At the Movies: A Mini-Look at Franco’s Dracula, plus a Footnote on Christopher Lee

I watched Jess Franco’s 1970 COUNT DRACULA last night and, as Dracula movies go, I thought it pretty good despite some critics’ claim that the film moves too slowly in places.  Of course Soledad Miranda in the part of Lucy didn’t hurt either, but Franco himself in an interview in the DVD’s “extras” makes a good case comparing it to other films, notably Francis Ford Coppola’s DRACULA (depicting Dracula as being in love is untrue to the vampire myth as seen by Bram Stoker) and the various Hammer versions (they tend not to take the material as seriously as they should), while at the same time admiring the original 1931 film with Bela Lugosi.  Franco’s also follows the novel fairly closely, dracula4compared to others, though there are still some simplifications (Dr. Seward works in van Helsing’s sanatorium; Quincy as a British Baronet is Lucy’s sole suitor, e.g.), and also stars Christopher Lee* in the title role as well as Klaus Kinski as Renfield.  And there are a few glitches, as in the sanatorium where Lucy and Mina will stay for a few nights, even though a servant had been told specifically to find rooms for them on the ground floor (the upper floors being where patients are housed), when the bat flies by to entice Lucy out, she goes down a long staircase to get to the door outside.

So is it worth seeing?  Yes.  The photography’s good, I thought, and it follows the story closely and cleanly for the most part, in itself refreshing.  And Christopher Lee’s role is terrific, playing on the idea from Stoker that, as the vampire drinks more blood there’s also a rejuvenation process, thus Lee’s character becomes younger looking as the film progresses.  The ending, to be sure, is jazzed up then by the process reversing, the corpse-to-be getting rapidly older until reduced to a skeleton and/or dust, a vampire cliche (but also true to the novel) shared with lesser movies too, but what the heck, it’s to be expected.  And here, from the novel, we’re given a reason, and that’s worth something!

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*Of course, Christopher Lee starred in all those Hammer Films too.  And so I blundered onto an interesting appreciation of all (or mostly so) nine of the films he made playing Dracula on BLASTR.COM, even if compiler Dany Roth ranked COUNT DRACULA as only number four, which can be found here.  And even Roth had a good word to say for the appearance of the three “brides” of Dracula in Franco’s version.

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