Would you be surprised that a contemporary adaptation with belly dancers is actually one of the most faithful?
Danacı, Fatih. “Kazıklı Voyvoda, by Ali Rıza Seyfi.” Javier Arries. La Cripta. N.p., 2010. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.
Gürçağlar, Şehnaz Tahir. “Adding towards a Nationalist Text: On a Turkish Translation of Dracula.” Target 13.1 (2002): 125-48. Web.
Joslin, Lyndon W. “Drakula Istanbul’da.” Count Dracula Goes to the Movies: Stoker’s Novel Adapted, 1922-2003. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2006. 44-53. Print.
Skal, David J. Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. New York: Norton, 1990. Print.
Tombs, Pete. “Dracula in Istanbul.” Mondo Macabro: Weird & Wonderful Cinema around the World. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998. 103-04. Print.
Count Dracula! King of the classic movie monsters. He lives by night, feeds on the blood of the innocent, and can transform at will into a turkey.
Wait, no, I read that wrong. He transforms into a bat. He’s from Turkey.
We’ve found our necks case of Deja View.
In 1931 Bela Lugosi’s suave looks, widow’s peak, and Hungarian accent cemented the way we imagine Dracula. But surprisingly, the classic Universal film bears only a passing resemblance to Bram Stoker’s original novel. A faithful adaptation wouldn’t be produced for another twenty-two years, and it came, of all places, from Turkey. The strangest thing is, it isn’t even based on “Dracula.”
Stoker’s “Dracula” wouldn’t be published in Turkish until its 100th anniversary in 1998. “Drakula İstanbul’da” is instead adapted from the 1928 Turkish novel “Kazıklı Voyvoda” — “The Impaling Warlord.” But in fact, the book is actually a pirated version of “Dracula.” Translated, abridged, and localized by author Ali Riza Seyfi, “Kazıklı Voyvoda” was passed off as a Turkish original. Seyfi transports the setting from London to modern Istanbul, changes the names, and infuses the story with numerous passages of Turkish nationalism. Twenty-five years later, when homegrown genre movies were beginning to find an audience, “Kazıklı Voyvoda” was an ideal choice for the screen.
Of course “Drakula İstanbul’da” isn’t the first movie based on “Dracula,” or even the first “bootleg” adaptation. But it does lay claim to many other notable firsts. It’s the first film to show off Dracula’s canine fangs, to depict the iconic sequence of Dracula crawling head-first down his castle wall, and to make a direct connection between Dracula and Turkey’s historical enemy, Vlad Ţepeş — “Vlad the Impaler.”
From the first act it’s refreshingly faithful to the source material. This Jonathan Harker — here called Azmi — is the first version to find himself truly Dracula’s prisoner, confined to the castle amid halls of locked doors. In spite of warnings he sneaks, as in the book, into a secret wing of the building and falls asleep, where one of Dracula’s “brides” attempts to feed on him. He’s forced to write post-dated letters to his fiancee to maintain the illusion he’s well. And upon discovering Dracula’s true nature Azmi tries in vain to destroy him with a shovel. Indeed the entire film has a level of fidelity rarely seen in any adaptation of “Dracula.”
Of course it’s not without changes. Gone is the final journey to Transylvania in pursuit of Dracula. The madman Renfield has also been excised, but in his place is Dracula’s hunchback servant. And Mina is now a dancer, offering the perfect excuse for sexy dance numbers — in addition to a suggestive bubble bath sequence.
Concessions also had to be made for Turkey’s Islamic culture, where crucifixes and sacramental bread would be unlikely vampire deterrents. Only the the staff at Harker’s hotel in Bistrița makes the sign of the cross at the mention of Dracula, perhaps because the majority of Romania is Orthodox Christian. But here the sole weapon against the undead is garlic.
However these changes are nothing compared with Universal’s “Dracula” film. Adapted from the American version of the stage play, it was an ideal project for the impoverished film studio in the grip of the Great Depression. To suit the stage and a meager budget, “Dracula” had been heavily rewritten to utilize only a few sets. Dracula himself was watered down into the kind of gentleman you’d invite into your drawing room. Very little of the original novel was reinstated in the motion picture, and the result is more “inspired by” the book than “based on” it.
While Universal’s budget for “Dracula” was quite low by 1930s Hollywood standards, the budget for “Drakula İstanbul’da” was substantial — reportedly thirty to fifty percent higher than its Turkish contemporaries. The filmmakers were therefore able to construct rather lavish sets for all of the castle interiors, the cemetery, and the theater. The low-key lighting casts hard shadows, producing a contrasty film-noir look that further raises the production values.
These elements were not enough to impress Turkish critics at the time, however. It was deemed not scary enough to be a good film. But negative critical reviews don’t always stand the test of time. “Drakula İstanbul’da” skillfully captures the essence of Stoker’s novel while tweaking the story for a contemporary Turkish audience. With its solid production design and numerous firsts, it’s absolutely essential viewing for any “Dracula” fan.
Turkey’s film industry was in its infancy when “Drakula İstanbul’da” was made, and as a result the filmmakers often had to get creative to solve problems. When the graveyard scene called for fog, and fog machines were unobtainable, their solution was a simple one. Dozens of crewmembers lay on the ground, mouths full of cigarettes, furiously puffing smoke into the shot!
It got the job done, and the crew got a smoke break.
Fangs so much for watching, and so long, suckers…