Today’s horror movie recommendation is the 1979 film, Dracula, starring Frank Lengella, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Donald Pleasence. The film was directed by John Badham and featured the musical score of the great John Williams. The version had been a play staring Langella and both the play and the movie were based on Bram Stoker’s 19th century Gothic novel.
All film versions of Stokers novel deviates from the source material and this version is no exception. I feel however, that this is one of the more satisfying film adaptations of the story. The movie omits the part where Jonathan Harker travels to Dracula’s estate in Transylvania where he is kept a virtual prisoner of the creepy count. Instead this movie begins with Dracula’s arrival on English soil to take up residence at Carfax Abbey. The horrific scenes of the ship struggling through a storm to get rid of its evil cargo and its ship wreck along the English coast establishes a ominous mood that the movie never relinquishes.
Langella avoided playing Dracula as he was portrayed in film by the legendary Bela Lugosi’s performance of the count and instead played him as a dark mysterious stranger full of raw sexual energy. * With his deep baritone voice Langella’s Dracula was very seductive and this made his portrayal all the more creepy!
The setting was also changed. Instead of Victorian England of the late 19th century this movie takes place about 15-20 years later in 1913. Now to the novice there might not be much difference in costumes and settings within that 20 year period; do most people recognize a difference between the 19th century and early 20th century? I do see a difference but in the end it really is not a distinction that signifies a difference.
I really think the casting of Sir Lawrence Olivier as Abraham Van Helsing was brilliant. I cannot imagine another from that time in that role. He carries an air of authority and strength of character as well as a man who is eventually over his head in the circumstances that he is in.
One of the complaints about the DVD has been about the color. The director originally wanted to film the movie in black and white but Universal Studios would not let him. In 1991 for the laser disk release, and the subsequent DVD releases, the director had almost all the color desaturated from its once vibrant presentation to where everything has a subdued and almost sepia-tone look to the movie with warm golden highlights. I cannot remember the more vibrant colored movie and I wouldn’t mind seeing the movie that way, but I have come to really appreciate the more subdued look, it really enhances the overall tension and spooky atmosphere of the film.
The movie did modestly well at the box office, making $20 million, not bad for a horror movie from that time. With the comedy spoof by Leslie Nielsen, “Dracula, Dead and Loving it!” also coming out that year was the remake of the 1922 German classic, Nosferatu. It seems this well made film was lost in all that vampire hype. So if you want to see a good vampire movie, without the sparkle, then check out the 1979 version of Dracula starring Frank Langella.
* Trivia: Bela Lugosi only played Dracula twice! His first time was in the 1931 classic and then in a comedy/horror film, “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.” He did play a vampire in two other horror movies but was forever typecast as the famous count.
Posted on October 22, 2012, in Movie Recomendation and tagged Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein, Bela Lugosi, Donald Pleasence, Dracula, Frank Langella, John Williams, Lawrence Olivier, Nosferatu, vampire. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.