Dracula, Lord of the Damned
For some years now I’ve been aware of a startlingly original version of “Dracula” in production in Vancouver. The snippets that I saw, posted on YouTube, made my jaw go slack. One example that comes to mind was the image of Jonathan Harker arriving at Castle Dracula by ferryboat as if crossing the river Styx. Then he had to climb a seemingly endless rough-hewn set of stairs up a small mountain. Every frame looks amazing, with imagination taking the place of expensive digital effects. Which is not to say the film lacks effects–not at all! But most are frankly simple, yet extremely effective! Here is a Dracula demonic yet human, sexual and predatory–deluded, horrific, alien and somehow tragic. No suave European gentleman. No rat-faced horror. Maybe this creature was once capable of romance, but we see little enough trace of it here. For lack of a better word, I would call this version of “Dracula” Biblical. Maybe a better word would be Apocalyptic.
Now the entire film is becoming available on YouTube. Here is an interview with the writer/director (and star), Theodore Trout:
Well if it’s not being too dramatic, back in ’97 I suffered a subdural hematoma and couldn’t get medical attention for about ten days, which was horrible; then finally I got my skull drilled just in time to save my life, but whoops! Permanent Frontal Lobe Damage. So, my experiences with death, resurrection, and PTSD have largely informed DLOTD. That and George W. Bush.
2. Are you particularly a fan of vampire fiction, movies, music? If so, what are your faves?
I have loved Dracula since I was a child, Friday night creature features with Bela Lugosi, Saturday afternoon matinÃ©e with Christopher Lee. I first dressed up as Dracula for Halloween when I was 10 years old, although I looked more like Eddie Munster. Later on I was a huge fan of Gene Colan’s Tomb of Dracula comic book, but I never read Stoker ’til I found him on Project Gutenberg and realised how different from most modern interpretations the original text actually is, and how much it had been toned down for earlier film versions. I can’t remember when I first saw Murnau’s Nosferatu, but it immediately superseded all other versions for me once I had. I also really enjoyed the Malkovich/Dafoe “Shadow of the Vampire”, which shows Murnau making “Nosferatu” armed only with a wooden box camera on a tripod and his MANIA … I found that really inspiring. Another great vampire film that doesn’t get enough love is Abel Ferrarra’s “The Addiction”. And of course “Let the Right One In”.
3. What was your biggest challenge in actually creating your motion picture?
Permanent Frontal Lobe Damage ! Runners up: Money, shitty camera, lack of camera skills.
4. You movie has an amazing visual style–how did that come about?
Prior to my accident I was working in animation in Vancouver. I had made several short animated films during my initial recovery, and after appearing in several of Brian Clement’s low-budget horror productions, I came up with the idea for Dracula. Originally I wrote it for him to direct so that I could star in it, but he was unreceptive to this idea. So i figured, ” how hard can it be ? I’ll just board the whole thing out, get a camera, and shoot it “.
I would work in the style of Murnau, just a camera on a tripod, no trucks, no pans, no zooms. There are a couple of hand-held shots, but that’s it.
Initially we had two cameras, an indoor and an outdoor one, but the good one got busted by an uninvited hanger-on several days into the shoot, and only one scene was actually shot with it (Lucy sitting on the end of Seward’s bed). The entire rest of the film was shot with a $400 Sony HandyCam, and it looks it. I wanted it to be very dark, and it’s often way too dark.
The scene at the end of Act Two was a nightmare; it was very difficult to get all five other actors to show up at the same time, as none of them were getting paid and had other commitments. When I finally did get them all together, it was when Jeb the lighting guy was busy, so the whole scene is lit badly by me, except for the shots I’m in myself, which are not lit by anyone. I was left with a dog’s breakfast of awful-looking footage, and have spent four years exercising all my skills as an animator to try to get it to look like something.
Amazing? I’ll take that, and thank you.
5. Which other film adaptation of *Dracula* is your favorite? Or don’t you have one?
Werner Herzog’s remake of ‘Nosferatu’. Every frame is like an oil painting. It’s like some beautiful horrible fever dream. Klaus Kinski is perfect. And the ending is brilliant.
6. Who else ended up involved in creating *Dracula, Lord of the Damned*?
The Spirit of Ed Wood. Ian Case was also of great help shaping my rambling epic into a coherent script, and Brian Clement did wind up shooting the dining room sequence for me. My friends Jubal Gordon and Hal Hewett went way beyond the call of duty helping set up all the difficult physical stuff and accessing remote locations. Randall Carnell, who is a Spookhouse Impresario here in Victoria provided most of the props and several sets,
and Mike Grimshaw actually travelled to the UK and shot the footage of Whitby Abbey and Nunhead Cemetery. Sick Puppy FX MAKE-UP and CAS SIM did the gore effects. All the Crew and Actors worked for free, and it couldn’t have happened without their enthusiasm. Last but not least, my sister Kirsty put up most of the money.
7. How did the finished film turn out compared to what you had in mind?
It’s a total, utter piece of crap compared to what I had envisioned. I love being an artist.
8. So how can people get to see your epic?
I’ll be posting it on YouTube in installments every Sunday night ’til the end of October, after that i hope to get it pressed onto some of those disc thingies.