strange_complex: (Dracula 1958 cloak)
[personal profile] strange_complex
Obviously I've watched this a few times before. I've done a 'proper' review of it here: LJ / DW, and I also recently read and reviewed the novelisation: LJ / DW. This watch, though, was with my sister during her recent visit. It was a logical follow-on from watching Dracula (1958) with her and her husband last Halloween (LJ / DW), in that this is the next entry in the series, she had never seen it before and I had seen it more than enough times a) to long to know what it might look like to fresh eyes and b) to be quite confident that I wouldn't miss anything crucial because someone was speaking to me during the film. I therefore encouraged her to tell me what she was making of it all as we went along, which she was very happy to do.

Three main things came of this. Firstly, although I think the screenplay does work quite hard to plant the suspicion that the Baroness might be a vampire (she arrives at night, everyone's scared of her, she doesn't eat anything at dinner), this wasn't enough to make my sister actually think she was one. Well before it was made explicit, she correctly surmised that her son was the vampire, and she was protecting / shielding him. I guess the trope of the sick / mad family member in the attic is too well ensconced - although it may also simply be that she knew because she'd already seen David Peel befanged, becloaked and snarling vampirically on the DVD title menu. Once you know he's definitely a vampire, it doesn't really make sense for his mother to be hiding him away if she is also one herself anyway.

Secondly, she remarked that Father Stepnik, the local priest, seemed to know all about vampires when he was telling his flock that the (unnamed) village girl can't be buried in the local churchyard because she is "not like all the rest", but then proceeds to be told all about them in his turn by Van Helsing. I don't think this is a 'plot hole', 'goof' or whatever - just the result of it being quite difficult to convey clearly that a character knows enough about vampires to know what they are but not enough to destroy them, coupled with the fact that Van Helsing needs to be given a lot of dialogue about vampires (and probably more than the specific character of Father Stepnik really needs) in order to establish his authority and inform the audience of the 'rules' for this film. Still an interesting observation, though.

Thirdly, she was really quite surprised when Van Helsing got bitten towards the end of the film, and couldn't guess for a few minutes how on earth the story was going to turn that around. This was the point where I was most grateful for having her fresh eyes on the screen alongside mine, because I have for so long known how he deals with it, and have therefore come to see the bite as nothing much more than the necessary prelude to the real business with the brazier. But of course she's right - we should be shocked when Van Helsing, seemingly humanity's greatest defence against vampirism, falls victim to one, and presumably that's how the original audiences would have reacted. A helpful insight.

Always a pleasure to revisit this, and all the more so in company with my sister. I'll look forward to Prince of Darkness when she next comes to stay!
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