My friend (let’s say ‘ghoul friend’) introduced me to the world of horror radio with this aural gem. Adapted from an unproduced Hammer Horror screenplay, The Unquenchable Thirst of Dracula finds our iconic bloodsucker in……1930s India.
In the hands of ’60s Hammer Horror, one could easily imagine the culturally insensitive, booby demonstration of bawdy overacting that would have been on screen. But we’d also get the grand score, the technicolour sets, the impossible costumes, the neon-red blood, the glaring lights showing every speck of face powder. On balance, we’re better off given the talent involved: directed by Mark Gatiss, and starring not only actual Indian actors, but big names like Meera Syal and Kulvinder Ghir. While it’s initially hard to separate their voices from the sounds of my youth (Asian people on TV was a rarity, so the folks partook), it’s clear they are really well-suited to radio as well as television.
The plot is more or less an Eastern retread of the original tale: Penny (Anna Madeley) travels to India in search of her missing sister. Along the way, she meets a brother-sister dance troupe, Prem and Lakshmi (Nikesh Patel and Ayesha Dharker), who are en route to perform at the house of the Maharajah Babu (Ghir) and his wife Rani (Syal), who have a guest – Dracula himself (Lewis MacLeod). It all sounds great until things get sexy and possessive, then sexy and spooky, then sexy and bloody.
It’s Hammer Horror: the audio experience, but the music and sound effects do a swell job of immersing you in the story. It might be my limited exposure to radio plays, but I’d still love to see a live-action version.