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Dracula TV that counts

If Dracula author Bram Stoker had been born in any capital city other than Dublin, you can be sure the city fathers would have used the creator of one of the most popular, enduring and influential characters in fiction as a tourist magnet.

But not here. Whatever events have been organised to mark the centenary of Stoker's death are down to the Bram Stoker Estate (see www.bramstokerestate.com) and a varied group of Stoker devotees. The reaction from city officialdom to the legacy of an Irish author who's more widely read than Joyce, Beckett and Wilde combined has been one of shoulder-shrugging indifference, mixed with incompetence.

So far, they have failed even to provide a suitable site for the statue of Stoker his family wants to erect in his home city. Thankfully, the rest of the world thinks more of Stoker and his iconic vampire.

Everyone's familiar with Christopher Lee as the movies' best Dracula, yet you might be surprised at how often television has taken a stab at Stoker's novel.

COUNT DRACULA 1977

Shot using video and 16mm film (for the outdoor scenes), and clocking in at nearly three hours, this extraordinary BBC version is notable for French actor Louis Jourdan's mesmerising performance as Dracula and its faithfulness to Stoker's novel.

It's the best small-screen adaptation of all, and the only one I'm aware of in any medium that includes the chilling scene in which Dracula presents his vampire brides with a special treat: a cloth sack containing a living baby.

DAN CURTIS' DRACULA 1973

Curtis was famous in America for creating Dark Shadows, the Gothic soap opera featuring vampire Barnabas Collins that's just been remade as a movie by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, but he also produced and directed several excellent TV movies of classic horror novels.

This one, scripted by the great Richard Matheson, and featuring a fine performance by Jack Palance as Dracula, foreshadows Francis Ford Coppola's film in that the Count believes Lucy Westenra to be the reincarnation of the wife he loved and lost back when he was a mortal man.

DRACULA 2006

The BBC's second attempt at adapting Stoker's book is one of those all too regular instances of trying to improve on the unimprovable. Or to put it another way, screwing around with it by throwing in a satanic cult and a syphilis-stricken nobleman out for Dracula's blood.

The first mistake was probably casting Marc Warren from Hustle as the Count. The second was probably dyeing his blond hair black, which just made him look like The Cure's Robert Smith with flu.

DRACULA 1968

This 75-minute ITV adaptation is more notable for its oddball casting than its quality. Denholm Elliott, who specialised in playing avuncular buffoons and put-upon husbands, makes a strange Count -- especially wearing funky sunglasses.

DRACULA: THE SERIES 1990

Modern-day Canadian series featuring Gustav Helsing and his plucky nephews putting paid to the dastardly schemes of Dracula, masquerading as A Lucard (Dracula backwards), was staked through the heart after only one season.

>Smash hits American television drama, like healthy bowel movements, follows predictable cycles. Cowboys, cops, docs, lawyers, shrinks. But the taste for musical dramas is something new.

The latest one, Smash, which begins on Sky Atlantic tonight and focuses on a Broadway show about Marilyn Monroe starring Katherine McPhee (left), is being touted as a more mature Glee. The series initially proved to be, well, a smash Stateside but has since lost half its audience and the support of the critics. Could the days of the TV production number be numbered?

>apologies We had a communication from the RTE press office this week, correcting some inaccuracies in my review of Masterpiece: Ireland's Favourite Paintings. Firstly, there are only six people on the judging panel, not 10, as I said. Secondly, it was the public, and not the panel, that nominated the paintings on the longlist; the experts were only brought in to whittle the list down to 10.

I'm happy to clear that up, and it's nice to see the press office getting on the ball so quickly. Now if only they were as prompt about sending reviewers preview DVDs (or even bothering to respond to the occasional email request for same) as TG4, TV3 and Sky unfailingly are, they'd be damn near flawless.


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