This stylish production of the classic horror tale has Frank Langella repeating his electrifying, award-winning stage performance as the bloodthirsty Count and Laurence Olivier as his arch-nemesis, Van Helsing.
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 04/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From 1979, this is the sensual Dracula...Frank Langella, repeating his hit stage performance in this John Badham directed version, plays the Count as seductive and irresistible...with his smooth as honey voice and flowing costumes. The first thing you see of him is his hand, slowly emerging from a fur cloak...it's one of my very favorite moments on film.Kate Nelligan is stunningly beautiful as Lucy. She plays her as strong and liberated and a willing participant in the Count's plans. Laurence Olivier is wonderful as always, in a performance that's about as "over the top" as he'd ever done. Also good are Donald Pleasence, marvelously insubtle as Dr. Seward, and Trevor Eve, as a more "macho" than usual Jonathan Harker.John Williams' lush score adds a lot to this film, which though it departs radically from the original book, has a lot of atmosphere, exotic sets, and sumptuous (though darkly hued) cinematography.I find the Dracula legend fascinating, and don't think I've missed a single filmed version...this is one of the two I have watched the most, the other being the Coppola one, and both films get better with repeated viewings...so if you're a Drac fan, don't miss this voluptuous twist on the old tale."
Once well-received, now forgotten--- and now in B&W!!
widowedwalker | USA | 08/07/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Odd how this 1979 little gem of a "different take" on "Dracula", based on Frank Langella's Broadway version, was fairly well-reviewed when it was first released, and considered a handsome and sumptuous updating of the old Bram Stoker chestnut, only this time with a mesmerizingly charismatic Count, with lush locations and costars like Laurence Olivier and Kate Nelligan.
Perhaps it wasn't perfect (they get Mina and Lucy, for one thing, mixed up--- but then, how many filmed "Dracula" versions are all THAT faithful to the book?!?) but it had a melancholy mood and texture that was quite absorbing and did quite well, justly, in '79.
Today, it's reputation has fallen from 'good' to 'mediocre' to 'huh?'
It's been said that Langella's stage performance "gets lost" amongst "trendy special effects", and I have to confess that I never saw Langella do the Count on stage [I understand he turned taking-off his cape into an artform], but anybody who can virtually wipe even Olivier off the screen as Langella does in the movie can't have had ALL of his stage-presence removed in the film! And as for "trendy special effects"? The "effects" are subject-appropriate; nothing excessive. Good job of directing by John Badham, and music score by John Williams.
Of course, I've yet to see the DVD quality-- hope it's good.
UPDATE 3 MONTHS LATER AFTER POSTING THE ABOVE REVIEW (8/04).... Well, guess what?--- it's NOT good (the DVD). I just got mine and what should I find? It's virtually now in black-and-white. And guess what else? Director John Badham did this DELIBERATELY for the DVD release. In the DVD commentary for the film, Badham states that they couldn't "drain" the color out of the film to his satisfaction in 1979, for mood purposes, so now he can [and DID] for the DVD.
The problem is: the movie didn't NEED this "improvement". The original photography (now completely counteracted on the DVD) was rich and atmospheric and, as it was shot in England so artfully, it had been dreary and drab in all the right spots--- but SOME scenes, expecially the low-lit interior moments [like the candlelight dinner between Langella and Kate Nelligan] had been wonderfully warm as an effective "counter".... Well, not no more, Drac-fans... The skins tones are gone, anything once orange is now dull white...
The DVD has been ruined, and on Badham's misguided orders...
There's even that one scene by the cemetery between Langella, Lord Olivier and Miss Nelligan at sunset--- and during the commentary, Badham talks about how the actors and crew had to wait all day in order to get just the right natural light, and that "today" they'd just put in the sunset with computers... But Badham's stating this as you watch the scene with the sunset now REMOVED by computers, 'specially for DVD! The pink stripe across the sky they waited for hours to get is no more! It could be just another foggy noon in England-- in which case, the Count should be in bed... And after seeing this travesty, so should I.
I feel SOOO ripped-off... Why do directors go back, so many years later after they've lost all objectivity, and "fix" good movies they got right to begin with ('cause aint nobody fixin' the BAD ones!)?
One last knife-turn: during the closing credits, Badham states he now wishes he could re-edit the film and speed it up "so it kicks ass".... [long eye roll on my part here] Terrific. So then it'll be yet another shrill, frenetic, off-paced piece of incoherent tripe we're getting in the theaters today, where you can't even follow the plot and the "mood" is non-existent because everything is screaming at you at mach-speed without relent.
Only Mr. Badham would apparently also do so in virtual black-and-white, which is now the approximate color-scheme the "Dracula" DVD.
Thanks, Mr. Badham... It's yours to destroy."
