Horror Bites - A Dracula Indeed

COUNT DRACULA (1970)


Watch Franco's Count Dracula they said, it's more faithful to the story they said. Okay maybe I'm being harsh. But while it's true that Christopher Lee actually gets to speak some of the dialogue that Bram Stoker wrote on the page, there's more to whether this works or not than just lifting scenes from the book. It's probably better than Lee's other vampire movie with Hammer that year at least; the title of Taste the Blood of Dracula is the best part. But the film in question here is kind of a mess with parts that work, parts that are just bizarre, and all kinds of head scratching technical choices involved. After hearing Lee's complaints about the sort of lines he got working with the likes of Terence Fisher, I wonder if he was happy with the results here.

Well let's take the parts that work. Dracula gets to sport the moustache described in the novel, and he slowly gets younger as the story progresses. It's a neat touch which provides a visual clue to his motivations, since most of the parts about his native town drying up have been left out with the invasion plot. He also gets a good speech when Jonathan Harker arrives ... before mostly vanishing from the story. It's true that later on his activities were reported second hand originally but here they don't use the star power assembled very well. The castle scenes all work, and the woman in white plot is still here, but after the first 25 minutes things start to come undone. Renfield, Van Helsing and Lucy are all still here, sure. But in general things either get truncated or cut out in ways that make it less satisfying.

Like a lot of these adaptations events are merged to form a briefer narrative. So Mina and Lucy are already visiting Dr. Seward who is already working for Van Helsing, and Lucy's other suitors are reduced to just Quincy Morris. Dracula's castle already has a mirror just so they can get the reflection scene over with quickly and Jonathan's stay is greatly reduced so he can arrive back in London sooner. It's definitely London, not Spain. It's nice to see Herbert Lom cast as Van Helsing, but his ramblings about the black arts are not really in character and the scene where he has a "stroke"and just kind of stares right into the camera is almost laughable.

But I have to talk about the weird parts, the things that are memorable for the wrong reasons. At one point the vampire hunters go into Dracula's new home... and they're assaulted by a bunch of taxidermy animals. Seriously, he uses his powers to make a bunch of stuffed creatures make wacky sounds and twitch about on their mounts. You're guess is as good as mine at this stage. The director also has an apparent obsession with dramatic zooms which appear throughout the movie, often during pretty unexciting conversations. His total lack of care for day and night continuity is also a distracting problem. Is it light outside or has time passed? Often it's within shots from the same scene from different perspectives. Day for night is bad enough, but this is something else. It's got some interesting parts and is sort of entertaining, though often for reasons other than quality. It looks cheap, feels rushed and lacks a real sense of atmosphere. But for the curious it's worth seeing.

3/5