Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1974)

          Producer-director Dan Curtis, the king of small-screen ’70s horror, struck again with this restrained adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic vampire novel. (Jack Palace stars as the world’s most famous bloodsucker.) The question, of course, is whether “restrained” was the right approach for a story about sex and vampirism. Therefore, while Curtis is to be commended on some level for exercising good taste, this picture is ultimately as bloodless—metaphorically speaking—as any of the victims Dracula leaves in his wake. Penned by the great Richard Matheson, who was apparently instructed to exclude his wonderful sense of humor from the screenplay, Bram Stoker’s Dracula sticks closely to certain elements of the source material. The picture begins in central Europe, where English lawyer Jonathan Harker (Murray Brown) arrives to present various UK properties to a rich client, Count Dracula (Palance). The count and his three bestial brides prey upon Jonathan. Then Dracula takes a ship to England, where he menaces Jonathan’s fiancée, Mina (Penelope Horner), and her best friend, Lucy (Fiona Lewis), until the intervention of wily Dr. Van Helsing (Nigel Davenport).
          According to the fine folks at Wikipedia, this adaptation was the first to include two clever nuances: Dracula being the same person as real-life warrior Vlad Teppes (better known as “Vlad the Impaler”), and Dracula stalking a woman whom he believed to be the reincarnation of a lost love. (These nuances were later repurposed for Francis Ford Coppola’s frisky big-screen 1992 smash, also titled Bram Stoker’s Dracula.)  Notwithstanding its admirable literary properties, Curtis’ movie is turgid because of flat direction and even flatter performances. Palance is okay, clearly relishing a chance to play something other than a generic goon, and he strikes some facial expressions imbued with real pathos. Yet Brown, Davenport, Lewis, and Simon Ward (playing Lucy’s betrothed) seem stiff as they churn through leisurely dialogue scenes in between the film’s too-few fright sequences. Clearly, Curtis wanted to transpose the Gothic-romance formula of his enduring Dark Shadows franchise onto Stoker’s narrative, but it’s easier to appreciate what he tried to do than what he actually accomplished.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula: FUNKY

1 comment:

Will Errickson said...

This version is pretty "bloodless." Give the 1977 BBCTV production with Louis Jordan as the Count a shot.

Stoker does give a hint or two in the original novel that his Count Dracula and the historical Vlad the Impaler are the same personage, but I don't think anyone writing Dracula movies picked up on that till this one.