Jonathan Harker [Hardy Krüger Jr] is a successful real estate agent now living with Mina Murray [Stefania Rocca] in Budapest. While dancing at a ball being given by John Seward [Kai ...
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Jonathan Harker [Hardy Krüger Jr] is a successful real estate agent now living with Mina Murray [Stefania Rocca] in Budapest. While dancing at a ball being given by John Seward [Kai Wiesinger], a psychiatrist who runs a sanitarium, Jonathan proposes to Mina, she accepts, and suddenly all of their friends--Lucy Westenra [Muriel Baumeister], Arthur Holmwood [Conrad Hornby], and Quincey Morris [Alessio Boni], who have been secretly invited by Jonathan to the wedding--stand waving at them from the balcony. Unfortunately, Jonathan must leave this happy reunion because he is called away to confer with a new client, Vladislav Tepes [Patrick Bergin], who wishes to purchase Carfax House in Budapest for his uncle, who lives in an old castle in Romania. Even worse, Tepes wants Jonathan to drive to Romania to blackmarketeer a deal with his uncle and launder the dirty goods, a duty that Mina doesn't like at all, considering that their wedding is only one week away.
Dracula is a major presence in our house (along with his relatives the Mummy, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein, zombies, ...) I cannot claim to have seen all of the many films which are descendants of Bram Stoker's original work -- the "Dracula" name has been applied to everything from sex farce to psychological allegory, and some of it is pure trash. But we have seen more than our share of not only Dracula movies but also vampire movies in general, as well as any number of play adaptations.
It seems that most Dracula movies are not adaptations of the book, but rather adaptations of previous movies. Admittedly, the book is devilishly hard to stage/film, as it is structured as a series of excerpts from journals, difficult to weave into a consistent narrative flow. But one often gets the impression that the directors (or screenwriters!) of some of the films haven't bothered to read Stoker's novel, contenting themselves with merely screening some previous efforts.
So it is always with some trepidation we watch a new "Dracula" film, bracing ourselves for yet another schlock assault with only passing connection to the original. (Not that we are against schlock per se -- only when it masquerades to deceive.) Frankly, the cover art and copy of "Dracula's Curse" didn't give us much hope of quality.
Thus, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it is a well-appointed, thoughtful, and reasonably faithful version of Bram Stoker's book. Obviously, the production team had not only read the book but understood it, and labored to bring it to the screen as accurately as possible. In this, it stands head and shoulders above most "true to the novel" versions, including Coppola's (don't get me started on *that* one...)
The film does strike several sour notes -- the flying effects are in my opinion quite overused, and in fact unnecessary -- and at several points is at odds with tradition. (Vampiric insensitivity to sunlight will jar most people.) But many of these "traditions" are actually creations of earlier films, as careful reading of the novel will show. The ending is also rather rushed, as though the production was running out of money and could not afford the chase across Europe to save Mina.
The multinational cast does take a bit of getting used to, with as many accents as there are actors. But even this is true to the spirit of Stoker, who inserted an "exotic" American and the European Van Helsing into his story to lend it an international flavor.
Some of the casting plays against movie convention; Dracula (Patrick Bergin) in particular is at odds with what many people expect of the bloodsucking count. He looks far more authentically Romanian than any other Dracula we have seen (like a cross between Robert Goulet, Harvey Keitel, and Lech Walesa). Unfortunately, as the "aged" Dracula he looks distractingly like Scots comic actor Billy Connolly. But he has appropriate menace as well as some regal bearing, and is closer to Stoker's description than most.
The film is set in the present day, but by clever and deft scripting allows whole sections to feel as though they are set during Stoker's time. The locations and settings are sumptuous; the film makes very effective use of Budapest scenery to set the mood. Great care was obviously taken to achieve interesting camera angles.
And more of Stoker's dialogue is present than in perhaps any other version of the story, including the Louis Jourdan mini-series.
For someone who has only seen other "Dracula" movies, this one may seem slow and overstated. But to anyone who has read the book and enjoyed it, this movie is a refreshing attempt to bring Bram Stoker's original vision to the screen. Rather than rely on gratuitous gore and nudity, this production builds on mood and a fluid sensuality. Just as Stoker intended.
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