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I Belong


Guest Author: Justin Gustainis (Guest Post & Giveaway)

Please join me in welcoming author Justin Gustainis here today to Dark Faerie Tales.  Justin participated in and edited an urban fantasy anthology called Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives, which was just released on March 1, 2011. You can read an excerpt here.

Author Bio:

A former Army officer, speechwriter and professional bodyguard, Justin Gustainis is a college professor living in upstate New York. He is the author of The Hades Project (a semi-finalist for the 2003 Stoker award for Best First Novel), Black Magic Woman, Evil Ways and two forthcoming novels: Hard Spell and Sympathy for the Devil. He has also published a number of short stories, two of which won the Graverson Award for Horror in consecutive years. He is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop.  His website is here.

One lucky commenter will have a chance to win an autographed copy of Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives.  As always, details are listed at the end of the post.

Welcome Justin!

The Film Career of

Abraham Van Helsing, M.D., Ph.D., D. Litt., Etc.

Abraham Van Helsing, the wise, brave Dutch doctor who knows so much about vampires and so little about English syntax, was not the first occult detective in literature, but he may well be the most famous.  He has been (or soon will be) portrayed in films and TV programs 61 times, according to the Internet Movie Database.  Since it isn’t feasible to discuss all 61 films and shows here (and there are some, such as Transylvania Twist and The Sexy Adventures of Van Helsing that I would prefer to forget, anyway), I would like to mention what I regard as the most significant (for good or ill) portrayals and how closely they hew to the character created by Bram Stoker.


Edward Van Sloan.  Most fans of the genre know that Van Sloan played the professor in the 1931 version of Dracula that made Bela Lugosi famous, but fewer are aware that he reprised the role five years later for Dracula’s Daughter (1936).  Van Sloan has the physical aspects down pretty well, although he makes no effort to speak like the book’s version.  Unlike the literary character, this Van Helsing doesn’t know about vampires from the get-go.  He has to do research after ladies start appearing with holes in their necks.  But he’s a quick learner, much to Count Dracula’s dismay.  My rating: 3 stakes (out of four).


Peter Cushing played the professor in five films: Horror of Dracula (1958) (just Dracula in Great Britain), Brides of Dracula (1960), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972—duh!), The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) and the little-known Asian production The Legend of the 7 Vampires (1974).  In the second film, Dracula does not appear as a character.  Of the last one, the less said the better, out of respect for Cushing’s memory.  In the first film, Cushing plays the character as principally a scientist (apparently a British one, despite the name) who only becomes a man of action near the end.  The same holds true for the deceptively titled Brides of Dracula.  But beginning with the third film, Van Helsing is less a scientist and more a detective pursuing a criminal.  The emphasis is on physical confrontation with the vampire, not scholarly knowledge about him.  Overlooking the chop-socky Legend of the 7 Vampires (talk about doing it for the paycheck!), I give Peter Cushing’s portrayals 3 stakes.


Although it was never shown in theatres, the 3-hour BBC production entitled Count Dracula is included here because it contains the best portrayal of Van Helsing that I’ve ever seen.  It is also the version most faithful to Stoker’s novel.  Coincidence?  Perhaps not.  Van Helsing is played by British actor Frank Finlay.  He’d got the accent right, he’s got the manner right – the kind old doctor with steel in his spine.  He even calls Mina Harker “Miss Mina,” as the character does in the novel.  What’s not to like?  My rating: 4 stakes.


This brings us to Laurence Olivier, who took on the role for 1979’s Dracula, with Frank Langella playing Dracula as a brooding (and hot) Byronic hero.  I had such hopes for this one, Olivier being widely recognized at the time as the greatest actor in the world.  It’s not that he’s bad in the role – he just doesn’t get that much to do. He doesn’t even appear until almost halfway through the film.  Like the Van Sloan version, this Van Helsing has never heard of vampires; he has to do research to catch up.  The ending is downright silly, although it does make this version of Dracula the only one (spoiler alert!) in which Van Helsing dies, as well as the Count.  Maybe it’s just dashed expectations on my part, but: 2 stakes.


Then there is Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), directed by Francis Ford Coppola.  This version is reasonably faithful to the book, too – if you forget the beginning and ending.  I was looking forward to Anthony Hopkins’ Van Helsing, given how brilliant he was as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.  Hopkins makes a good effort, but his accent is more German than Dutch, and he lacks Van Helsing’s essential goodness.  Half the time, this guy is either insensitive or mean, or both.  And he has lousy table manners.  It’s borderline, but I award 3 stakes.


And finally, we have 2004’s Van Helsing – unfortunately.  Hugh Jackman plays a character the screenwriters at least have the decency to call Gabriel Van Helsing.  They’d have done better to call him Indiana.  Rating: 1 stake – straight through the heart of whoever came up with the idea for this piece of crap.

And there you have it.  Feel free to disagree – in fact, for the contest, why don’t you leave a comment doing just that (or even agreeing, if you’re that insightful and well-informed).  ;)

GIVEAWAY GUIDELINES:

One lucky commenter will have a chance to win a copy of an autographed copy of Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives..

