Hollywood Gothique
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Dracula returns?

Fangoria reports that Jan DeBont’s company has commissioned a sequel to DRACULA. Why that’s big news, I’m not sure – considering how many remakes, sequels, and spin-offs have resulted from Bram Stoker’s novel.

Oh wait, here’s why: To add an extra air of legitimacy, this proejct is being termed the “first officially sanctioned sequel to Bram Stoker’s DRACULA.” Apparently, the “Stoker family has officially recongized [Ian] Holt’s screenplay — the first adaptation to receive such approval since the original 1931 Bela Lugosi-starring film.”

Still, I’m not quite sure why this is a big deal. Original author Bram Stoker has been dead for nearly a century; his widow (who was still around to ink the deal for the 1931 film) is also long gone. And the book is out of copyright, so anyone can do anything they want with the property.

Thus, the “official” seal of approval from the Stoker family is pretty meaningless, except insofar as it supposedly got scripter Ian Holt access to view an early manuscript of the novel on display in Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum.

Actually, I was surprised to read this, because the manuscript has been out of the hands of Stoker, his widow, and his family since the book was published, so they have no particular right to grant access to it. Last I heard the original manuscript was in private hands and not available to be seen; in fact, the last time it was supposedly on view was when it was up for auction at Christie’s back in 2002. (Check out the article at Salon.Com by someone who took the opportunity to read over the manuscript.)

While we’re on the subject: The Fangoria post makes the mistake of referring to “Stoker’s original handwritten manuscript.” Stoker’s manuscript was typed, not hand-written. Apparently, poster Michael Gingold was confused by Holt’s description of reading “Stoker’s handwritten notes in the margins.”

Actually, maybe this is more than a nitpick. Holt claims to have discovered a character cut from the final novel, an Inspector Cotford (who will play a part in the sequel Holt is writing, which is set twenty-five years after the book’s events). This sounds like a major excision, and it almost makes me wonder whether Holt was looking at the book manuscript at all. Was he perhaps looking at Stoker’s early notes and outlines for the book that would become DRACULA?

UPDATE: It turns out that the Stoker’s original manuscript for the novel failed to sell at auction, when bidders failed to match the undisclosed reserve price (i.e., the minimum price the seller is willing to accept). I’ll check around the Internet and see if I can find what happened next.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: It turns out that my keen intuition and deductive reasoning were right on the money: Ian Holt was not looking at the original manuscript of the novel; he was looking at “research and manuscript notes for Bram Stoker’s DRACULA.” At least, that’s the only thing the Rosenbach Museum claims to have on hand in their press release. (It is interesting to note that the museum has for the last few years been making a big deal out of the vampire Count around Halloween time, offering a Dracula film and cultural festival called “Release the Bats.)

A few months back, I offered to do some writing for Fangoria, but I was told they didn’t need any writers. On this subject, at lest, it looks like they could have used a writer who knew what he was writing about. Certainly I would not have let Holt get away with saying, “It was such an honor to be holding the second most popular book of all time behind the Bible.” Not only is DRACULA not the second most popular book behind the Bible (its claim to fame is that it has never been out of print, not that it was a best seller) – Holt wasn’t even holding it at all, just some preliminary notes.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: Just to be clear, I do realize that this post is entirely pedantic geek fanboy stuff. But what the hell…