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'Dracula' review: Soap opera with fangs

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Dracula in the "Dracula"

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Dracula in the "Dracula" pilot, "The Blood Is The Life." Credit: NBC

THE SERIES "Dracula"

WHEN|WHERE Premieres Friday night at 10 on NBC/4

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Awakened by Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann), Dracula (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) finds himself in Victorian London, masquerading as an American industrialist, Alexander Grayson, who promotes a new technology while avoiding sunlight. With able assistant Renfield (Nonso Anozie), he sets out to conquer London -- until he becomes fixated on one Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw, "Arrow"), a dead ringer for his long-dead wife. A con man as well as bloodsucker by trade, Dracula enlists the help of her boyfriend, Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), in his pursuit. Meanwhile, there are vampire hunters out there in deepest darkest London who want the old boy gone forever.

MY SAY Dracula has been re-imagined so imaginatively (and often) since Bram Stoker's original novel that about the only thing left intact are the fangs. But this reworking by graphic novelist Cole Haddon ("The Strange Case of Mr. Hyde") wants to drag Drac back to the source material, at least part of the way. His 10-parter is clearly deeply enamored with the period (one key reason "Downton Abbey" producer Carnival Film and TV are behind the series) and with blood -- gallons of that. But this "Dracula" is far less interested in the Stoker genesis story, which will be relegated to an online prequel companion series ("Dracula Rising") that also launches tomorrow.

This frees up the series to get down to business: Sex, cutting off the errant head now and then, and a full-bore examination of Drac's obsession for one lily-white-throated beauty. Detroit native Haddon also wants to tag his story with latter-day parallels, and in interviews has even said one inspiration for his dark prince was Steve Jobs, who would probably not be pleased. Does any of this work? Unless you are deeply devoted to Stoker's take, mostly yes. All dark shadows and gloom, there's a comic-book vigor to the series, and the narrative contortion of a soap.

Meanwhile, Rhys Meyers does what he did memorably in "The Tudors" -- look menacing, take off his shirt now and then, and remove rivals, bloodily.

BOTTOM LINE Unless you are sick of vampires -- a possibility -- this is not bad at all.


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