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When a ship is wrecked off Whitby, the only survivor, Count Dracula, is discovered lying on the beach by the sickly young Mina Van Helsing, who is visiting her dear friend Lucy Seward. Lucy, her fiancé Jonathan Harker (a solicitor), and her father Dr. Jack Seward (who runs the local asylum) try to make the Count feel welcome to England. The Count quickly takes the life of Mina, and proceeds to romance Lucy, with the intention of making her his greatest bride. Soon after the death of Mina, the Sewards call her father Dr. Abraham Van Helsing to come to their home. As Lucy falls deeper under the spell of the Count, Dr. Van Helsing almost immediately comes to understand that his daughter fell prey to a vampire and discovers the culprit to be none other than the Count himself. Dr. Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, and Harker work together to foil the Count's plans to take Lucy away to his native Transylvania. Written by
Hillary Glendinning (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Frank Langella, like Bela Lugosi, never wore fangs for the role of Dracula. He has stated that he considered it a compliment when fans of the film would comment on them anyway. See more »
When undead Lucy approaches Van Helsing in the mines under the graveyard, her reflection is seen in the water. When, two scenes later, Count Dracula comes into Mina's home and walks by a mirror, Van Helsing points out that he did not see Dracula in the mirror. That Lucy does cast a reflection in the water, where she ordinarily should not have, is explainable by the fact that, just before her reflection became visible, Van Helsing had dropped a crucifix into the water. That had the effect of sanctifying the water--of making it holy water, in other words; though they cast no reflections in glass or polished metals, vampires (according to one obscure detail of the superstitions about them) WILL reflect in holy water, which is the only substance capable of showing vestigial remnants of the souls they lost to damnation when they died as living beings. See more »
A Gothic masterpiece. The quintessential vampire movie.
After so many years, Lugosi's performance of Dracula wilts into camp, and the overblown Coppola version, while visually stimulating, comes across as so much hyperbole. Oldman was brilliant, but a few of his lines were poorly delivered, almost laughably so.
But Langella was the master of all vampires. His performance reels with sexual presence and a charm and sophistication that renders all other Dracula movies null and void. And why not? He had countless performances on Broadway to perfect his character, and perfect it he did. He insisted on touches, such as never wearing fangs, or never appearing with blood on his face, that added class to the vampire legend and places this version a cut above the rest.
Kate Nelligan (Prince of Tides) was so young and beautiful then and it was easy to believe that she could inspire a love that could transcend death and time. Olivier was already a ghost, and many of the scenes that involved activity no more strenuous than walking actually had to be shot with a stand in. It is rumored that Sir Larry's performance was so frail that impressionist Rich Little actually had to be called in to dub some of Olivier's lines, as he had done for David Niven in his final Pink Panther film, because the originals were virtually unintelligible given the poor health of the actors.
The brooding and regal score by John Williams drives the movie quite nicely. The film was edited by John Bloom, who a couple of years later would edit The French Lieutenant's Woman with a similar feel, and shot by Gil Taylor who shot, among other greats, the original Star Wars. Stoker would have been proud of the final result, particularly so with Langella's masterful and groundbreaking performance that launched a career. Dracula is a Gothic masterpiece that has never been given its due.
In 2004 director Badham decided to release a version in which the color had been drained from the movie, in much the same way as its central character drained color, blood and life from his victims, perhaps an intentional comparison. The "making of" featurette is delightful, and producer Mirisch's hilarious tongue in cheek observation of the "holy water" effect has already been misquoted by earnest IMDb reviewers. The remake is nice, but it was gilding the lily. And although the film was indeed improved by this modification, it had already surpassed any of its would be peers and remains the quintessential vampire movie.
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