Count Dracula is a highly atmospheric adaptation of the classic Bram Stoker novel, directed with panache by auteur Jess Franco (Venus in Furs, The Diabolical Dr. Z). Screen icon Christopher Lee (Horror of Dracula, Lord of ... more »the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) portrays the titular Count Dracula, who flees the cold confines of his Carpathian castle for the shores of England, where he must feed on the blood of beautiful Lucy (Soledad Miranda, Vampyros Lesbos) and Mina (Maria Rohm, 99Women) in order to grow youthful and stay alive. Also featuring excellent performances by Herbert Lom (The Ladykillers) as Van Helsing and Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu the Vampyre) as Renfield, as well as an ominous score by Bruno Nicolai (Eugenie de Sade, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave), Count Dracula is presented for the first time on DVD in the U.S.« less
Effective "Dracula" Adaptation with an Impressive First Act.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 02/28/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film, directed by Spaniard Jesus Franco, is alternately called "Count Dracula", "Bram Stoker's Count Dracula", and "El Conde Dracula". It was a multinational production which claims to retell the story of Count Dracula exactly as Bram Stoker wrote it. Its faithfulness to the novel is exaggerated, but "Count Dracula" was the most faithful big screen adaptation as of 1970, when it was released. Dracula is played by Christopher Lee, whose portrayals of the Count in seven Hammer Studio films made him the face of Dracula for a generation. Lee's Dracula in this film is a different character, however: more somber, intense, and strongly resembling the villain of Stoker's novel. It's also interesting to see Klaus Kinski as the madman Renfield, because he would take on the role of Count Dracula in Werner Herzog's stylish "Nosferatu the Vampyre" in 1979.
In Transylvania of 1897, an English lawyer, Jonathan Harker (Frederick Williams), has traveled to Bistritz to deliver some real estate paperwork to a client, Count Dracula (Christopher Lee), who has purchased property in London. At first puzzled by the warnings of the local people, Jonathan discovers their meaning too late, when he finds himself a prisoner in Dracula's castle. Panicked, he tries any means to escape, and wakes some time later in London, in a clinic for the mentally disturbed, unable to remember how he got there. The clinic is owned by a Professor Van Helsing (Herbert Lom), an imposing, secretive man, who at first attributes Jonathan's story of terror in Transylvania to madness brought on by trauma. Jonathan's fiancée, Mina (Maria Rohm), and her close friend Lucy (Soledad Miranda) make the trip to London to visit Jonathan. But shortly after they arrive, Lucy is struck by a sudden inexplicable loss of blood. With Lucy dying and Jonathan traumatized, Dr. Van Helsing presents his suspicions as to the cause of their illnesses to Jonathan, Mina, and Lucy's fiancé, Quincey Morris (Jack Taylor), along with a plan to fight the menace.
"Count Dracula"'s first act, when Jonathan is in Transylvania, is essentially faithful to Stoker's novel. The time it takes in the film is disproportionate, but, like in the book, it is probably its best segment. Dark, shadowy cinematography and adherence to the events and spirit of Stoker's novel set a tone of horror that persists through the film. Count Dracula is proud, aristocratic, and looks like Bram Stoker's Dracula, although the cobwebs in his castle seem out of place. All in all, the first act is very convincing -moreso than any other adaptation I have seen. "Count Dracula" is less faithful to the novel once the story moves to London, but it is still quite effective. Van Helsing is mysterious, menacing, and mercifully laconic, unlike in the novel. Mina is a minor character of no real importance. And Lucy is engaged to Quincey Morris, who is not American, instead of Arthur Holmwood, who doesn't exist. The scene of Lucy's slaying, which was a high point of the novel, falls flat in the film -a peculiar directorial decision, indeed. But "Count Dracula" consistently maintained my interest. It is paced well, suspense is plentiful, and the story is so compressed that there is no time for lulls in the action.
