Thursday, November 11, 2021

#2,660. Dracula (1979)


John Badham’s Dracula is, without question, the most romantic of all the movies inspired by Bram Stoker’s famous tale. 

Like 1931’s Dracula, this version was based more on the 1924 stage play than the novel itself, and stars Frank Langella as the Transylvanian Dark Prince, who, as the movie opens, has just arrived in Whitby, England. 

After moving his belongings (a few coffins filled with earth) into the dilapidated Carfax Abbey, Count Dracula introduces himself to his neighbor, Dr. Jack Seward (Donald Pleasance), caretaker of the local asylum. Residing with Dr. Seward in his clifftop mansion are his daughter, Lucy (Kate Nelligan), and Lucy’s sickly friend Mina Van Helsing (Jan Francis). 

Soon after Dracula’s arrival in Whitby, Mina falls critically ill and dies. Upon hearing the news, Mina’s father, Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Laurence Olivier) visits Dr. Seward, and discovers that his daughter’s death was caused not by disease, but by Dracula, a vampire. 

What’s more, if they don’t act quickly, it’s quite possible that Lucy will be the Count’s next victim. 

Langella is suave and oh-so charming as the title character, making it easy to see why women are attracted to him. In addition, Langella’s Dracula is more of a tragic figure; the famous line about the “Children of the night” is altered slightly in this telling, with the Count observing not how “beautiful” their “music” is, but how “sad” it sounds. 

The supporting cast, led by Sir Laurence Olivier (who was very ill at the time), is also quite good, and the production design is top-notch (the gothic set pieces are beyond impressive). And while this Dracula may not be as consistently horrific as other versions, Badham and company do throw in the occasional eerie scene (Van Helsing’s run-in with his daughter in the catacombs is especially creepy).
Rating: 9 out of 10

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