Vinyl pressing: Unavailable on vinyl since its initial release on Cadabra Records in 2017, the Bleak December adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula is yet another essential recording for fans of classic horror fiction. As with other audio dramas produced by Bleak December’s players, this was adapted by longtime Cadabra collaborator Anthony D.P. Mann, who also plays Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, and features an abridged take on Stoker’s century-old masterwork.
Of course, as this is Dracula, who plays the titular villain? None other than horror icon Tony Todd, whose deep and rumbling tones are perfectly suited for the mesmeric exhortations of the bloodsucking fiend. One does not hear what he’s saying so much as feeling it within your head, much as if Todd’s count is communicating with you as he does with Lucy Seward.
His work here follows in the footsteps of other icons who’ve guested in Bleak December’s work, such as David Warner as Karswell in Casting the Runes or The Wicker Man with Brian Blessed as Lord Summerisle, wherein an instantly-recognizable voice is used to superb effect to raise the already rock-solid work of the cast.
Speaking of the regular cast, one especially worth noting in Dracula is regular Bleak December player Nikolas Yuen, whose portrayal of Renfield manages to rise to the level of mania exhibited by Dwight Frye in the same role over 90 years ago. Frye’s work in Todd Browning’s Universal Pictures adaptation of the Bram Stoker classic is legendary, but the shuddering, maniacal work Yuen brings to his few minutes in the role result in genuinely hair-raising terror evoked within the listener.
Regular composer for these works, Brent Holland, once again brings the deftest of touches to the music here in Dracula. The opening overture is resplendent with deep, bass-laden strings and a wordless choir, giving the production precisely the introduction it needs after the equally sonorous tones of Todd’s vampiric opening. The strings and choir provide the musical through-line which connects this abridged take, and briskly moves the story along.