Review: Action to the Word’s Dracula at Ed Fringe 2014
When I got my tickets for this Steampunk rendition of Bram Stoker’s novel I had no idea it was a world premiere. The packed house was rowdy even for a 9:20pm start time, aided no doubt by the chaos in the Pleasance courtyard below. The set is composed mostly of low scaffolding that is used athletically by the extremely physical Dracula and co. I love a show where the actors are also the musicians, and this ensemble included not only the essential elements of a rock band, but also a violin, bass, flute and cello that were expertly played and nearly flying across the stage in this extremely energetic performance. The costumes were fantastic, especially those of Mina and Lucy and I coveted every corset.
The director, Alexandra Spencer-Jones, made some interesting choices with gender, most obviously making Doctor Seward female. One of Dracula’s ‘wives’ was male, which also added an interesting twist to the story that everyone thinks they know. This was definitely an adaptation of the famous movie, using many of the details that were added to the film that never appeared in the book. But, they made some other additions like great stage combat and a more empowered Mina for their own flavor and I really enjoyed the whole performance, which included original songs as well as covers of some unexpected ones.
The only downside was the audience itself. One girl in my row got nauseous from the special effects blood (of which there is a lot, so be prepared if you are squeamish), but the worst were the idiots who laughed over and over at inappropriate moments. For some reason just the name Van Helsing elicited giggles. These were also the same people who gave a standing ovation at the end though, which makes me think they were probably friends and family of the actors and were reacting more to seeing their loved ones acting strangely than to the acting itself, which was great. Renfield’s crazy and Lucy’s delirium were fantastic, and the manic Dracula was alternatingly sensual and spasmatic (in the best possible way).
The company, Action to the Word, has been touring all over the world with its version of A Clockwork Orange, and this is their newest addition to theater scene.
Get your Ed Fringe tickets here: tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/dracula
There is more than one Dracula at Fringe this year, so make sure you get tickets for the right one!
Van Helsing is Getting a Reboot and I Can’t say I’m Happy About It
So the first Van Helsing movie was great and I was really hoping for a sequel. Unfortunately, what we are going to get is a “reboot” with professional crazy person Tom Cruise at the wheel. Apparently Universal Studios is seeing fit to do this to both of Stephen Sommers’ monster blockbusters, so The Mummy will also be getting a makeover by the same redundancy-loving writers who saw fit to reboot Spiderman only 5 years after Toby Maguire kicked all of his enemies back to the funny pages. Ugh.
Does anyone else feel like there isn’t anything new anymore coming out of Hollywood? Do they think we are stupid or just have extremely short attention spans? Rebooting Batman was genius because it has been around forever and had basically slipped into the realm of farce in Batman and Robin, but Van Helsing the billowy-coat monster hunter is a character that Sommers created only 10 years ago and there is nothing at all wrong with the original.
Let me know what you think below!
Van Helsing: The London Assignment is an Animated “Diamond in the Rough”
While researching for my Van Helsing Mixes Monsters for Movie Magic post I found out that there was a cartoon short released in conjunction with the major motion picture. Van Helsing: The London Assignment tells the story of what Van Helsing is doing in the days leading up to the start of the film.
Van Helsing is on the trail of a vicious London-based murderer who not only kills his lovely female victims, but leaves their bodies twisted and mummified. But even after this string of heinous crimes, the order to which Van Helsing belongs demands that he try to capture the fiend and save his soul from damnation.
He soon meets the monster, none other than the giant Mr. Hyde who helps Hugh Jackman open the live-action movie. In an interesting twist, Dr. Jekyll is every bit as evil (or even eviler) than his alter ego, but he is doing all in the name of love.
Years earlier his eyes met those of the young and beautiful Queen Victoria and he believes to that day that she fell in love with him in the same instance. Jekyll uses a potion concocted of the souls of his victims to grant her a new lease on life and with the help of his hellish minions he absconds with her to his fiery layer deep below the city. How will Van Helsing (and Carl the monk, of course) rescue the queen and save the day?
I called this 30 minute short a “diamond in the rough” because a lot of the animation is jerky and reminiscent of Hanna Barbara cartoons (no offense Scooby Doo!) with intermittent flashes of brilliance. The action sequences clearly got more love (or maybe just a bigger budget) than other scenes, which is to be expected, but it was kind of distractingly lopsided. That being said, it is a fun story that made me alternatingly chuckle and say “whoa!” It really felt like a noir comic book come to life, which was cool to see.
There is a nice documentary in the special features about the making of the live-action movie which is really cool. I learned that both Kate Beckingsale and Hugh Jackman did most if not all of their own amazing stunts.
You can watch the full cartoon through youtube below!
Van Helsing (2004) Mixes Monsters for Movie Magic
Stephen Sommers, who brought us the special effects-laden reboot of The Mummy in 1999, also lent his imagination (as well as his pen) to create Van Helsing in 2004. Even though both films are almost a decade or more old they are some of my absolute favorites for their combination of action, visual effects and fun.
Gabriel Van Helsing (played by Hugh Jackman) is a monster hunter with a mysterious past. He is employed by the Catholic church to seek out and destroy evil, but remembers nothing before he was charged with his holy quest. As far as I can tell, the only thing this Van Helsing has in common with the Dutch doctor and do-gooder Abraham Van Helsing of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula is the name.
The film starts with an homage to classic black and white movies as an angry mob attacks castle Frankenstein in 1887. Sommers’ twist is that the good doctor’s financial backer is none other than Count Dracula. Van Helsing enters the movie with an epic confrontation between him and a truly monstrous Mr. Hyde (of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) on the rooftop of Notre Dame. Later, Van Helsing is charged with slaying Dracula in time to protect the souls of the Valerius family, who vowed they would never rest until the vampire met his demise. With the help of his techno-whiz sidekick, a friar named Carl, Van Helsing travels to Transylvania and to aid the last members of the tragic tribe before nine generations are shut out of heaven.
Sommers’ creates a plot that incorporates Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster, as well as the Wolfman. He also gives a much larger role to Dracula’s three ‘brides’ (which by the way, are not identified as such in the novel) and they provide some wonderful action sequences as they terrorize the nearby village as flying monsters in order to hunt down Anna Valerius (played by Kate Beckinsale). Though the roots of this movie clearly come from a love of classic horror films, the time, literary characters and gadgets (like a gas-powered repeating crossbow) land it squarely in the Steampunk canon.
There is an animated prequel called Van Helsing: The London Assignment which you can read more about and watch here.
I also recently found out that there is another Van Helsing movie planned, but it is going to be a “reboot” starring Tom Cruise. Check out that story here.
Click on the thumbnails for larger images.