"Count Dracula" was reportedly frustrated by a low budget, but it is nonetheless one of the more memorable adaptations of Bram Stoker's novel and is particularly notable for its first act. Unfortunately, it's not available on DVD as of this writing, and the VHS transfer isn't good. The credits are barely legible, and sharpness and color are not always what they should be. Still, fans of "Dracula" adaptations will find it very worthwhile."
Fabulous Movie, Unfortunate DVD
S. Nyland | Six Feet Of Earth & All That It Contains | 03/01/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"COUNT DRACULA is first and foremost a Jess Franco movie, many of the people logging complaints about the film are actually making complaints about Franco's filmmaking style. This is a great low-budget version of "Dracula" that is derived from the novel, not Hammer's pulp assembly line stories or some special effects creation. Christopher Lee gives his finest performance as the good Count, with excellent supporting work by Herbert Lom as Van Helsing and Klaus Kinski as a very different Renfeild. This was the first attempt to be faithful to Bram Stoker's novel and for that reason alone deserves to be seen.
What is too bad is Dark Sky's DVD treatment, which is what we really should be grading here. It is a 3 star effort: A decent looking transfer of the film, but a composite of an English language audio track with a foreign language print ... that was sadly missing a scene. Debate rages even now amongst the movie nerd community of Dark Sky was even aware of the omission, and there are some issues relating to filtering or other optical effects done to the movie in post-production which seem different on this release than any of the home video versions.
The one thing that Dark Sky did do that should be applauded was to frame the movie correctly at the 1:33:1 open matte fullscreen ratio that the movie was filmed in, the original intent being a television event film that was a bit better than expected & bumped up to theatrical. A letterboxed version of the film made with 16x9 screens in mind would have resulted in lost picture information by cropping. Dark Sky also collected some nice bonus material for their DVD, which is a lot easier for most people to find than the old home video releases, which like it or not are still of merit for those who adore this movie as much as I do.
3/5: Get someone who knows the movie to advise you next time, I am tired of seeing my beloved favorites getting shrifted by these DVD companies and about ready to give up on them. If you manage to screw up COUNT DRACULA, what won't you screw up?"
First film to attempt fidelity to novel. Beautiful transfer
RSMM | Boston, MA, USA | 03/23/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In 1970, Christopher Lee was the reigning Dracula, but having already performed the role in three or four Hammer films, he was dissatisfied by the hissing, caricatured--though effective--version that had been created for him. He longed to interpret the role in a manner closer to Bram Stoker's 1897 novel. The opportunity arose in the film under discussion. Made with a small budget in Spain, an international cast, a director--Jess Franco--as deplored in some circles as he was revered, "El Conde Dracula" was, in fact, the closest adaptation of the novel that had been attempted to that date. Originally intended for Spanish television, the project became too formidable for the small screen, and became a theatrical production. However, it was filmed with the 4:3 TV screen in mind, and is intended to be seen in that 1.33:1 aspect ratio: Dark Sky presents it exactly that way--an honorable move to fulfill the film maker's wishes in these days of 16x9 TVs and frame-cropping vandalism. Lee is superb, looking and sounding exactly like he had leapt off the pages of Stoker's novel, almost all his dialogue actually lifted directly from it. The interpretation puts other so-called "authentic" Draculas to shame, like Coppola's ridiculous travesty performed for him by Gary Oldman. Only Louis Jourdan in the 1978 BBC adaptation--altogether the closest dramatization of the novel, is as impressive, in a different way, as Christopher Lee is here.
The opening scenes of the film are brilliant, with much subtle and striking imagery. As the film proceeds, budgetary constraints seem to have necessitated that the film and novel part company, with many omissions. Nevertheless there is much to recommend.
