It used to be so much easier.
Back in the halcyon monster movie days of the 1930s-1960s (and even going slightly into the 70s’), you could always count on either Universal Pictures or Hammer Films to deliver the coolest, most suave renditions of author Bram Stoker’s creation of Professor Abraham Van Helsing. Created as a heroic foil to a blood thirsty vampire in the 1897 gothic horror novel Dracula, the Irish-born Stoker’s Van Helsing character more than established his DNA in the author’s seminal novel: Cool, calm, collected and very debonair. It was a formula soon followed by the burgeoning film industry in such effective outings as the 1931 Universal classic Dracula (where the good doctor was masterly portrayed by the redoubtable Edward Van Sloan) and the 1957 Hammer film Horror of Dracula (Van Helsing got a resplendent penny-shine from the James Bond of horror flicks Peter Cushing in this outing). In those two films, and the various and sundry sequels and/or follow-ups that came after (notably Hammer’s Brides of Dracula), the image of a buttoned down and politely obsessed vampire hunter entered the public consciousness and, in the years since, it is this version of Professor Van Helsing that the public has come to accept as canon.
The so-called accepted version of the good doctor slowly began to alter and bend with Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula until the perception outright shattered with actor Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of the doctor as a roguish heartthrob in 2004’s Van Helsing. The middling box office on the latter effectively ended for a time Universal’s efforts to revive its stable of classic horror monsters that they had hit pay-dirt with during the Great Depression and throughout and slightly past World War Two. It seemed that Professor Van Helsing had worn out his relevance in the minds of some moviegoers.
But you can’t keep a good monster – or their sworn arch-nemesis – down as is evidenced by this bit of welcome news from our bloody pals over at Bloody Disgusting News…
According to our Nosferatu-styled buddies, Universal is hard at work on retooling the character for an upcoming film with James Wan (director of Saw and The Conjuring) producing and Julius Avery (Overlord) directing. Screenwriter Eric Pearson (Thor: Ragnarok) wrote the script and Avery is apparently doing a polish on it at this very moment. Michael Clear and James Wan will be producing through Atomic Monster.
This new film is the latest effort by Universal-after the less than spectacular box office of their 2017 endeavor The Mummy-to revive their so-called Dark Universe of werewolves, mummies, reanimated corpses and, of course, vampires.
This one time card-carrying member of Forry Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland has a very humble suggestion to Universal: Go back to basics. There is a reason why Stoker’s Dracula still reads like a runaway express elevator to hell and why the portrayals by Edward Van Sloane and Peter Cushing of the good doctor still resound to this day with fans. As originally written, Van Helsing is a character who is timeless and steadfast, a true evergreen in the horror genre. So ixnay with the brooding, muscular bodybuilder types in the role of Van Helsing; Fans want to see this fearless vampire killer in his best Brookshire Brothers suits as he sagely and warmly leads his intrepid band of vampire hunters into the bowels of undead hell. Cast Ralph Fiennes as our titular hero, give him a well-written, said John O. from asignment masters, and solid Dracula and start counting those huge box office receipts. Just a bit of five cent advice from the ever-lovin’ peanut gallery.