The 2013 American TV season brings Dracula back to TV in a new series that sounds more than a little steampunk and less than a little promising. Not because the show itself, cleverly titled “Dracula” as anything particularly distressing about it. No, the outlook for a brand new TV show focusing on Bram Stoker’s vampire to end all vampires may be a little fuzzy because it seems that the 21st century obsession with vampires may be rolling to a stop. Just ask Johnny Depp. On the other hand, TV has been pretty good to Dracula, so who knows what the future may hold?
In Rod Serling’s 1970s follow-up to “The Twilight Zone” one of the segments gives Dracula an opportunity to come up against humanity’s version of a similar sort of evil. The time is the 1940s and the place is a mysterious castle with a comforting sense of the familiar. An officer and soldiers with the Nazi SS arrives looking for those who would try to escape the inevitable overthrow of common sense by fascist sensibilities. What they find is a nattily attired specimen of the sort of old-school continental charm that is today more often confused with being gay. The dandy in the castle is neither gay nor a freedom fighter, but rather an evil even greater than the Nazis. In theory, anyway. Score one for Dracula!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
One of the most entertaining episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” pits her against Dracula. Turns out that he was not just some literary invention, but an actual vampire. And he arrives in Sunnydale intent on doing his bidness. What is especially wonderful about this memorable appearance on TV by Dracula is that the story plays out like a parody of the novel without feeling like a parody. Xander becomes overwhelmed by the power of Dracula and turns into the show’s version of the mad fly-eating Renfield. Meanwhile, Giles falls under the spell of Dracula’s concubine to the point of becoming useless, just like Jonathan Harker. What is great about this aspect of “Buffy vs. Dracula” is that you would expect the slayer’s Watcher to take on the Van Helsing role in the story. Eventually the episode ends, as they all must, with a confrontation between Buffy and Dracula. The fact that Dracula is pretty much impossible to kill leads to one of the funniest lines of dialogue ever uttered by Buff.
Dracula even shows up on “Gilligan’s Island.” Okay, not literally on the island, but Dracula is the leading character in one of the sitcom’s most memorable dream sequences. And keep in mind that “Gilligan’s Island” had a lot of dream sequences. After getting bit a vampire bat, Gilligan is obsessed with the idea that such a wound can cause him to actually become a vampire. This leads to his dream sequence in which the Professor plays Van Helsing as sort of Sherlock Holmes character complete with the Skipper as his Watson. Ginger is Mrs. Dracula and Gilligan the vampire. Funny stuff.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
No, not the big screen movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola, but the small screen version starring Jack Palance. Those who were older kids and younger teenagers back in mid-70s will recall this appearance of Dracula on TV with great fondness and a not a little bit of a shiver. For a TV-movie airing during this era, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” was pretty scary stuff. This is one version of the story of Dracula–whether on TV or not–that stays pretty close to the book in spirit if not necessary to the letter and it stays pretty darn closer to the letter than just about any other version. If you do some research, you will find that this Dracula premiered in February, which may seem strange. In fact, it was scheduled to premiere in October, closer to Halloween. At the last minute, the movie had to be scrapped when it was pre-empted as a result of the announcement of Spiro Agnew’s resignation as Vice-President.