Saturday, 13 June 2015
Count Dracula [Nachts, wenn Dracula erwacht] (1970, Jess Franco)
If any movie version of this oft-adapted classic deserves to be called "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (aside from the excellent 1977 BBC TV adaptation, which surpasses all others) then it is this one. Certainly not Coppola's pallid and overwrought 1992 effort, replete with grafted on reincarnated romance subplot lifted from The Mummy rather than Dracula.
Christopher Lee is Dracula par excellence here, embodying the character as if leaping from the pages of the novel - a story synopsis on IMDb states that "in this version" Dracula begins as an old man who becomes younger as he feasts on blood. A more accurate summary would be to state that in the novel, as in this film, this is the case, and that almost every other adaptation gets it wrong.
Herbert Lom is a solid and capable adversary as Dr. Van Helsing (though its a shame that the director's original choice of Vincent Price couldn't make it: that would have made for a very interesting combination of actors!) Maria Rohm is gorgeous as Mina, and the transcendent and much missed Soledad Miranda is wonderful as both a demure and frightened Lucy, as well as as her sexually alluring vampiric counterpart. Franco regulars Fred Williams ("The Devil Came from Akasava"), Paul Muller ("Eugenie de Sade", "A Virgin Among the Living Dead") and Jack Taylor ("Female Vampire") acquit themselves well as Jonathan Harker, Dr Seward and Quincey Morris respectively, and Klaus Kinski is perfect casting as the zoophagous maniac R.M Renfield.
Franco makes the most of his low budget, with a splendidly doomy atmosphere (the long tracking shots of Carfax from Renfield's window always creep me out, and i'm still unsure why to this day), and another winning score from Bruno Nicolai. A sorely neglected gem in much need of re-evaluating, and deserving a proud place in any horror fan's collection.