Count Dracula

(United Kingdom | BBC | 1977)

Series Background

Count Dracula was an adaptation of Bram Stoker's original novel and was broadcast on BBC2 just before Christmas 1977, with Louis Jourdan as the eponymous vampire character.

The production, as with the majority at the time, was made on videotape with extensive use made of location filming, and although it was originally scripted as a three-part story it was shown on one evening, albeit with a ten-minute intermission for a news bulletin.

Surprisingly, this was only the second such adaptation for British television — the first having been produced for the final black and white season of ITV's Mystery and Imagination in 1968. The third and most recent production of the novel for UK television was BBC One's Dracula, which was produced at Christmas 2006 with Marc Warren in the lead role.
DVD Releases

Count Dracula has been released on DVD in both the UK and the United States. The UK release is subtitled.
 
Count Dracula

by
Gerald Savory
Cover image: Count Dracula, Corgi Books (1977)
Country UK
Format Paperback
Publisher Corgi Books
Publication Date 1977
Original Price 65p
ISBN 0552106984

Count Dracula is a novelisation of the feature-length television drama of the same name.

Back Cover Blurb
The dark deeds of the Transylvanian Count Dracula have thrilled generations.

In this dramatic re-telling of Bram Stoker's immortal classic, Gerald Savory chronicles the momentous conflict between the forces of good and evil as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, Dr Seward, Jonathan Harker and Quincey Holmwood confront the menacing vampire, Count Dracula, and his undead disciples.
Other Editions
Cover image: El Conde Drácula, Planeta (1978) El Conde Drácula
Spain | Paperback | Planeta | 1978 | 8432041343
Translated by Joaquín Adsuar Ortega.
Television Story
150 Minutes | BBC2 | Colour

22/12/77 Count Dracula Gerald Savory
Notes
  • Unusually, whereas most television adaptations would simply merit a re-issuing of the existing novel with a blurry photograph slapped on the cover, Count Dracula was to find itself novelised by Gerald Savory, who had adapted the book for television, and in a major change to the original novel it would not be an epistolary epic, but instead would take the form of a third person narrative.

    Making the most of this, the front cover proudly proclaims that the book is: "A GOTHIC ROMANCE by GERALD SAVORY" and "BASED ON BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA." This self promotion would continue with the almost obligatory corner-stripe reading "NOW A STUNNING BBC-TV DRAMATISATION STARRING LOUIS JOURDAN AS COUNT DRACULA."

    As with many novelisations, there are a number of changes from the television production, but the Count Dracula novelisation is highly unusual in that Savory took the opportunity of returning to Bram Stoker's original story in many instances. A notable aspect is the reference to the passage of time as the story progresses — the television adaptation gives very little indication of how long the events take, or how far apart they are.

    One of the earliest examples of a change between television and novelisation comes in the opening chapter, during Jonathan Harker's passage to Transylvania. While the television script sees him given a silver crucifix by a female passenger as he disembarks at the Borgo Pass, the novelisation switches this scene back to the inn, before his carriage journey begins, and the valuable defence against evil is passed to him by the landlord's wife. A similar change occurs some time later at Castle Dracula. Where the television production has Dracula simply hand Harker's shorthand letter to Mina back to him, the novelisation has it ripped into pieces, in a similar manner to the original novel where it is burnt.

    More notably, the television storyline had, by necessity, involved some changes to Stoker's novel, with the characters of Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris being conflated into the new and improved Quincey Holmwood. This character would remain American, like the original Quincey Morris, and would also marry the doomed Lucy Westenra, a role originally taken by Arthur Holmwood. Arguably, the latter change was a more than sensible decision, as Lucy receiving three proposals of marriage in one day, from Dr. Seward, Morris and finally Holmwood, was quite possibly the least believable aspect of the book. The television production wisely omits any reference to the period over which the proposals are made, although the novelisation has it as two proposals over two days. In a similar manner, the television adaptation also has Harker mention to the Count that the Westenra's are travelling to Whitby for the summer, neatly sidestepping the implausible coincidence in Stoker's original novel whereby Dracula just happens to be shipped to the exact same resort. One further change of note is that Savory made Mina and Lucy sisters, leaving the former to arrive home from the continent with Harker and find that both her sister and mother have died in her absence.

    Back to the novelisation and changes were also made to the description of Dracula himself. The majority of film and television adaptations, including Count Dracula itself, portray him as a man in middle age, his body held in check by his vampirism. The novelisation returns to Stoker's novel, describing him as "a tall, elderly man, clean shaven save for a drooping white moustache". Similarly, the main indication of his undead nature in the novelisation is the occasional instance where he becomes younger, with his hair and moustache darkening, something which was unnecessary on screen. One instance of his unusual athleticism is also given in the novelisation. Dracula lifts Harker's heavy portmanteau with ease, putting it on his shoulder before carrying it into the castle. Even on television, this was limited to just lifting it in his hands — itself a step up from the original novel where he just carries Harker's baggage in, no indication having previously been given of its weight.

    Interestingly, while the novelisation broadly follows the events on screen, albeit following Stoker's text, it also adds back in a number of instances which were not dramatised. Harker's passage from the Borgo Pass to Castle Dracula is re-instated, including the appearance of the wolves and the strange blue flames on the ground. Later, when Dracula's presence is known about in London, the disappearance and later re-appearance of the wolf from London Zoo is added back in.

    By the second half of the novelisation, it's arguably nothing of the sort. Instead, Savory is intent on writing a shortened re-interpretation of the original novel. Entire pages of Van Helsing and his companions planning to tackle Dracula appear from nowhere, having been completely omitted on screen. In places this is of benefit, as the television adaptation had skipped over various plot points, such as Lucy and her mother dying on separate occasions, and the various stakeouts at the cemetery, as Van Helsing tries to show Dr Seward, and later Quincey, of Lucy's undead nature.

    The final flight of Dracula back to Transylvania is also greatly different — and heavily abbreviated from both the novel and television versions. Indeed, Savory seems to be so eager to have things over and done with that the final twenty minutes of the television adaptation are glossed over in the space of just seven pages. Even then, Savory still finds time to change the narrative. While Stoker's novel had seen Quincey Morris fatally stabbed in the encounter with the gypsies who are transporting Dracula back to his castle, the television adaptation changed this so that he was shot, albeit not fatally. The novelisation provides a third and arguably duller variation. Not only do the gypsies all escape unharmed — unlike on television where all but one is shot — but no harm comes to anyone at all, other than Dracula himself, who is finally staked.
  • The original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker, which was first published in 1897, is long out of copyright and is freely available online. Dracula's Guest, a short story that originally formed a prologue to the novel, can also be found and has been widely anthologised.
  • The production of Count Dracula famously saw the cancellation of a vampire-themed story for Doctor Who, which, it was feared, would be seen to be sending up BBC2's more prestigious production. In the event, Terrance Dicks' story would eventually be produced as State of Decay, broadcast as part of Season 18 in 1980, and later novelised by Dicks himself under the title Doctor Who and the State of Decay.