Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Copolla, 1992)
For those that don’t know, I’m currently nearing the end of my Masters in Film and Literature, and my final thesis is concerned with the sanitization (‘defanging’ if you will) of the vampire in modern media; how and why the vampire has become a romantic icon rather than a symbol of the uncanny; what Freud described as unhiemlich. One of my core ‘texts’ for the project is Francis Ford Copolla’s 1992 film version of Dracula, which I’m presenting here as the latest of the on-going Dracula film reviews. However, as I’m so immersed in critically embracing it, it’s actually quite difficult to offer as generalised a review as I might have done with the others. With that in mind, I’ll probably have even more to say about this film at some point in the near future. In the meantime, however, I’ve already decided that its one of my favourite versions.
Gosh, it’s 2013 already, and what’s occurring in the experience of Serendipity 3864?
Well, a few bits of interesting news and thoughts here, which I shall communicate in a brief numerical fashion! Continue reading
From the moment the titles started to show, I could tell this was going to be quite a classy production. It also takes a few liberties with the book, which I’m not entirely satisfied with, but I grudgingly admit work quite well. It all depends on whether you prefer your version of Dracula to be more of a romantic anti-hero. Frank Langella’s take on the role is very much in this mould, and the fact that he’s a very dashing embodiment of the Count helps enormously.
The film is quite well directed, with some great sets and creative, metaphorical touches (I love the view from the spider web at Carfax abbey, when Lucy visits. The moment that the Count has entered the room below, the spider in the web arrives at and obscures Lucy many feet beneath). There isn’t much in the way of genuine scares though, or bloody horror. This is a more sensual, even sexy version of the novel.
Count Dracula (Phillip Saville, 1977)
So, onwards with our journey through the cinematic world of Bram Stoker’s Vampire Count, with a look at the BBC’s first adaptation, from 1977. Sadly, I have to start on a negative. The one thing that lets down the BBC’s sterling archive of literary output more than anything else, in my opinion, is the medium of professional videotape. To a modern audience it makes the otherwise sublime look unfortunately cheap.
That problem was one I could see here, alongside some unfortunately dated video effects. Overall, however, this TV version stands strong against the more lavish or classic product.
Louis Jordan is a surprising choice to play the Count, but proves quite effective, using charm and manners as an effective and manipulative veneer. Also in the cast are a pre- Clash of the Titans Judi Bowker, and a pre-Emmerdale Susan Penhaligon, both of whom turn in very watchable performances. Frank Finlay is also more than fine as Van Helsing, but elsewhere the performances are not as strong. Richard Barnes’ turn as Quincy is often unintentionally corny, with a rather amusing American accent. Barnes’ role is actually a combination of the characters of Quincy and Arthur Holmwood ). Continue reading
Jack Palance. A very scary Dracula indeed.
Dan Curtis’ version of Dracula is in many ways relatively faithful to the novel (although some elements are changed or omitted altogether, such as the character of Renfield), but it adds a romantic element not present in the Stoker original, which would be touched upon again in the 1992 film version.
The change in the emphasis was done to give Dracula an apparently more plausible reason for coming to England, as he wants to find the reincarnation of his lost love, although to be fair I always thought fresh blood and good old fashioned vampiric invasion were good enough reasons on their own. Continue reading
Crreeeeeeaaak!Thud! Aha, there you are! As I arise once again from my coffin, let us see what cinematic delight can quench our thirst! After Hammer’s seminal take on Stoker’s book in 1958 (and the long series that followed it), there was another adaptation by the BBC in 1968 (starring Denholm Elliot). This version is especially difficult to get hold of, and therefore has not been viewed by my good self. Interestingly it was screened on television the same year Hammer released Dracula has risen from the grave. Whether it could compete with Hammer’s lurid and sexually enticing blend of horror remains to be seen.
So, onwards to 1970, and the next film adaptation of Stoker’s novel:
Count Dracula (El Conde Dracula) (Jess Franco, 1970)
A very commendable idea in theory that is just poorly realised, Jess Franco’s take on Dracula is just a tiring mess of a motion picture. The whole film drags and even the standout parts, such as Christopher Lee’s more restrained and faithful portrayal, can’t really rescue the film from anything other than an intriguing curio. At first the film stays reasonably close to Stoker’s novel before becoming a bit of a muddled narrative. Early in the film, Lee’s monologue and the castle scenes were very watchable, and the scene with the brides taking the baby promised some genuine horror to follow. But as things progressed I found myself wondering what was happening on more than one occasion and Franco’s direction didn’t help (he’s a bit too over fond of his zoom lens, I have to say). Continue reading
Perhaps for a modern audience, Britain’s Hammer studios, more than even Universal, have provided the visual shorthand for Stoker’s vampire villain in the minds of the mass collective. Their output ranged from the stylishly sublime to the tackily ridiculous, but they were never boring. Let’s watch…if you dare!
Like Universal studios before them, Hammer films followed up their initial Dracula novel adaptation with a sequel, which came in 1960, with a film that didn’t actually feature the Count himself, so the title was a rather misleading….
Brides of Dracula (Terence Fisher, 1960)
….which was really a sequel for the character of Van Helsing, rather than Dracula.
But thankfully Van Helsing does return in splendid form, played once again by Peter Cushing , who encounters a rather feeble David Peel, probably cast for his looks, who plays a significantly less effective sub-Dracula type called Baron Meister, a vampire who’s own mother keeps him alive, but chained up at the decadent family castle. This is all until a well meaning visitor, Marianne, played by the beautiful Bardot-esque Yvonne Monlaur, sets him free.
Unfortunately, Peel is nowhere near as good as Lee, but luckily the film makes up for this is most other areas. It’s a very atmospheric movie with definite sinister undertones, and even a hint of an incestuous/Oedipus thing going on between the Baron and his mother, who even becomes one of his victims. Coupled with some great visual photography and Hammer’s usual attention to detail in their stunning set designs, this movie still has plenty going for it. Continue reading