014 Adaptation – New
I had an outrageous amount of fun listening to Hammer Horror’s The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula based on an unmade film script by Anthony Hinds, adapted by the ubiquitous Mark Gatiss and Laurence Bowen. The narration could be a bit heavy-handed at times (though Michael Sheen went for it, by golly!), but it was a wonderfully visual story, which apparently was almost made in the 1970s. What I want to know is whether Steven Spielberg knew about this script, as it bears a striking resemblance to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Penny (Anna Madeley) is an independent woman in the 1930s who gets aboard a train in rural India where she meets the young (and presumably good-looking) Prem (Nikesh Patel) and his sister Lakshmi (Ayesha Dharker), who is a dancer. Prem is a sitar player. Also on the train is Babu (Kulvinder Ghir), a jolly Bengali who takes Penny under his wing. Penny at first seems quite dozy, but she is interested in the caves nearby—which are a tourist destination for their erotic carvings. Prem and Lakshmi have been summoned by the Maharajah and Rani to the palace, but find to their surprise once they get there that they have not arrived to dance for them, but for a mysterious stranger (Dracula, naturally!). While the story is authentically Hammer in that Dracula (Lewis MacLeod) lusts after women for more than their blood, and the celluloid version would have naked women running around, this works okay within the story itself. Things really get going once Prem is drugged and Lakshmi is first seduced/drained dry by Dracula and then impaled by the Rani and her cult of blood-worshipping acolytes (Kali is never mentioned, nor are the Thuggees, but it’s very similar to Temple of Doom). I think Meera Syal was having the time of her life playing the Rani. Eventually, we get a chase scene with cars, coffins, Hindu festivals, acolytes chasing after Dracula with stakes, all the way to the Tower of Silence, a Jainist (I think) tower where the dead are left to be picked clean by vultures (as Babu says, very sanitary). The drama created some wonderful images and exciting scenes, and its depiction of India seemed far more respectful than Temple of Doom, for example. Penny could also be considered the most feminist Hammer horror heroine ever. I’d love to hear more in this, uh, vein.
And now for something completely different . . . I read Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev more than ten years ago, and although I remember it being good, I couldn’t really remember anything of the plot. It made for an excellent radio drama. James Fleet played Nikolai Kirsanov, and, true to typecasting, Nikolai is a rather bumbling owner of a Russian estate; he has recently had a baby with Fenichka, who shows her true colors as a power-hungry, security-obsessed Philistine once Nikolai marries her. Who has, arguably, truly loved her, is Nikolai’s older brother Pavel, very much an old style Russian aristocrat who speaks French and adores the novels of Ann Radcliffe. His unkind nickname is the tailor’s dummy. Nikolai’s son Arkady (George Blagden) comes to stay, along with his abrasive friend Yvegeny Bazarov (Edward Bennett). Bazarov falls in love with Anna Sergeyvna, an older woman with a good eye for farm management who has behaved in a mercenary manner in the past. She spurns him and lives to regret it. While Julia McKenzie was simply bonkers as mad old Princess Olga, and Nigel Anthony was enjoyable as creaky old servant Timofeich, I was blown away by Martin Jarvis as Pavel. That was an amazing performance. In a taut adaptation by Brian Friel, Martin Jarvis and Rosemary Ayres directed. It also starred Charles Dance, Lisa Dillon, Gabrielle Lloyd, Lucy Phelps, Joanna Cassidy, Matilda Wickham, Keiran Hodgeson, and Darren Richardson.