A Very Underappreciated Vampire
Luis M. Ramos | Caracas, Venezuela | 09/01/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The sreen is black. A wolf howls. The main credits start to appear with the images created by Maurice Binder (of James Bond fame). John Williams' majestic main theme sounds triumphantly. From that moment, I realized -and I still do -that I'm watching a movie version of "Dracula" that would be classically romantic and terrifying at the same time.
Frankly, I may never understand why people are so critical about this version. I mean, you have Frank Langella portraying a character that won him the Tony Award in Broadway, and he gives total charm to the bloodsucking count. There is Laurence Olivier, who plays a Van Helsing that appears to be giving poetic justice. I mean all the cast give a touch of class to this vision of Dracula. And then there is John Williams' majestic music score, giving a chilling romanticism that's very strange in horror films.
Many people may think John Badham's direction has been sloppy, and the dialogue from W.D. Richter may be weak, but I don't care: I simply love this movie version, one of my great guilty pleasures."
DIRECTOR DESTROYS MOVIE WITH COLOR TAMPERING
D. Hartman | New York, NY USA | 10/25/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I am horrified (pun intended) by what director John Badham has done to this elegant, elegiac and atmospheric retelling of the Dracula tale. When the film was originally released, it was widely noted that the use of color in the film was remarkable. I remember telling a friend that it was almost like watching an oil painting move. The texture of the color itself lent a sensuous beauty to the film in the same way that it did to the more recent Interview With The Vampire. All that to say I was all set to relive that wonderful experience when I purchased this DVD. Alas, it has been completely destroyed. I will still enjoy the terrific performances and the wonderfully sexual slant on this oft-told tale, but the contributions of the art director and cimematographer have been compromised beyond imagining by some misguided, after-the-fact idea of the director. Hopefully, someday, the Criterion Collection will get hold of this film so we can all see it the way it should be seen."
The Best Dracula on Film
bd57 | New York, NY USA | 06/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am always amazed at others' reactions to this film. Some are upset that it doesn't follow the Lugosi version; some believe it follows it too closely. Some are upset that it doesn't follow the novel; some believe it doesn't hold a candle to the Coppola travesty. I am a longtime scholar of the novel, the greatest of the post-gothic novels and probably the first modern horror novel, and am usually disgusted with the liberties taken in film versions. The Lugosi/Dean version, stage and screen, bears little resemblance to the novel, and is a pretty lousy flick if you discount Lugosi's mystique; the Spanish version produced at the same time is much more interesting. The Coppola version, supposedly faithful to the novel (only to those who haven't read the novel), actually reverses all the elements to produce one of the most perverse versions ever: every good character is presented as sleazy, inane, or insane, and Dracula is held up as some sort of hero instead of a monster! Add the ludicrous performances of Wynona Rider and Keanu Reeves, the over-the-top hamming of Anthony Hopkins, the impenetrable pseudo-accent of Gary Oldman, and the huge lapses in continuity (why does Reeve's hair keep changing color?), and you have an infuriating experience for the true Dracula fan.John Badham jettisons the novel entirely, and thus frees himself from comparisons. The movie is visually stunning. Kate Nelligan is gorgeous and acts the hell out of the part of Lucy, a "modern" woman at the beginning of female suffrage. Frank Langella is the most beautiful, sexiest Dracula conceivable - the merest gesture of a finger speaks volumes. And for the first time ever, it is truly frightening to see Dracula crawling head-first down the wall! Laurence Olivier is wonderful as Van Helsing, moving, intelligent, and wonderfully funny (my favorite lines are his: "There is work, wild work to be done!"). The humor is always intentional and very sly. The characters are fully fleshed out and relate wonderfully to one another. There are a few lapses - Dracula casts no reflection, but the dead Lucy appears reflected in a pool of water (perhaps because she hasn't been dead long enough yet?). The death of Renfield is extremely close to the novel's scene, moving and gut-wrenching at the same time. Every character part is filled beautifully, particularly Donald Pleasance (his nonstop eating is understated and used to illuminate, not merely as a schtick). The music is big and romantic and always a propos. Finally, the characters' relationships, while bigger than life as befits a gothic story, are based on true emotions, and this is what breathes life into the film. These Edwardian ladies are very prim and proper, until Dracula's power takes them into a world of sensuality. As you can tell, I'm a big fan of this film. I was thrilled from the opening howl of a wolf and the shot of that ship pounding through the storm toward the cliffs of Whitby as the desperate sailors tried to hurl Dracula's crate overboard. After the wreck Mina finds Dracula unconscious in a cave on shore, and as she bends over him his fingers reach out slowly, spider-like, yet with perfect grace, to take hold of her own. This is what the gothic novels were about: beauty and horror, fear and yearning. Cheers to Badham! Get the movie!"