Jess Franco, 1970
Starring: Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski, Soledad Miranda, Herbert Lom, Maria Rohm, Fred Williams
Normally I'm right there with Jess Franco. His films might not be the most popular, but I usually respect what he's doing and leave his movies feeling entertained and like I've shared some sort of private joke with this anarchistic director. That was sadly not the case with his rendition of Count Dracula. I suspect a large part of the problem is that the world absolutely does not need another Dracula adaptation.
You know the story. Jonathan Harker is hired to travel to Transylvania and aid Count Dracula in securing several properties around London. The Count turns out to be a vampire, puts the bite on Harker, travels back to London, and spreads his vampiric plague, namely to Harker's wife and her hot friend. Harker, with the help of an eccentric doctor and some friends, tries to stop him. Blah blah blah race against time, gypsies, blah.
Count Dracula is a flawed, but entertaining attempt to make a successful adaptation of Stoker's novel. Like Macbeth, I'm pretty sure Dracula is cursed. Instead of accidents and deaths, Dracula is plagued with a dozen "faithful" film adaptations, none of which really try to stay true to the novel. Count Dracula comes relatively close, but Franco and Harry Alan Towers still felt the need to change a number of things in the script, which infuriates me. I know it's irrational, but why claim you're faithfully adapting a novel if you're not going to. Plus, I'm pretty sure Franco has no business adapting anything. His original films are always the most interesting, bizarre and rewarding. Vampyros Lesbos puts this film to shame.
With that said, there's a great cast, which makes the film worth checking out at least once. Lee shines as Dracula, though feels strangely out of place in this German/Italian/Spanish co-production. I expect him to be surrounded by a bevy of generously-bosomed British babes, not exotic beauties like Franco regular Soledad Miranda. She is lovely, as always, though she should have gotten more screen time. Fred Williams, another Franco regular, is perfectly cast as Jonathan Harker, though, like his character, is a bit bland. Herbert Lom is only second to Peter Cushing as Van Helsing and Klaus Kinski was pretty much born to be Renfield. He's insane.
Moody, but kind of slow, it's at least worth watching to see such an interesting combination of actors under Franco's direction. Interestingly, this is the first film to show Dracula as he is in the novel -- an older man, growing younger only when he gorges himself with blood. It's also one of Franco's most beautiful films, despite the crushingly low budget. Check out the cheap DVD that claims to be a "special edition."