Entertaining but Dated Documentary
René van Os | Beek & Donk Netherlands | 06/17/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The fascination for vampires and the mythical character of Dracula has resulted in many cinematic outings over the last century. Ever since the creation of Bram Stoker's original novel, DRACULA, published in 1897, audiences have loved the experience of being frightened by this diabolical figure. Not many know however that Bram Stoker based his vampire lord on a historical figure: Vlad "Tepes" (pronounced Tseppesh) Drakula who lived in 15th Century Romania. Born in Sighisoara in 1431, he grew up in a very hostile environment. His father Vlad II had become a member of the Order of the Dragon, an equivalent to Knighthood, which was to serve the population and protect them from their enemies, the Turks. The title of Dragon, Drakul in Romanian, was hereditary; hence Drakula, meaning Son of the Dragon. When Vlad II was Prince of the Province of Wallachia, the Turkish Sultan invited him to his court for the purpose of peace talks. However, once there Vlad and his son found themselves trapped and ambushed. Vlad II saw his son being taken hostage while he himself would become a virtual pon to the Sultan's whims. After a number of years of torturous imprisonment, Vlad Drakula managed to escape. Subsequent to his father, he crowned himself Prince of Wallachia and began crusading cruelly against the Turks. His favorite method of torturing and killing them was to impale them on large wooden poles and watch them writhe in agony until they died. Hence the nickname "Tepes" which means Impaler. Drakula headed many campaigns against the Turks and in 1476 he fell in battle during one of these campaigns. His head was taken to the Sultan in Constantinopel as a trophy while his body was buried by monks on the isle of Snagov. Strangely enough, when the monastery on Snagov was excavated in 1931, the body of Vlad Tepes was never found, which of course lent more credibility to the vampire legend. The documentary In Search Of Dracula is based on the book of the same name by Raymond T. McNally and Radu Florescu. They researched the subject carefully and published their findings in the early 1970s, at a time where the interest in the mythical figure was fairly high. (Several Hammer films with Christopher Lee were still fresh in the audience's memories and more were soon to come, including a Broadway revival starring Frank Langella.) Soon after the book hit the stands, this documentary was produced. Being a product of it's time, it now seems, of course, hopelessly dated. Yet it has retained a certain seventies'charm of being one of those documentaries you will no doubt remember having seen before in a dark and nearly forgotten past. Subjectwise the film does not quite succeed as it takes too long in getting to the point. It also takes too much time in explaining the vampire mythology and even strays in areas wholly inappropriate for this subject matter. (The Frankenstein Phenomenon being an interesting yet totally non sequitur sidebar.) The way it deals with the historical figure one would have expected a more in depth study. As the matter stands, Vlad Tepes gets a superficial working over at best. The film quality is average but some mediocre source material is used and although the sound quality is also average, the sound itself it undistinguished mono. It may have been quite a coup for an independent production as this to have landed Christopher Lee as it's narrator, host and main performer (he plays both the historical Dracula as well as the film character in a mockumentary approach), but his monotonous narration does not lend this production more than curiosa value. IN SEARCH OF DRACULA may be a pleasant surprise for vampire buffs and Dracula fans (since this film is definitely a must in a good Dracula collection) the average viewer should be aware that this production has nothing more than curiosa value due to the heavily dated approach to documentary filmmaking."
Both more and less; too much, but not enough
History Man | Potomac, Maryland USA | 05/25/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Among the many, and often duplicative, Dracula documentaries, this was probably the first and among the best. Although it is a bit dated now, it offers higher production values and more drama than most of the others, not to mention narration by Christopher Lee, who gets to play both Dracula and his historic inspriation, Vlad the Impaler. The DVD adds a number of scenes that were deleted when this film was aired by PBS some decades ago. Most of these, however, seem peripheral to the central theme and are somewhat repulsive, dealing mostly with disturbed individuals who imagine themselves to be vampires and who drink either their own blood or that of others. On the other hand, for some mind-boggling reason, other bits that were shown on national television have been cut from this print, including a brief bit of nudity. The DVD production team seems to have been far more sensitive about that than the antics of the blood-drinking individuals who are included. Still, a good overview of the Vlad/Dracula history"
A guilty pleasure in the form of a Drive-in documentary on D
James Simpson | USA | 09/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
""In Search of Dracula" is based on one of the most important books on vampires ever written. The groundbreaking, "In Search of Dracula" released in 1973, was one of the most talked about books that year and set into motion the parallels that still exist with the vampire created by Bram Stoker and his REAL LIFE sixteenth century counterpart, Vlad Tepes.
The international success of the book meant a movie was not far behind and director Calvin Floyd was up to the task.
Originally, the film was supposed to be a drive-in feature but due to poor publicity and the con-currency of the "In Search Of" television show with Leonard Nimoy, the film died at the box-office, along with any hopes of creating a series out of this. A Frankenstein follow-up was planned but was subsequently changed towards a more direct adaption of the Mary Shelly original story, which would prove to be the most faithful adaption in 1976 under the title, "Terror of Frankenstein".
"In Search of Dracula" was relatively unseen for many years before being released to DVD uncut and in it's original glory.
The documentary may seem quaint now but carries with it a sense of dread and creepiness that only films of this vintage can truly pull off. Hosted by the great Christopher Lee, himself one of the great Draculas and whom many of his own film clips are utilized for this documentary. Lee goes through the plot of the Stoker novel and through the legends of vampires in ancient and popular culture. The film details several historical events of "real" vampires often with creepy and odd re-enactments and of course, details the history of Vlad the Impaler.
The film also veers off for a time into the universe of the Frankenstein legend and how it was birthed on that faithful Summer of 1816 and how it's story is important to the Dracula one. A history of the films are also provided including several rare photographs of Bela Lugosi, footage from "Nosferatu(1922)" and a few other vampire films as well.
It's really not a great documentary but it is unique. The five star rating allotted it is due to one's personal taste for these strange, vintage documentaries. For those with a morbid and strange sense of mind this documentary will most likely suffice and it would be reccomended that one should hunt down the television episode of the same name as well as the VHS, "Dracula:The Great Undead" with Vincent Price for similiar entertainment.
All others be warned that this documentary is strange and slow-moving. Dated and bizarre.
If these words describe you than carry on and purchase this and wait for a dark night and enjoy with a couple of fellow weirdos in the comfort of you're own castle.