Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dracula (1979)

Director: John Badham

Writers: W.D. Richter, Hamilton Deane, John L. Balderston, Bran Stoker

Composer: John Williams

Starring: Frank Langella, Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasence, Kate Nelligan, Trevor Eve, Jan Francis, Janine Duvitski, Tony Haygarth, Teddy Turner, Sylvester McCoy, Kristine Howart, Joe Belcher, Ted Carroll, Frank Birch, Gabor Vernon, Frank Henson, Peter Wallis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Throughout history he has filled the hearts of men with terror, and the hearts of women with desire.

Plot: When a ship is wrecked off Whitby, the only survivor, Count Dracula, is discovered lying on the beach by the sickly young Mina Van Helsing, who is visiting her dear friend Lucy Seward. Lucy, her fiancé Jonathan Harker (a solicitor), and her father Dr. Jack Seward (who runs the local asylum) try to make the Count feel welcome to England. The Count quickly takes the life of Mina, and proceeds to romance Lucy, with the intention of making her his greatest bride. Soon after the death of Mina, the Sewards call her father Dr. Abraham Van Helsing to come to their home. As Lucy falls deeper under the spell of the Count, Dr. Van Helsing almost immediately comes to understand that his daughter fell prey to a vampire and discovers the culprit to be none other than the Count himself. Dr. Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, and Harker work together to foil the Count's plans to take Lucy away to his native Transylvania.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

When it comes to Dracula movies, I don't have a problem with how loose the film makers play with the source material or tropes of what has become expected for films about this fanged dude of the night.  For my money, THE reason to watch this is for John Williams' outstanding score.  This was during that period where he could do no wrong and his scores were filled with wonderful themes and orchestrations.  The picture's got a great cast.  Pleasence is fun as usual.  Olivier feels like he's giving way more than he needed to.  I've seen that man give incredible performances but in the 70s he seemed to dial back on the quality sometimes and go too far.  Anyway, the love scene is nicely handled.

Combine that with Williams' beautiful, sinister theme and you've got what's likely the best that any Dracula love scene has been handled, before or since.  Drac's death scene is badass cool, too, and kind of tragic.  Overall, it might be a tad too slow for some but I really enjoy it.  It often gets overlooked when folks talk about Dracula pictures but it's worth checking out.  Fans, like me, of Coppola's BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (1992) will get a kick out of seeing a couple of scenes in this one that he used for inspiration on his flick.

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