The new Dark Sky DVD is unquestionably the best the film has ever looked. It is sourced from an archival Italian print with a French opening title showing that it was intended for export: "Les Nuits de Dracula." The English soundtrack has been synched to the visual element. It is strikingly different from earlier versions in its clarity and color, as well as blue tinting in scenes where it was intended but never appeared in home video sources. One 54-second scene is not part of the Italian edit: a mother hammers on the door of Castle Dracula pleading for the return of her baby. While it is affecting, it is not really integral, and compared with the novel, it occurs a month too early. The scene had been filmed, I am informed, once before: in the 1953 Turkish "Drakula Istanbulda" which I have not seen. If one knows the scene from those murky early VHS tapes, it might be missed. It is unclear what Franco's intention was: he tended to hurry from one project to another, and there are always several international edits of his films. He has, in fact contradicted himself in conversation about his preferences, and has never addressed this particular scene at all.
The DVD contains an interview with Jess Franco as well as Christopher Lee reading a heavily cut and adapted version of the story originally heard on an old LP set. All in all, this is a DVD worth having."
A must have video for all serious Dracula fans!
RSMM | 05/13/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have yet to find any horror actor that compares to Christopher Lee. The sheer malevolence of Count Dracula was admirably portrayed by Mr. Lee. Of all the Dracula films produced, "Count Dracula" surely rates as one of the top three. The screenplay was one of the closest renditions to Bram Stokers novel that I have seen, and I have seen nearly every Dracula movie ever produced. Herbert Lom did a remarkable job as Prof. Van Helsing, but nowhere near Peter Cushing. The special effects were good, but could have been better and in some areas of the film, the sound quality will be found wanting. However, for true gothic horror, this film is superb. I would definitely recommend this movie to any horror fan in general and any Dracula fan in particular."
The year that Hammer gave us two Dracula films, Christopher Lee agreed to play Dracula again for a 3rd time, in Jess Franco's production of Count Dracula, on the condition that it was a faithful reconstruction of Bram Stoker's novel, & indeed the publicity at the time claimed that it was telling the story as Stoker wrote it. It was possibly the closest movie to Stoker's book up to then, even though there are still almost inevitably some differences. In terms of portraying Dracula as written, Lee himself claims it's his best performance. Here, like the book, Dracula begins as an old man who gradually gets younger as he drinks more blood. In fact, i think Lee looks very striking as the older Dracula with white hair a thick white moustache. How different he seems to the Hammer productions! With regard to the film as whole, i do have some mixed feelings about it. It has some good elements, but after the first half hour it does seem to get ponderously slow in places. The first notable scene comes about 10mins in, where Dracula, posing as the Count's coachman drives Harker to the castle amid the howling wolves & the swirling mist, & he gets off the coach & shoos the wolves away with a gesture, - his eyes blazing under the hat & scarf. Even though the 'wolves' are quite clearly alsatian dogs, i really like the whole sequence. It's very atmospheric, & remeniscent of the book. Dracula's first appearance 'proper', with the introductory scene at the castle uses well known lines from the book, & Lee plays it slightly differently to the introduction scene in the Hammer version. This Count Dracula is formally polite, but doesn't quite have the cordiality of his earlier version. When Dracula shows Harker to his room, i was surprised to see a large mirror in the room, which obviously does not show Dracula's reflection. This goes against Dracula's dislike of mirrors, & i'm sure in the book that Harker notices Dracula's lack of reflection in a small shaving mirror of his own, but i might be thinking of one of the later films. I like the scene a few minutes later where Dracula is talking the history of the Draculas, & battling the turks etc.. etc... This scene is also from the novel, & later productions go even further, by tying the historical figure Vlad the Impaler directly into things. But although Stoker's narrative does speak of a lone Dracula finally returning alone from the field of battle, he never mentions the character specifically. Lee though is clearly relishing his chance to deliver this passage from the