DRACULA. 1979. DIRECTED BY JOHN BADHAM. STARRING FRANK LANGELLA, DONALD PLEASENCE, LAURENCE OLIVIER, KATE NELLIGAN, JAN FRANCIS, TREVOR EVE AND JANINE DUVITSKI. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I was fully expecting to hate this film. Everyone who knows me knows that the late Sir Christopher Lee has always been the only Dracula for me, although I love Klaus Kinski’s Nosferatu and Bela Lugosi’s Dracula as well. But I didn’t hate this film version of Irish writer Bram Stoker’s most famous work at all. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well, whaddya know about that…?
I’m not saying there’s nothing wrong with it, mind you. Frank Langella’s hair is much too bouffant and the collar of his Dracula cape is ludicrously outsized and pointy, fashion mistakes which the sartorially flawless Christopher Lee would never have dreamed of making.
Also, there are a couple of plotholes and confusing bits which I can’t really explain to you for fear of spoilers, and I personally would have left out the motorcar and Pegasus, The Seemingly Psychic Wonder Horse, but these are just small points. It’s a pretty good film adaptation of the story of the greatest lover who ever lived, died and lived again.
Filmed both in Shepperton Studios (England) and Cornwall, it’s deliciously gothic, suitably wild and windswept, and the presence of two of the acting world’s brightest luminaries, Donald HALLOWEEN Pleasence and Laurence REBECCA Olivier can surely only serve to sweeten the pot.
Here’s the plot, anyway. Mysterious foreign nobleman Count Dracula is the sole survivor of a terrible shipwreck off the coast of Whitby. Accident…? I think not. He and his boxes of Transylvanian soil take up residence in the fabulously ruined and creepy Carfax Abbey, where the nearest neighbours are Dr. Jack Seward (Donald Pleasence) and his daughter Lucy, who run probably the world’s least-staffed insane asylum out of their mansion home.
Shortly after Dracula’s arrival, Lucy’s friend Mina Van Helsing grows weak and sick and then dies horribly, with two puncture wounds on the side of her neck. Her father Abraham Van Helsing (Laurence Olivier) is sent for, and it seems to only take him two shakes of a lambs’ tail to work out that Mina’s death is the work of a vampire. Will he work out who the vampire is in equally quick time…? We shall see, dear reader, we shall see…
By this time, however, Lucy too has fallen under the spell of the handsome and charismatic Dracula, played almost as well as anyone can play him, I thought, by Frank Langella. He actually makes a pretty decent fist of it. He’s quietly masterful and Lucy falls for him immediately, which is not surprising given that her drippy suitor, Jonathan Harker, has bad hair and a bad moustache and all the charisma of a limp lettuce. Harker, even with the help of Seward and Van Helsing, will have the devil’s own job trying to wrest Lucy away from her new and infinitely powerful love interest…
My favourite scene is the one in which Larry Olivier meets his Un-dead daughter Mina in the mines that run the whole way underneath the town, after first entering the mine through Mina’s coffin. It’s creepy and sad and I loved it. Probably the worst scene is the love scene between Lucy and Dracula, in which cheesy red graphics are used to depict their union. Not cool, guys, not cool…!
I was pleasantly surprised to see a young Janine Duvitski pop up in the role of one of Dr. Seward’s inmates. Janine, of course, is probably best known for her role in perenially popular British sitcom ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE. She plays Pippa, the long-suffering wife of super-anal-retentive Patrick, Victor Meldrew’s full-time neighbour and sometime- nemesis. Remember when Patrick took a shotgun to a truckload of Victor’s garden gnomes one fateful Christmas…? Priceless, utterly priceless.
Overall, I loved this film and deem it worthy of addition to the DRACULA canon. For years and years prior to watching it, I’d always (wrongly) assumed that it was a DRACULA spoof film. (Maybe I was confusing it with George Hamilton’s LOVE AT FIRST BITE…?)The acting (and the bats…!) might be a tad hammy in places but it’s by no means ridiculous. It’s a good solid film with plenty of gothic scenery and sets and I could definitely see myself watching it again sometime.
What more can I add…? Go and watch the film for yourself if you can. Happy viewing, dear readers. Happy viewing. Oh, and don’t let the bats bite. They do that, you know…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at:
1) ‘… BY A WOMAN WALKING HER DOG…’
2) A WRITER’S JOURNEY
3) ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA
4) ANOTHER FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
5) CANCER BALLS
6) CATCH OF THE DAY
7) FIFTY FILTHY-DIRTY SEX-POEMS YOU MUST READ BEFORE I DIE.
8) FIFTY REALLY RANDOM HORROR FILM REVIEWS TO DIE FOR…
9) THE DEVIANTS
10) VISITING DAY