Director: John Badham
Starring: Frank Langella, Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasance, Kate Nelligan, Trevor Eve and Jan Francis.
A few days ago, starved for vampire movies to watch I perused Taliesin's A-Z list of vampire movies and came across this film which I hadn't seen since my twenties.
I had first seen it back in the 80s as a young vampire-obsessed lad, and although there were many vampire movies still unseen on Taliesin's list my fond memory of this film made me choose it over the others, hence I found it first on my to-watch-list.
Renfield is not a committed madman at the start of the film, but actually a labourer who delivers boxes of Transylvanian earth to Carfax Abbey, and gets more than he bargains for (including a taste for bugs) when he bad mouths Dracula at the abbey for having to shift the soil-filled crates.
Mina is buried, and Seward at a loss with the marks on her neck summons her father Abraham from Paris to tell him of the terrible news. Harker arrives at Carfax to give the Count his deed to the property and he insists Harker file it at his law firm in London at once. When he apologises due to Mina's upcoming funeral, Dracula uses this time to invite Seward and his daughter to dine at his house while Harker is away, and would he be so kind to deliver the message.
As Abraham arrives at Whitby, Lucy is wine, dined and seduced by Dracula and agrees to become his bride. Van Helsing learns the true fate of his daughter after a mother of a murdered baby attests that the now dead Mina was the killer. So they dig her up her coffin and discover a tunnel into the mines were a cadaverous Mina lurks, and after a struggle the grieving father kills his daughter.
That night Dracula breaks Lucy out of the Asylum, he commissions a crate full of earth to return to his homeland, and only by a stroke of luck do the hunters' cross paths with the crate. After they are outwitted by the Count do they finally make it to the Scarborough Docks to see Dracula's ship sail off in the distance.
Hiring a boat Van Helsing and Harker manage to board the ship, locate the crate with The Prince of Darkness and his new Vampire Bride encased within. Harker tears a vampiric Lucy from Dracula's grip and the Count struggles with Van Helsing gaining the upper hand by impaling Van Helsing to the side of the ship. Harker misses Dracula with a ship hook, and subsequently getting strangled by Dracula, he is saved by the last ounce of strength from Van Helsing's limbs as he sends the hook into Dracula's back.
The script and acting were good enough though I found Eve as Harker a tad annoying, was a bit confused as to why Van Helsing was French and not Dutch, and as usual Donald Pleasance played Donald Pleasance just like he did in Vampires in Venice, Halloween and Prince of Darkness among other films.
The SFX in this were great. I loved the wall-crawling and shapeshifting - the vampire bat wasn't too hokey as it usually is, and the shifting to wolf shape was done rather well. The fang and demon eye effects were great, and I was surprised that Langella's Dracula did not show fang once.
Reading up on this film I read it was on Langella's insistence that his monster be more believable (though they kept in the wall-crawling and shapeshifting) I thought Dracula was a tad thick though for a 500-year old vampire as I do now when I watch these Dracula adaptations.
Surely the people of Romania knew his weaknesses such as the cross and garlic, which was part of the reason he moves to England, so he should know what to do when others discover his weaknesses? What happened to sneaking up behind hunters so they can't pull a cross on you, or grabbing some plates from the sideboard and tossing them like frisbies at vampire hunters' heads when they confront you in a dining room?
My Grade is A.