THEATRE / The ultimate status symbol: Paul Taylor on The Importance of Being Earnest, starring Maggie Smith

'The chin a little higher, dear,' Lady Bracknell advises Cecily, her prospective niece-in-law. 'Style largely depends on the way the chin is worn. They are worn very high, just at present.' It's not a fashion tip she follows all that religiously herself, though, or at least not in Maggie Smith's hilarious version of the dreadnought dowager now on view at the Aldwych. When she first sweeps in, the head may be reared back but the chin is tucked down, in tight disapproving mode, against the chest. Replace that imperious feathered hat with a head-scarf and milady's pursed moues and her air of pinched, almost predatory respectability would start to look distinctly suburban.

Health: Blood-lust in the clinic: Pure fiction? Psychiatrists know better. Raj Persaud unearths some facts about the living, the dead and the undead

LIKE a bat out of hell, vampire-mania has hit town with the opening of Francis Ford Coppola's blockbuster, Bram Stoker's Dracula. But what the film will not tell you is that the vampire myth seems to have arisen from unexplained real-life events and that 'vampirism' is a rare disease treated by doctors.

FILM / Absolutely ravishing: Bram Stoker's Dracula

THEY call it Bram Stoker's Dracula, but that won't kid anyone for long. One look at the hypercharged Gothic fantasia unfurling across the screen and you realise this Dracula is the creation of someone very much of our time, someone extravagantly talented and hopelessly muddled - someone like Francis Ford Coppola, in fact. While the form of Stoker's fable has largely been retained - a patchwork of journals, letters and newspaper reports - it's been shaken down and souped up as a luscious spectacle. Coppola's pyrotechnics have gatecrashed the novel and overturned its fin de siecle furniture.

FILM / The beautiful and the damned: Francis Ford Coppola's version of Dracula

SUCCESS in the genre of the Gothic depends on a partial transformation of terror into beauty, and by that standard Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (18) is a failure, but for an unusual reason: the transformation of terror into beauty is absolute, leaving no ghost of a shudder behind. Why should we pretend to be frightened, when in fact we are looking forward to the next astonishing manifestation of what is only notionally evil? How can we be in suspense when we know that our appetite for lurid visual truffles will be fed without a moment's stinting? Even at the film's few sanguinary moments, there is no temptation to look away, since violence too is swallowed up - along with the plot - by the ravishments of design.

SHOW PEOPLE / Five hundred years at the top: 61. Count Dracula

SHERLOCK HOLMES comes close. Frankenstein has not done badly. Gerard Depardieu may have made more films. But none has left his mark on the screen like Vlad the Impaler, Count Dracula.

ARTS / In a league of his own: Screen Actor of the Year

SO FAREWELL then, Lieutenant Ripley. In the last and least impressive of the Alien trilogy, Sigourney Weaver came back, went bald and died a triumphant death. The tale was gungy and depressed, but Weaver tied her character fast to movie mythology; resilient and amused, she kept her self-possession even when there wasn't much self left to possess, half of it having been rented out to a lodger with eight legs. It's a thunderful life, Ripley, but you did your best.
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