Count Dracula (1970)

Count Dracula (1970)Director: Jesús Franco

Dracula: Christopher Lee

In between refusals to ever wear the cape again for Hammer and wearing the cape again for Hammer, Christopher Lee occasionally tried to get other studios’ adaptations of Dracula off the ground. Often, like Lucy (Van Pelt not Westenra) pulling away the scarlet, dripping football he would insist that this time, the film truly followed Stoker’s story only to reveal that, for example, Van Helsing has a sideline in necromancy, Holmwood has become Quincey or Renfield has become mute (in what I have to admit is a pretty compelling if wildly misguided performance by Klaus Kinski). Also, if the words “Jesús Franco” haven’t warned you, the movie rapidly runs out of cash — the “wolves” are clearly German shepherds, and Van Helsing (Herbert Lom) and Dracula confront each other in two different cameras throughout because Franco couldn’t afford to have both actors on the same set at the same time.

That said, there are a number of very neat touches: as in the novel (and almost uniquely in the films) Dracula grows younger as he drinks from Lucy; he then lures Mina out of the house with opera tickets. The taxidermied soulless animals that guard Carfax somehow seem creepy as much as they do cheap; the “dream Brides” that bite (or do they?) Harker likewise. In a game, how much worse is a threat you can’t fight because it’s not even nominally alive, or not completely there? Finally, for those seeking Edom’s hand in the matter, Van Helsing (by now weak and wheelchair-bound), Quincey, and Harker go to the Home Secretary (!) to stop Dracula escaping England. They fail, of course, and Dracula’s Roma carry the Count’s coffin home in what reads more as a pilgrimage or religious festival rather than a frenzied escape — all part of the undercurrent of Catholic religiosity that Franco draws from the finely balanced (Anglican) novel.

 

The 31 Days of Dractober is a daily preview of a “first cut” essay on a cinematic Dracula. Expanded and enriched (perhaps with your own thoughts and comments), it will appear in my upcoming book Thrill of Dracula, part of the Dracula Dossier Kickstarter. Speaking of which, you can pre-order beautiful physical forms (not hallucinatory Bride versions) of The Dracula Dossier Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted from your Friendly Local (Bits & Mortar participating) Game Store or from the Pelgrane store and get the PDFs now!