Sunday, August 14, 2011

Some Of Stoker's Other Works

Bram Stoker.  When most people hear the name they immediately think of Count Dracula, Lugosi's accent, undead aristocrats, Christopher Lee, romantic strolls by goth and emo kids in old cemeteries, Gary Oldman with bat wing nub arms, and about 1,000 other cliches that surround his novel Dracula or The Un-Dead.  The few who do not usually conjure up the sounds and images of a handful of films based on some of his other works, films usually billed as (in his best 80's deep voiced voice over guy), "A tale of horror from the mind of Bram Stoker, the creator of Dracula."

Yeah it happens.  And truth be told whenever any wannabe little goth kid wants to be a vampire the first thing they do is buy some black clothes, some dark eye make-up, and a copy of Dracula (which they give up on after a couple of days before renting or downloading Tod Browning's Dracula or Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula).

As with Mary Shelly and her creation, Frankenstein, Stoker's body of work is most often overshadowed by Dracula.  Are his other works classics, well no, not by any means.  If they were everyone would be familiar with them.  The fact is that Stoker's body of work beyond Dracula is an assortment of stories that are good, bad and occasionally ugly.  Many leave the modern reader scratching their head, however, sometimes when you really look at the content you can see that Stoker was ahead of his time, or perhaps as in touch with his time as writers of today are in touch with their own.

Here is a look at four of Bram Stoker's other works.  Three of them have been made into movies that quite often do not do them justice, sometimes make them more interesting, and perhaps are most often made with the intention on cashing in on name recognition.

The Chain Of Destiny (1875)
This novella was initially published in four parts in The Shamrock.  It tells the story of a young man who comes to stay at an old estate with that has been recently acquired by his friends and mature benefactors, Mr. and Mrs. Trevor.  Mrs. Trevor has it in mind to set our hero, Frank, up with the lovely Miss Fothering.  It turns out that a curse has been placed in wait of the fairest of the Fothering's to set foot on the estate, and Frank's intended fits the bill.

For most readers I am sure this tale will be quite tedious, but it does have it's moments, including a self-mutilation and suicide scene which was probably scandalous in the late 19th Century.  Also I got the impression that old Mrs. Trevor had more than chaste and motherly feelings toward Frank.  It may seem lame to most by today's standards, but it is still interesting to read over and try to determine what Stoker was saying about the morals and society of his own time.

Burial Of The Rats (1878)
This short story was made into a movie in 1995 by Roger Corman.  It is the tale of a man investigating some of the more unsavory denizens of Paris, only to end up being chased by a group who wants to rob and murder him.  Through the course of the story a couple of his pursuers meet their ends, and they receive "the burial of the rats", meaning that rats quickly descend on the bodies and strip them clean, like land-borne piranhas.

I was really reminded of Poe and Lovecraft as I read this one, due in parts to the setting and the style in which the tale is told in, the narrator revealing his horror while being chased around the backstreets of Paris by the unknown.  If you like the other two then this story is right up your alley, so to speak.

The Jewel Of Seven Stars (1903)
This Stoker novel has made it to film twice, as Blood Of The Mummy's Tomb and The Awakening.  A mystery surrounds a household once its patriacrh is suddenly stricken and put into an unnatural coma.  Once his partner in Egyptology arrives the truth is revealed, an ancient Egyptian queen is trying to resurrect herself, and she plans on getting a little help from the one who has taken her body and raided her tomb.

This is a long and tedious story, almost a mystery story with the pace of a slasher film, but without the slasher.  Still, if you want to be a Stoker completest it is a must read, and it serves as proof that mummy stories were out some 30 years before Universal made the original The Mummy.

Lair Of The White Worm (1911)
Yes, I know.  The title alone conjures up nasty thoughts, even for those who have never seen Ken Russell's film adaptation.  A woman moves into an old estate, and death and insanity surround her.  The Lady Arabella Marsh is perhaps Stoker's best known character aside from Count Dracula, probably more due to Russell's film than the fact that it was Stoker's final novel.  It's another slow paced story, where everyone knows where the evil vileness is and what she has done, but yet they do not bother to stop her, or turn her over to the authorities.  Makes you wonder how most of the characters in the story make it through alive.  Yes, it's no wonder Russell filled his film with Roman soldiers raping nuns, pencils that stood for erections, a catchy little song, snake vampires and giant snake-headed strap-ons.

The story has some interesting little bits of goriness, as well as an evil black magician openly lusting after a white woman, which surely must have been controversial for the early years of the 20th Century.  It's another one of those reads if you're a Stoker completest, and interesting if you want to see more of Stoker's take on the morals and values of his own time.

So if you're daring and have a little patience, and you want to check out what Bram Stoker wrote other than Dracula and Dracula's Guest then you can check out these and other works, which are much more readily available than they were 14 years ago and I busted My ass trying to get my hands on the copy of Lair Of The White Worm.  There are various collections available from Amazon and Barnes & Nobel as well as some stories available online from various free story sites.

Master Vyle

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