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 (email@example.com)
Director John Badham originally intended to shoot the picture in black-and-white to mirror the b&w scenic design of cartoonist Edward Gorey's sets and costumes of the stage play as well as Universal's original monochrome Dracula (1931) movie but the Universal Pictures studio objected. The film utilizes mostly warm and golden colors, black, white and muted greys with only intermittent garish colors, a look and feel that director Badham said was to evoke the romanticism of period pen-and-ink drawings. See more »
The film calls Dracula's victim (Lucy Westenra in the novel) "Mina," makes her Abraham van Helsing's daughter, and goes to some lengths to establish her Dutch credentials, even having her speak the language at one point. While some might question the pronunciation of Mina's name, but as it is short for Wilhelmina, the pronunciation is correct. See more »
For years, I've listened to horror fans talk trash about the 1979 "Dracula." It's not faithful to the book, they'd complain, it's not scary, it's only made for the sake of middle-aged ladies who fancy Frank Langella, etc. etc.
Well, I'm happy to report that the horror fans are way off base this time. This "Dracula" is a classy, creepy, and sometimes downright exciting production. Sure, the script doesn't follow the events of the book exactly - the whole thing takes place in England! - but it makes the most of its limitations, so to speak.
Langella makes a very classy Dracula. He apparently refused to wear fangs or demon eyes for the role, focusing instead on making the count more "human" - not to mention arrogant, intelligent, and, I suppose, sexy (for me and other guy viewers, though, the eye candy in this movie is Kate Nelligan). Perhaps Langella is a little too "normal," and his big hair is slightly amusing, but on the whole I think he plays the role with dignity, inhabiting Dracula in a far more convincing way than the likes of Gary Oldman.
The rest of the cast is pretty good, too. Nelligan makes a lovely, capable heroine, and Trevor Eve is an OK (if underused) Jonathan Harker. Laurence Olivier's Van Helsing is a lot better than most people say he is - he comes across as smart, brave and an overall worthy opponent for Dracula. Reviewers tend to mock his Dutch accent, but I don't get too wrapped up in stuff like that; it sounds fine to me. I certainly think the cast here is much better than the parade of wooden actors and crazy hams in the Coppola version.
I like the production values of this film, too. The special effects are mostly photographic tricks but they look cool, and they aren't overbearing like modern CGI effects. The sets and locations are attractive, though the designers went a bit overboard with the Gothic ruin of Carfax Abbey (probably because they wanted to make it a substitute for the absent Castle Dracula). And, of course, the eerie John Williams score is a treat, and rightly praised by most critics.
Another plus is that the movie features a number of very powerful scenes - I love Dracula's confrontation with Van Helsing in the study, and the terrifying moment when Van Helsing encounters his vampire daughter in the mine shaft. Creepy stuff; no wonder this movie freaked me out when I was a kid!
On the downside, I found Dr. Seward, as played by Donald Pleasence, slightly too grotesque and lame to be believed. And, as usual for these Dracula adaptations, Renfield seemed borderline extraneous. The plotting flakes apart a bit at the end, too, with the car chase scene coming across as silly - and what, exactly, does the final image in the film mean? It's slightly too enigmatic for my tastes. I am supposed to be rooting for Dracula to survive or something?
Still, this is one of the better Draculas. The 1977 BBC version is more faithful and probably better. But this is arguably the best adaptation of the story to come out of Hollywood.
45 of 49 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this