To enter, leave a comment below answering the following question:

Feel free to disagree – in fact, for the contest, why don’t you leave a comment doing just that (or even agreeing, if you’re that insightful and well-informed).  ;)

1. +1 entry for answering the question (required).

2. +2 entries for becoming a follower of this blog and Dark Faerie Tales on Twitter.

3. +3 entries for tweeting about this contest, blogging about it, linking via your sidebar etc…(please tell me where!).

4. Giveaway is open to everyone.

5. Please include your email address in your comment.

6. Giveaway ends Tuesday, April 12th at 11:59 PM EST.

7. The winner will be picked with the help of Random.org.


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11 Responses to “Guest Author: Justin Gustainis (Guest Post & Giveaway)

  1. Magaly GuerreroNo Gravatar
    1

    I so agree with the Indiana Hugh *grin* I was actually a bit disappointed. Okay, a lot.

    + 1 Comment
    + 2 Following here and Twitter

    magalyguerrero AT live DOT com

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  2. Karen WapinskiNo Gravatar
    2

    Hmm well I agree with most of your post but not about Van Helsing. True, it is nothing at all like the original material but its veyr entertaining–and fearlessly overdone–in its own right.
    Also, anyone with eyes can see that Hugh makes the sexiest Van Helsing to date

    moc.liamtohnull@52revefeaf

    tweeted here:http://twitter.com/Parakiss25
    I am a GFC follower

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  3. debbieNo Gravatar
    3

    I was really disappointed in coppala’s version of dracula. I expected better. I think I gave it a lower rate than you did.
    moc.oohaynull@21dnikafoowt

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  4. Chris Marie GreenNo Gravatar
    4

    Justin! So good to see ya.

    The Coppola version was fascinating–I was very engaged on a visual level, with the creative/creepy/mindblowing costumes and the tone, which enveloped me in Gothic excess. Just for that, it’s one of my faves.

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  5. lulilutNo Gravatar
    5

    +1 If I need to disagree than I will mention that he failed to mention Christopher Plummer as Van Helsing who went a cut above the rest in trying to get rid the world of Dracula in “Dracula 2000” by injecting Dracula’s blood into himself. That’s dedication.
    In agreement, I did enjoy Hopkins as Van Helsing and I agree with his assessment of “Van Helsing” and Hugh Jackman. Bad movie.
    +2 I am a follower
    +3 Tweeted here:
    http://twitter.com/lulilut/status/52869459123253248

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  6. Barbara ElnessNo Gravatar
    6

    Oh, of course I’m enlightened and informed and agree with you. Even Hugh Jackman couldn’t save Van Helsing, and since I didn’t see the BBC’s Count Dracula, I can’t comment on that one, but I’m sure it was fabulous.

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com

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  7. Melissa (Books and Things)No Gravatar
    7

    I’d say the best actor was Hopkins, but Hugh was the cutest. ;) I think they needed to do more with Hopkins character. He was creepy in the best way, but they held him back for the others. Hugh was nice to watch. ’nuff said. :D

    I’m a gfc follower/ twitter follower @BooksThings
    books (dot) things (at) yahoo (Dot) com

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  8. PamkNo Gravatar
    8

    1.I agree with most of ratings but on Van Helsing I have to diagree those folks get at least a 3 star just for casting Hugh Jackman as van helsing lol. Great eye cand there +1
    2. +2 entries for becoming a follower of this blog and Dark Faerie Tales on Twitter. do both
    3. +3 entries for tweeting http://twitter.com/Pamk258/status/53296569105133568

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  9. Ammy BelleNo Gravatar
    9

    I am not sure whether I agree completely or not … I think there was some merit to Van Helsing with Hugh Jackman – even if it was a bit tacked together in the end … but I guess that’s the thing about movies today, there’s such a rush to push them all out, that no one takes the time to enjoy putting them together. And you can tell.

    Anyways, thanks so much!
    This book/anthology looks so cool! :)
    apereiraorama[at]gmail[dot]com

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  10. donnasNo Gravatar
    10

    I really had high hopes for Anthony Hopkins too. All in all though I didnt think the movie was that bad, some things wrong of course but I did like it. And was sadly disappointed in Olivier’s, but truely he didnt have much to work with. While I havent seen the BBC production I have read that it is one of the best and I have to admit I am not surprised. Its really such a great character.

    +1 answer
    +2 follower of both
    +3 tweet – http://twitter.com/#!/DonnaS1/status/56578310829903872

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

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  11. jmspettoliNo Gravatar
    11

    I was really looking forward to the 2004’s Van Helsing however it seems they just took what sells and called the main character Van Helsing (let’s not even mention the very weak story line that has so many plot holes it closely resembles swiss cheese). However, I did enjoy the Anthony Hopkins movie and I’m definitely going to check out the BBC version.

    I follow the blog and twitter (@jmspettoli)

    Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/jmspettoli/status/56610169836146688

    spettolij AT gmail DOT com

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