glorious return of Christopher Lee as the Count, eight years after his first appearance and sparking off the Hammer Dracula franchise proper. And as the first true sequel, it kick-started the Count’s ability to return. And of course, despite the wonderful recap of Dracula’s death almost a decade before, it rendered the whole final act killing of a vampire utterly pointless. The franchise didn’t care a jot for that however, and so began one of the earliest examples of a series where every successive film practically wiped out its predecessor. Don’t pursue that logic too heavily though. You’ll end up with The Satanic Rites of Dracula sat shivering and alone in the corner.

There’s more to Dracula Prince of Darkness – as well as bearing quite probably the best title of any Dracula film, it also kick-started double-bill horror. Released 50 years ago this week in the US it was accompanied rather oddly by The Plague of the Zombies. Some were luck to receive plastic vampire fangs and zombie eye glasses on attendance.

The film’s script features a very handy reminder of the many weaknesses of a vampire. Just as a refresher:

“He can be traced to his resting place during the daylight hours and there, a stake through the heart. He can be exposed to the direct rays of the sun. Running water will drown him. The cross will burn him. He is not invulnerable.”

But who needs to be invulnerable when you can constantly be reanimated, even a century later? And so, let’s have a good old and tongue-in-cheek rummage through the many resurrections of Christopher Lee’s Count Dracula.

Dracula (1958)

“I am Dracula and I welcome you to my house”

By no means a direct adaptation, it was still hammer’s most faithful adaptation of Stoker’s original novel. Jonathan Harker duly turns up to meet the Count, this time at the Castle Dracula outside Klausenburg, but the real reason for rapid departures was the lock-tight contract Universal Studios had cunningly taken out with the Stoker estate two decades before. Universal’s take, with Bela Lugosi apparently defining the role, looked to have the eminently adaptable story sewn up  (Stoker after all was business manager of the Lyceum Theatre for 27 years). Continue reading “Hammer: Dracula Prince of Darkness at 50 – Dead and just not putting up with it”

Jokerside Top 10 Posts of the Year: 2015

Jokerside best posts 2015

Jokerside best posts 2015

The results are in – which posts from the Jokerside were the most read in 2015? From dystopia to horror to platformers to clowns, there was something for everyone…

  1. Waterworld at 20: We need to Parley about Mariner (July 2015)

The Mariner sinks - Waterworld at 20One of the single shots from the Dystopia series, there was no way Jokerside could ignore the 20th anniversary of Waterworld. A huge reaching addition to big budget future-set blockbusters, it’s as much of a dramatic disaster as it is a flop. It made money and has lots to teach modern disaster cinema. Still notorious 20 years on, it’s impossible to overlook the sparing desolation, the beautiful filming, solid retro effects and fine sense of humour in what’s proved to be quite the influential film. Jokerside came to praise…

“Waterworld may never escape its reputation, but it’s never going to disappear. There’s a dash of Snake Pliskin, a helluva lot of Max but essentially it’s a pirate film. Eight years later Pirates of the Caribbean would pull a neat trick on the two Kevs, taking set-pieces and settings from Waterworld while hitting many of the narrative beats of Prince of Thieves. And that’s a real anomaly at the pirate box office, a very successful one. As dystopia has risen again to remind us that it’s still around sunken cities and post-apocalyptic action will continue to grace the big screen.

And really, for all the criticism, let’s not forget that the three Universal Studios are still running Waterworld attractions to this day. And inventive side-effect from an inventive film. Never forget Waterworld’s last line: “It’s more than that” – and so it is.” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned this winter as the Dystopia Series draws to a halt on The Planet of the Apes. Ka-boom…

  1. Doctor Who: Silence – Fooling you twice the same way (Whovember #11 Alpha) (March 2015)

The Eleventh Doctor and the Silence that must fallA surge into the top ten for just one of the Eleventh Doctor retrospectives. The New Series restructure has pushed the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors near the top of the pile in terms of stories. While the Doctor’s 51st birthday saw Jokerside revisit the Tenth Doctor’s tendency to meet historical celebrities.

