The story of Dracula, still has the power to sink the fangs into the audience and suck them into another world, Bram Stoker, never likely predicted that his novel would ever garnish this attention all these years later, but the filmmakers conjured the eternal blood drinker, and this time at the helm the legendary Jesse Franco. Franco brought forth an extremely loyal rendition to the novel, per the request of producer Harry Alan Towers who often worked with the director, done with the respect to gothic atmosphere, and the first portion of the movie, however a third of movie does change in overall conceptual design. This film, also marked the initial period of the great reign for Franco, during it he achieved acclaim for his exploitation films Vampyros Lesbos (1971), The Demons (1973), and more horror in A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973), in fact up to his passing in 2013 his credits for directing tallied 207 compared to those for writing with 177.
Christopher Lee (The Mummy ) who plays Dracula, and his eternal rival Van Helsing (Herbert Lom, known from the Pink Panther films), never saw each other during the filming, they shot all their joint scenes separately, likely, since Lom, had the attribute of a scene-stealer. The character Quincey Morris (Jack Taylor, most recently in Wax (2014)) made the first presence in film standing apart from the other adaptations, the main story obviously stays intact, and every horror fan knows. The briefest recap possible Harker (Fred Williams) on behalf of the law firm he represents visits Dracula in Transylvania buying property located in England, after his arrival to the Castle, Harker realizes that Dracula is a vampire and he must flee or die trying. Dracula visits Lucy (Soledad Miranda, her first time working with Franco, and would die later the year of the film’s release) and drains her of her life and blood. Soledad delivers an exquisite and divine performance, the beauty of her lustful eyes lures one in especially scene with the child. Franco focused the camera’s attention on actor Klaus Kinski (who passed on in 1991) performance and not as much on the visual look of his surroundings, understanding his skill would possess the attention of the audience as Renfield. His portrayal is definitely on the same level as Dwight Frye’s performances in Tod Browning’s Dracula (1931); although, Kinski upped the showmanship by eating real flies, adding the mental ward lunacy of stares and insane outbursts. A pure side note, Kinski later went on to star as Dracula in Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) also wouldn’t mark the last time an actor in a vampire flick gross viewers out with bug eating as in Vampire Kiss (1988) – Nicolas Cage munched on a real cockroach. Ewww! The film is not without a dash of ridiculousness and overwhelming terrific treacherousness, yet it excels the production with the regard of sheer entertainment. One must leave the best for last none other than the late great Christopher Lee (passed on in 2015), delivers a true testament to his legendary character Count Dracula. Lee’s interest in the character had increasingly waned, but lured him back one more time to present the strength and integrity of the haunting power that he held not only from the posturing but the dangerous charm in his eyes and alluring cunning to all before him. In Stoker’s book a classic speech resonates about the crest of his family, and actuality himself the reign of triumphs, which Lee delivers in a captivating tone.
Now the film is not without faults, the questionable special effects and screenplay lifts dialogue directly from the book, erasing any integrity in the words spoken, however the style overshadows it bringing a crisp and rich design of the never ending tale of Dracula. Another bickering standpoint from critics and viewers alike lies with the supposed continuity issues in the scenes with Harker at the Castle, inside Dracula’s Castle, it’s nighttime, Jonathan looking outside where it’s blue skies and sunshine. Some may overlook the understanding of the parallel worlds Harker observes life exists, a life force of himself, before the corruption beauty in the Lord’s kingdom in the castle only evil, damnation, no light of acceptance. Meanwhile, Franco checked much of normal unapologetic attitude to taboos, and fetish emotions surrounding suggestive tones, creating for Towers a gothic tale living up to wondrous standards of today.
The countless retellings of each version always has its own distinctive take on the source material and no matter what changes, how the social norms influence, or the culture aspect it just shows the story of the ultimate bloodsucker is still draining more than the Red Cross. Sincere thanks to Severin Films for releasing the film on Blu-Ray with over five special features. The character continues to rein supreme, from “Count Chocula” cereal to Sesame Street’s “The Count” and even animated films, but nothing quite like reading the gothic novel, but to see Lee and Franco work the magic once more is a treat for all to enjoy.
This review was originally published in June 2016 on the now defunct Rogue Cinema website and accumulated a view count of 1,843.
- Finally! The Original Version!
- The moon is full… the grave is empty… and terror stalks the land!
IMDb Rating: 5.8/10
Baron’s Rating: 6.0/10