TALKING FILMS

Bram Stoker’s nineteenth-century novel ‘Dracula’ continues to live on in the movies

In the works: two new adaptations of the vampire novel and a prequel novel that will be made into a film.

Bram Stoker’s legendary 1897 creation Dracula is perhaps one of the most filmed fictional characters in history, appearing in no less that 272 movies as of 2012. More than a century after the original novel was written, two adaptations of Stoker’s Gothic horror are currently in the works. Sherlock writers Steven Moffat and Mike Gatiss will work on a BBC adaptation. The Witch director Robert Eggers will also take a crack at the material with a remake of FW Murnau’s German Expressionist masterpiece Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (1922), an unofficial version of Stoker’s novel.

Stoker’s great grand-nephew, Dacre Stoker, is also co-writing an authorised prequel, in which 21-year-old Bram Stoker meets some of the strange creatures that he later writes about. The movie adaptation rights for the book, which is expected in 2018, have already been sold. It director Andy Muschietti slated to helm the project.

Contemporary audiences might never have gotten to see Murnau’s horror classic if Stoker’s widow, Florence Balcombe, had had her way. Murnau and Nosferatu’s producers decided not to buy the rights of Stoker’s novel, and changed the movie’s setting from Victorian England to 17th century Germany. The original ending was altered too. Vampire hunter Van Helsing was edited out and Count Dracula became Count Orlok. One of the changes contributed to the most well-known cliche of vampire movies: that the undead die when exposed to sunlight (they only weaken in Stoker’s novel).

However, Balcombe sued the producers, who were already bankrupted by Nosferatu’s poorly planned marketing campaign and couldn’t mount a legal defence. A German court ordered all prints of the film to be destroyed. But just like the titular bloodsucker, Murnau’s Nosferatu refused to die, surviving through bootlegs and eventually going to be recognised as a bona fide classic.

Play
Nosferatu (1922).

Director Robert Eggers was attracted to the film for the haunting performance by Max Shreck as Nosferatu. “I saw a picture of Max Schreck as Count Orlok in a book in my elementary school and I lost my mind,” Eggers said in an interview. German iconoclast Werner Herzog remade Nosferatu in 1979 as Nosferatu The Vampyre, about which he said there was “no better German film” as a way to connect with his grandfather’s generation.

“Because the German film-makers who preceded us were all either exiled or put in concentration camps or sided with the Nazis,” Herzog explained in an interview, “my generation had no fathers and no legitimacy: we were orphans.” The director’s version also had a fantastic performance at the centre by Klaus Kinski as Orlok. The film includes several shot-for-shot recreations of the original, a haunting atmosphere and surreal sequences.

Werner Herzog's Nosferatu.
Werner Herzog's Nosferatu.

Herzog’s version was achieved without the hardships faced by Murnau’s film. By then, the Stoker novel had fallen safely into the public domain.

Lucy is portrayed by French actor Isabelle Adjani. Herzog was able to increase the violence and heighten the novel’s sexual undertones, which Murnau was unable to do because of censor codes. The film’s ethereal atmosphere is further aided by the otherwordly tones of score by Florian Ficke (of the Krautrock band Popol Vuh). All of these elements come together perfectly in the film’s best sequence, in which 11,000 rats were used to simulate the effects of plague and complete destruction.

Herzog later explained the allure of the vampire: “For me, genre means an intensive, almost dreamlike stylization on screen, and I feel the vampire genre is one of the richest and most fertile cinema has to offer. There is fantasy, hallucination, dreams and nightmares, visions, fear, and of course, mythology.”

Play
Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979.

An urban legend attempted to explain the power of Nosferatu. Was Max Shreck in fact an actual bloodsucker? “Who hides behind the character of Nosferatu?” film critic Ado Kyrou asked in 1953. “Maybe Nosferatu himself?”

This premise was used as the basis of the meta horror comedy Shadow of the Vampire (2000). Murnau (John Malkovich) is depicted as a dictatorial erfectionist who will go to any lengths to get the perfect shot, even offering his leading lady to a real-life vampire so he can get a realistic performance from Willem Dafoe’s Shreck.

There have been several more faithful versions of Stoker’s novel. In 1931, Tod Browning, who would go on to make the cult classic Freaks (1932), made Dracula. Six sequels followed, but none were as iconic as the original which cemented Bela Lugosi’s image as a sympathetic vampire and brought the hidden sexual undertones of the novel to the surface.

Dracula adaptions have always needed a charismatic actor to tie everything together. Dracula (1958), starring Christopher Lee, is no different. Before his acting career flourished, Lee was told that he was too tall to be an actor and too foreign-looking to make it in Hollywood. Both those features were perfect for the vampire from Transylvania. Lee went on to portray the coffin-loving creature from the undead in close to a dozen movies.

Bela Lugosi as Dracula.
Bela Lugosi as Dracula.

Perhaps the oddest incarnation of Stoker’s aristocratic creation came in the blaxploitation classic Blacula (1972). Many things could have gone wrong with a film with such a jokey title. Instead, the vampire myth becomes a smart metaphor for the slave trade. Eighteenth-century African prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall) travels to meet Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) to sign a petition against the slave trade and help him bring his country into the modern world. The vampire is, in fact, a closet slave trade supporter, and turns Mamuwalde into a vampire and locks him inside a coffin. In 1972, two antique dealers bring the coffin to Los Angeles, where Mamuwalde chases the reincarnation of his long-lost love while wreaking havoc on the landscape. The film sparked off a chain of blaxploitation versions of Gothic horror classics, such as Black Werewolf (1974), Dr Black, Mr Hyde (1976) and Blackenstein (1973).

Blacula (1972).
Blacula (1972).

The closest adaptation of Stoker’s novel is Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version, featuring Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves. Coppola used inventive tricks to create the special effects. The sumptuous costumes were by Japanese costume designer Eiko Ishioka, who won an Oscar for her effort.

Because Coppola wanted to do all the special effects, which he said numbered a million, on camera without post-production, he wasn’t taken seriously. He fired his camera department and hired his 24-year-old son Roman Coppola, a magic enthusiast, to perform the complex stagecraft. The duo used techniques that would not be out of place at the time of Nosferatu’s production: using mirrors to create different perspectives, rear projection, and playing the film backwards.

The script by James V Hart preserves the epistolary nature of the original by including multiple narrators and constantly changing the point of view from which the story is told. However, it is not entirely faithful to the original, swapping the novel’s men-on-a-mission arc for a Gothic romance.

The greatest strength of Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula is Gary Oldman’s tragic performance as Count Dracula. Oldman’s vampire transforms from what looks like a 90-year-old woman to a mysterious young man prowling the streets of London for his love Mina (Ryder). The movie proved once again that the beating heart of all Dracula films is the prowess of the man who plays the vampire.

Play
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992).
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.

Play

As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.

Play

So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.

Play

As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”

Play

By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.