The Eleventh Doctor’s tortured and twisted tales demanded a three apart retrospective as Jokerside took on the nefarious overlapping plots of the Silence. Quite possibly the biggest mixed bag in Doctor Who. The first part took a look at the prolonged plans of the Silents that didn’t involve their memory averse high priests the Silents. The summary, mid-way through makes it sound all rather exciting, while capturing some flaws that were never solved…

“Of course the something that abducted the TARDIS and blew it up, destroying the universe in the process, isn’t uncovered. The Silence, whatever it is, is still out there. But this Doctor, like his successor, are in no great rush to find out what could have easily accomplished this horror show. Narratively this is a far stronger force than the Pandorica Alliance; the greatest threat he’s ever faced. But then again, it’s a whole new universe and there’s an Egyptian Goddess lose on the Orient Express that’s far more appealing (or possibly not, as it’s contradicted by Series Eight). The Silence are off the hook and would need a Plan B, if they could possibly realise they failed what with it being a wholly new universe and everything… Fortunately, that night aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor’s companions are providing the Silence with just such a second chance…” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned for Jokerside’s customary celebration of Doctor Who in November 2016. And first, this March we’ll be taking a look at the episode that saw showrunner Steven Moffat make Who history…

  1. Super Mario Bros. the Movie! Dystopia hits the Mushroom Kingdom (September 2015)

Super Mario Bros at 30 - MarioAnother one-shot in the series of Dystopia, the 30th anniversary of gaming icon Super Mario’s first solo adventure was the perfect time to revisit his sole Hollywood outing. Another film mired by, it was unfortunate to kick-start videogame big screen adaptations. It’s flawed certainly, but the creativity and ambition behind a film that’s almost never shown and fairly difficult to get hold of should trigger mass-reappraisal. At the very least it remains a vivid lesson.

“The terrible tone issues don’t affect Super Mario Bros. cult status, but they do lessen the chance of a brightening reappraisal. Hollywood’s infatuation with videogames comes not just from their inherent merchandising, but also their in-built audience and huge money earning (as well as surely a wary glimpse at its parallel and media rival). Few chances to merge the two have managed to fulfil the potential and that sadly started here. Ultimately Super Mario Bros. manages to do a disservice to itself and the game franchise while being immensely watchable and on occasion visually stunning. Its greatest injustice is that such a glorious adventure ended with the opposite legacy: two decades later an increasing raft of videogame adaptations are now expected to fail, following standard formulas with the need to break ground being felt less and less.” Read more

If you liked that in 2015: Stay tuned for Jokerside’s widening look at videogames – particularly a special glimpse at James Bond on consoles coming soon…
Continue reading “Jokerside Top 10 Posts of the Year: 2015”

Penny Dreadful and Hannibal: Fall of the Witches, Rise of the Dragon

Hannibal meets Penny Dreadful

Hannibal meets Penny Dreadful

“Dire combustion and confused events new hatch’d to the woeful time”

A tale of two gruesome halves. A celebration in the brutal wake of Penny Dreadful’s second series conclusion and farewell to Hannibal’s Hannibal as he prepares his last stand against the advent of the Red Dragon. For those up to date with the horrors of both series – these *spoilers* don’t come in the night.

Read on or jump to: Hannibal

Pennies – Penny Dreadful leaves the mortal plain

Penny Dreadful: The Second Season

“I think that you are the most human man I have ever known”

PENNY DREADFUL CONCLUDED EARLIER THIS MONTH WITH A FINALE OF TWO PARTS. TYPICALLY, THE SECOND HALF WAS DEVOTED TO THE INTRICATE RE-POSITIONING OF ITS PLAYERS ON A CHESS BOARD PRIMED FOR ITS LUXURIOUSLY CONFIRMED THIRD SEASON. And that that says more about the show than a first half given over to resolving the second season arc, a battle in the blurred war of dark and light that continues to run like stitching through its take on gothic literature.

The threat of coincidence hangs over all narrative, nowhere more apparently than in episodic television. As America’s television grows to rival its film industry, enticing stars with higher budgets and heightened writing, arcs and themes have developed to match. Many shows have managed to rise above their Hollywood comparators in terms of tight plotting and scripting, although some of the biggest cheat with multiple sketch-based storylines (one set in and around Westeros in particular). Elsewhere critically acclaimed ‘thematic’ series make their job easier by limiting storylines and cast to a single season. But with Penny Dreadful, confronting coincidence while chucking its characters together is very much the point.

A stronger field

The depth of the villain was stretched and strengthened…

As Penny Dreadful’s second season unravelled we saw polarisation. Compelling powers pushed and pulled the characters to various extremes, always seen through a finely tuned and psychological needle’s eye.