book, & the director makes that very obvious with the full close up of Lee as he does so. I like the zoom in on Dracula's mouth too, as he delivers the classic line 'Listen to them, Children of the night. What music they make'. You can just see the fangs! It's also interesting to note that the castle scenes look as though they are actually filmed in a real castle. The rooms are huge, & it all looks very cold & drafty compared to the sumptuous Hammer sets! I like the next scene with the 3 'brides' as well. I think the transparent, ghostly look as they rise from their coffins works quite well. It's a pretty eerie effect. Although, i do think that Lee underplayed it just slightly in the bit where the Count arrives & dismisses them. Like the Hammer version, this film also completely omits all the stuff on the ship as Dracula voyages to England. After Harker dicovers the bloody lipped Count at rest in his tomb, he escapes from the Castle in fear, & all of a sudden he wakes up at the sanitorium in England! (Although, it's so obviously modern Spain rather than Victorian England). We're now just over half hour into the film, & this is where i feel it really begins to slow down. IMO, Herbert Lom's portrayal of Van Helsing doesn't help matters. Whereas i felt that Lee undeplayed it slightly earlier on, he's postively OTT compared to Lom's positively complacent version of Van Helsing. It's completely the opposite to Cushing's portrayal, with no sense of urgency whatsoever! Most of the scenes at the sanitorium are pretty dull to be honest. Only the scenes involving Renfield, played by Klaus Kinski, who comes across as suitably disturbed, breathe any life into things at this point in the film. Things pick up a bit during the scenes where Dracula feeds from Lucy. This is presented in a very different different way to the Hammer style, which included a hint of sexuality right back their first 1958 film. Here it's much more basic, & it actually reminds me more of the way it's done in 'Nosferatu'. The vampire is feeding, & the victim is in a completely trance like state, with barely any awareness, & although Dracula looks nothing like as monstrous as Count Orlok, i think it comes across as very animalistic. It's unfortunate that large sections of the narrative are really rather dull & dreary for the last hour of the film, but there are some good bits mixed in. There's a momentary highlight when Mina catches Dracula in the act of feeding from Lucy. Lee delivers a good old fashioned snarl, & we see the blood dripping down the Count's face. Also, the bit where the vampirised Lucy lures a child as her first victim, is a brief but suitably sinister scene. Although i think her later staking by Van Helsing & his comrades could've been made a bit more dramatic. One of the film's most striking scenes comes about 15/20mins from the end, where all the stuffed animals come back to life & attack Harker & Quincy is very effective. As is the scene where the now younger looking Dracula exerts a strong hypnotic control over Renfield, forcing him to try to strangle Mina. Dracula plans his escape back to Transylvania, but not before killing Renfield, & attacking Mina, whilst confronting Van Helsing, who is now in a wheelchair for no apparent reason that i can discern! But Van Helsing sees him off by drawing a flaming cross in the floor with a red hot poker. The film ends with Dracula escaping back to the castle, but Harker & Quincy have already gone ahead to sanctify the vampires' resting place. In a finale which again isn't as dramatic as it could've been, they stake the 3 brides, & set fire to Dracula whilst in his makeshift coffin, & we see the Count age to death in the flames. The poor special effects for Dracula's aging doesn't help the ending, which seems a bit of an anti-climax after the sheer drama of the way Cushing destroys Dracula in the 1958 Hammer film. And if i hear that organ motif one more time!...... Which reminds me that i forgot to mention the incidental music. It's quite good in places, but there's one bit that gets repeated for what seems like about 50 times! So all in all, it's a bit of a mixed bag this one. On the one hand, it's fairly faithful to the book, particularly with regard to Dracula's characterization, which Christopher Lee does a very good job of. But it lacks the drama of the Hammer Dracula, & unfortunately Lee's good performance is 'alter-equalled' by Herbert Lom's somewhat sleepy performance. Klaus Kinski is notable, but the other actors are just 'ok', & whilst i do like the first half hour of the film a lot, the rest of it, aside from a sprinkling of good moments, just feels a bit too lacklustre. All this makes it very difficult to rate, but taking everything into account, i think i'll settle on 6/10."