Count Dracula, Dr. Henry Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The greatest writers lived pass their physical limitations through their literary works that can cross the boundaries of time. Bram Stoker and Robert Louis Stevenson are such authors and the themes of their Victorian novels have come to be held dear by their readers because of its adaptability to every generation. This can be proven not only by the fact that these books are still on the shelves of bookstores, nor by the inclusion of these works in the literary curricula of schools in many different countries but also through the many movie renditions that have tried to portray the themes of these novels.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a fine story about vampires that has inspired many other writers and film makers to make their own stories. Count Dracula and Transylvania have become synonymous to vampires because of this literary work. Even Sesame Street has spoofed up a character called “The Count.” The enegmatic appeal of the story has attracted one of the best producers of the 1990’s to make a version – Francis Ford Coppola.
The novel revolved around themes of friendship, religion, sexuality and superstition. Friendship was evident throughout the work because the plot was unified by the strong relationships of men to defeat a common foe – Count Dracula. Religion was at the center of the story because Christian faith was the only possible strong weapon against the scheming and very evil antagonist. Sexuality was implicated well throughout the book because of the attempts at seduction made by the vampires on their preys. Superstition was also showed because of the mysterious angles of the story which accounted for the use of garlic, etc.
Francis Ford Coppola was confident enough to have placed the name of the author in his rendition’s title. By naming the film, “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” the producer implies that this movie is a faithful portrayal of the original work. This however is not the case because Coppola has added another timeless element to the original plot – a love triangle between Count Dracula or Prince Vlad, Jonathan and Mina.
The book of Bram Stoker does not give enough hints on how Count Dracula became a vampire. The film added an angle by showing that Prince Vlad had originally been a very religious Christian but was driven to the forces of evil when his wife, Elisabeta, committed suicide because she thought he had died. Centuries later, the Prince had sought the help of Jonathan Harker to settle some legal issues for the acquisition of a certain piece of land. He accidentally sees a picture of Jonathan’s fiancee’, Mina, and sees her perfect resemblance to his dead wife, Elisabeta. This makes him think that Elisabeta had been reincarnated into Mina and thus, his goal to get Mina into his fold.
Although Coppola had altered the story to become more dramatic, the themes of love, friendship, superstition, sensuality and the conclusive justification that good (represented by Christianity) always triumphs over evil are ever present through out the film which makes it faithful enough to Bram Stoker’s original work.
Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has also become a well-loved classic because of its theme revolving everyone’s eternal battle in balancing what is good and evil internally. Everyone has a good and a bad list of traits. No one is perfect. Finding enough balance to ensure that good prevails has been a constant dilemma throughout the history of mankind.
This novel has inspired many film-makers to adapt it to the silver screen. One such attempt was in 1941 which starred Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner and Ingrid Bergman. Although every producer’s ultimate goal is to say that their rendition is the best or most faithful to the original work, this one had overstepped by incorporating too many women and adding sensual angles to the story.
Stevenson’s novel had been noted for its lack of female characters except for very minor ones that were used only to emphasize certain points in the story. The 1941 film version showed Beatrix Emery (Turner) to be the love interest of Dr. Jekyll (Spencer) and a bar-maid, Ivy Peterson (Bergman), to be a third party who tries to seduce Dr. Jekyll because she believed him to be a good hero when he defended her against an aggressive patron. The film then developed the character of Mr. Hyde based on his baser instincts geared towards sensuality which was not so much focused on the original work.
Although the film had tried to put in additional information to make the whole story more dramatic, the central theme of balancing evil and good within one’s self was still evident and this made it faithful enough to Stevenson’s original work.
Classic novels had always been attractive to film producers because of the timeless appeal of its themes. Love, friendship, good and evil are all part of the real daily life drama of every human being. Without these themes, life would not be worth living and this is why the classics have endured despite the demise of their authors.