Writer John Logan’s dialogue and scope improved beyond even the first series. After seemingly setting up (the unnamed) Dracula as the main villain, the second season instead wrenched us into the world of witches – another and effective lieutenant of he who must not be named. Over the course of the season, the result was a rich deepening of the character’s opposition; a villain stretched and strengthened while crucially retaining its mystery. It was a neat trick to the point that a killer twist might not even be confirmed. And on the way there was time for dolls and wax works to take the place of the Grand Guignol. And crucially, lest all humour depart us, a wonderful full-time position in the script for Simon Russell Beale’s Ferdinand Lyle.

One year on

“Modernity personified” in the age of the industrial

Last year’s mid-point look at Season One came from the early gothic slant of Frankenstein. In particular, the stunning adaptation of the good doctor’s story that made up the third episode, which starts with:

“…The brutal lessons of life and death that the young Frankenstein was forced to learn. We see him walking through daffodils and quoting not just Wordsworth, but the poet’s Intimations on Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood. We see the origins of the Doctor of course, and how death set him on an inevitable route. The creature narrates what we’ve seen so far, the Doctor who favoured Wordsworth and the Romantics’ view of the world who creates something that is “modernity personified” in the age of the industrial. It’s no wonder that Frankenstein fundamentally cannot stand his creation, and is incapable of making any effort to make up for his abandonment. It shouldn’t fit quite so well with the other son we’ve seen, not quite, but it does. That’s perhaps due to the quality of the creature’s argument. Tellingly, Frankenstein doesn’t speak for minutes as his firstborn addresses him. When told by his son that they are the Janus mask, “inseparable” his first words, “how could you do that?’ The response that it is a mercy for the tragic Proteus – “you put me through nothing but pain”.

Continue reading “Penny Dreadful and Hannibal: Fall of the Witches, Rise of the Dragon”

Dracula: “Learning from Mis-Stakes” – AD 2015 (Part Two)

Dracula Untold - The Puppet Master Vampire

Dracula Untold - The Puppet Master Vampire

 

The second part of a look at how the Prince of Darkness is currently faring on screens small and big.  Even while NBC’s primetime Dracula (does Downton) was staked to death, the undead icon still found time to pop up in familiar crypts and unexpected tombs.  Perhaps his most important moment in the 21st century was close at hand: in the heart of Hollywood, dark plans were being written in ancient blood… Dracula Untold.

A Scrape of the Wing

Not the only Drac-on-the-box…

IN THE FIRST PART OF AD2015, NBC’S DRACULA MADE A COMPLICATED STAB AT CREATING A NEW KIND OF DRACULA. Despite that show’s many flaws that, ambition can’t be faulted. The setting and intent were true to the themes of Bram Stoker’s novel, even if it managed to rob itself of many definitive parts of the legend.  Still, that wasn’t the only Drac-on-the-screen. The errant aristocrat had suffered the ignominy of being voiced by Adam Sandler in the 2012 animation Hotel Transylvania. Elsewhere, far from his routes in the Carpathian Mountains, 2013’s Dracula 2012 matched the Prince of Darkness’ tale to Indian folklores.

Dracula doesn’t really have a safe crypt at that network

On television, other incarnations returned from the dead – especially Eddie Izzard’s glorious interpretation of Grandpa Sam Dracula in Bryan Fuller’s 2012 Munsters revival Mockingbird Lane. Darker and more developed than Al Lewis’ 1960s version, his is predatory, homicidal, occasionally revelling in his feral powers and undoubtedly the count with a plan. Amid the violence and dark comedy, there was time to make sure that Grandpa had many of the same undead ‘skills’ Stoker gave him over a hundred years before.

The fact that it was again the NBC network that wavered over Fuller’s direction and decided not to pick-up the series suggests that Dracula doesn’t really have a safe crypt at that network. The silver lining to that incredibly premature cancellation was that Fuller was then free to create marvellous modern horror Hannibal for the network instead; that’s one form of copious blood-letting they obviously don’t mind.

Elsewhere the count took various cameo roles in 2013, including a vivid guest spot for a sadistic Vlad Tepes on Fox’s Da Vinci’s Demons. Just across from that Wales-shot series, the rejuvenated Hammer studios talked about Dracula a bit, but as with Herr Frankenstein, so far haven’t been able to find the fresh approach to the legend they insist on.  All in all, it looked like the future may be a little more modern…. Until that theory was quickly debunked by ABC’s modernised fusion of gothic and romantic horror icons.  2013’s Gothica fell at the pilot stage, although there was to be greater success in that mash-up, Abbot and Costello approach over on cable…

Penny Dreadful (2014 – )

When you’re dealing with the undead there’s no rush

Continue reading “Dracula: “Learning from Mis-Stakes” – AD 2015 (Part Two)”

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