Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Count Dracula (1970)

Bram Stokers Dracula has been filmed so many times, it's hard to see if there's actually any point of watching all versions out there. But Jess Franco's Count Dracula is one of the best, and together with John Badham's version from 1979, my favorite. What Franco succeeds with is to make the story quite true to the original novel - but not as true as it was planned. It takes some big steps way from the original source, but never looses the focus. For once we also has a Dracula that feels dangerous. Christopher Lee has played the old count many times, but this is one of the few times where he's using that sexual energy that's so important for the vampire-character. The coolest thing is that he starts old and gets younger and younger, and even if the make-up is a bit crude, it never takes away the illusion.

But this is not only Lee's show. First of all we have Fred Williams as Jonathan. This character has always been a wimp no matter how you write him, and so even here. But Fred is great in the part, and is both naive and handsome - as I've always seen Jonathan Harker - and never becomes a true hero. He's just following what other tells him to do. The those are Herbert Lom and Jack Taylor, as Van Helsing and Morris. Both are excellent actors, and really takes over the story after a while - with Harker lurking around in the background. Soledad Miranda and Maria Rohm is perfect as Lucy and Mina, and we shouldn't forget Klaus Kinski as Renfield. With no lines and only in one room, he still brings a lot of charisma to the character and has most of his scenes against another intensive actor, our old favorite Paul Muller.

Even if the budget is very, very low, Count Dracula has a lot of stunning scenes and locations. Just turn this movie black and white and you'll have one of those old Universal horror movies, which feels even better than if Franco tried to imitate Hammer. For even if we have all the classic ingredienses, this is far from Hammer and feels more inspired than their later vampire-flicks that Lee was forced to star in. I guess Franco had a little bit more time to shoot this movie too, because the lightning is excellent and the zooms are minimal.

This is absolutely one of Franco's best movies, but maybe a little less personal than the fan-favorites. But this stands on it's own legs as a competent and gorgeous interpretation of one of the most famous horror books ever. And if you can stand a few silly things like rubber bats on wires and those dangerous stuff animals that attacks in one scene, this is a lovely vampire-movie. And no, I won't even mention the German Shepherd's, because they're just wild dogs - and what I can remember, no one is calling them wolves anywhere in the movie!


CiNEZiLLA said...

The Count! Don't you just love the fact that Lee portrayed the Count yet again after bitching about how unsatisfied he was with the way the Hammer flicks where going? It says a lot about the kind of director Franco was, and how much people appreciated working with him. I recall this movie being shown on the old, old, old Super Channel back in the early nineties. That was before I owned my own vcr and my flat mate and I used to watch it every time it aired. I love that flick. Thanks for bringing it up Fred, and yeah I second the Badham version too, and I really liked the Dan Curtis one too. He really made the Count sympathetic and Pallance nailed that part in my opinion.

Keep up the great work Fred!

Ninja Dixon said...

Lee seem a lot more inspired here than in some of the later Hammer-movies he made, and I think the reason he also made the movie is that he - like so many others - found Franco so creative to work with. I've heard one, but I don't remember the name, talk shit about Franco's way of working, but the rest seem hypnotized by him. I wish I could experience being directed by Franco!

CiNEZiLLA said...

Then get yourself off to spain good buddy. Nothing is impossible. Just do it!

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favourite vampiremovies. Even though Lee himself says the movie was a disaster =(
But he also thinks Wicker man was brilliant. Don´t agree with him there.

Garth of Izar said...

Surprisingly subdued for Franco. What , no lesbians?!