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The Forum

Airing Sunday, February 11, 2007 on PBS
(Check local listings; dates and times may vary)

Dark, sexy and fresh...
-- The London Observer

Seized with a powerful thirst, the Lord of the Undead stirs from his bed of Transylvanian dirt... Marc Warren (Band of Brothers) joins the ranks of the great screen Draculas with a performance as demonic as Bela Lugosi's (1931), as urbane as Christopher Lee's (1958), and as ominously sensual as Gary Oldman's (1992).

David Suchet (Poirot) stars as vampire scholar Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, an authority on the powers of garlic, crucifixes, and wooden stakes to combat these bloodsucking monsters. Also appearing are Sophia Myles (Art School Confidential, Marple) as Lucy Westenra, the chaste victim, and Stephanie Leonidas as Mina, who seems certain to follow her friend Lucy into the realm of the undead. Rafe Spall plays Mina's fiancé, Jonathan Harker; Dan Stevens is Lucy's new husband, Arthur Holmwood; and Tom Burke plays Dr. John Seward, Lucy's failed suitor and the attending physician during her horrible descent into vampirism.

Drawing on themes that Bram Stoker hints at darkly in his 1897 novel, screenwriter Stewart Harcourt recasts the plot to focus on the Victorians' anxiety about sex and especially syphilis. Some scholars believe that Stoker himself died from syphilis, but the evidence is inconclusive. Nonetheless, the novel could not be more explicit about the invisible infection that seeps into the bloodstream and slowly turns its victims into demented fiends: which is what Dracula does to his prey and also what syphilis often produced in the age before antibiotics.

Dracula fans will also savor the production's familiar scenes and themes: the horror of the Count's castle; the arrival in England of Dracula's storm-tossed ship with no one aboard except the dead captain lashed to the wheel; Dracula's nighttime blood feasts; and the peculiar rules of vampire etiquette, such as that a vampire can only go where freely invited.

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