Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dracula Month Day 14: Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned

Having spent the past five days of Dracula Month looking at Marvel Comics' Tomb of Dracula series it seems fitting to move on to the Tomb of Dracula movie. "Tomb of Dracula had a movie?" you might be asking. And no, I'm not referring to Blade. One year after the comic book series wrapped Japan unleashed the animated film Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned for television. It's a mess.

I often complain about films being too liberal with their original source material, deviating in unnecessary ways from the established text. In the case of Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned, the problem is fidelity. Namely, that the picture has to tell the origin of Dracula, introduce the vampire hunters who pursue him and condense a complete storyarc from 25 issues of the comic book series into a 90 minute film. The result is trash; occasionally amusing trash, but nothing more. The Marv Wolfman & Gene Colan comic books which were adapted into this film told an engaging and dark story of Dracula claiming leadership of a Satanic cult, taking one of the worshipers as his bride, fathering a child with her, the child dying during a raid on Dracula's church, Dracula then waging war against both Heaven and Hell as Satan strips Dracula of his powers and God sends an angel to inhabit the body of Dracula's dead son to oppose him as Janus. That great "Batwings Over Transylvania" story I blogged about on Thursday? It's in here too and it has no room to breathe.

The animation in this film is better than most US cartoons circa 1980 but it's too bright for such sombre material. The story of Dracula, the cult, Satan and Janus could be told as a moody anime program, but as a series, not a feature film. Even the appearance of Dracula's daughter Lilith was retained in this adaptation so that every few minutes the story has to stop and introduce someone everyone in the story already knows about; the film never gains traction.

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