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by Victoria Alexander

A perfect addition to the Dracula oeuvre. He’s at the top of the hierarchy of monsters and we wanted to see what happened on Dracula’s journey to London.

In 1911, Winston Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty. With his new authority, Churchill had ordered the British fleet to convert from coal to oil and was mothballing older ships in favor of smaller, faster ones. A disgruntled Admiral indignantly told Churchill he was scuttling the tradition of the Royal Navy. Churchill answered: “Don’t talk to me about naval tradition. it’s nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.”

I’ve read several books about English piracy: Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth-Century Caribbean by B. R. Burg; Rum, Sodomy and the Lash: Piracy, Sexuality and Masculine Identity by Hans Turley; and The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates by Peter T. Leeson.

What is evident in these books is that homosexual contact was present on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century marine vessels of all varieties. And young boys - ages eight to twelve - had already accepted homosexuality due to abandonment by their parents and severe economic deprivation. Buggery was rampant among sailors in the glory days of the Royal Navy. Young boys called “peg boys” were on board solely for the purpose of providing pleasure to the officers. Why else were they aboard? What heavy work could young boys do? The crew were hardened men who willingly could survive multiple years in a male-only environment.

THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER is not about piracy or the British Royal Navy, but it is about a wooden ship, the Demeter, their crew and cargo. The Demeter begins its voyage in 1897 stopping in Bulgaria for cargo and then heading for London. There is a large bonus for all the crew if the cargo reaches London in one week.

The Bulgarian port workers notice the emblem on the crates and warn the captain that there is a terrible fate awaiting the ship’s crew.

None of the sailor’s sexual antics are in THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER, but there is Captain Eliot’s (Liam Cunningham) eight-year-old son Toby (Woody Norman).

The crew is principally made up of Petrofsky (Nikolai Nikoleff), Abrams (Chris Walley), the captain’s first mate, Wojchek (David Daatmalchian) and the ship’s cook, Joseph (Jon Jon Briones). When a hired crew mate is injured loading 50 coffin-shaped crates on the ship, a place opens up for a physician, Clemens (Corey Hawkins), to join. Instead of being a seasoned sailor, the crew does not value Clemens intellectual prowess or humanitarian goodness, especially when he uses his blood to give a Carpathia, Bulgaria stowaway, Anna (Aisling Franciosi), an infusion to combat the infection that is killing her.

The first night all the animals that provide the crew meals are violently bleed to death. With that bonus on the crew's minds, the loss of food and the death of one crew mate is blamed on a woman being aboard the ship.

Mariners believed the presence of women would anger the water gods, which might cause storms, violent waves and weather. Another assumption was that women would prove distracting amongst the male sailors during the long periods spent at sea and would be subject to harassment and even violence.

It does not take long for Anna to recover and explain that her village had an agreement with Dracula. She was the one chosen to travel with him providing blood every night. But Anna was not replenishing her blood loss and Dracula needs nightly feeding. While Anna explains, the crew fails to figure out that they are only safe during the day. They could escape in a risky lifeboat instead of waiting around to be picked off one by one. They could have dumped all Dracula’s coffin dirt overboard then steered the Demeter away from London.

Norwegian-born director André Øvredal gives THE LAST VOYAGE OF THE DEMETER a dark, menacing feel. And we get to see Dracula in all his manifestations! It ends with the promise of a sequel. That’s fine with me since this is a fresh adaptation of the Dracula lore. The brief ending scene suggests that although Dracula can drink enough blood to build up a human-like form, there is still a lot of work he needs to do to pass easily as a human on his nightly hunting ventures.

The ALL is Mind; The Universe is Mental.”

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Victoria Alexander's movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go to:

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Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society


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