Monday, March 05, 2007

Christoper Lee's COUNT DRACULA review - Xoanon @ 22:21 PST

The release of 'Jess Franco's Count Dracula' on DVD marks one of roughly 51 films based on Bram Stoker's iconic character (and one of nine turns for Christopher Lee to play the part). Franco, director of such camp horror classics like 'Venus in Furs' and 'The Diabolical Dr. Z' brings his vision of Stoker's novel to life not without a few flaws, but the overall effort can bring a smile to any classic horror fan.

The film tells the story of Count Dracula, Lord of Darkness, who attempts to leave his cold castle in Carpatia for the streets of London. When young attorney Jonathan Harker visits Dracula and witnesses the horrors within the castle he escapes and finds himself in the hands of Professor Abraham Van Helsing, noted occult scholar. Van Helsing believes Harker, his young fiancÚ Mina and another couple are in deadly trouble and vows to kill Dracula. When Mina's friend Lucy is killed by Dracula and turned into a Vampire herself, Van Helsing and his team move to exterminate her. Van Helsing then enlists Harker and Lucy's fiancÚ to return to Carpatia and kill Dracula before he can retreat to the safety of his castle. Dracula is ambushed outside his castle and is burned to death in his coffin.

Filmed in Spain and Germany, the film certainly does not boast the impressive budget that Francis Ford Coppola's 'Dracula' did in 1992. However the casting of Christopher Lee in the title role adds a dimension to the film that is undeniably cool. Lee however seems out of place for most of the film, as if a group of film students attempted to make a film and managed to convince Tom Cruise to be the main character. With woefully inadequate production values, the film can fall flat in a few places, even considering the 1970 production date.

Production values aside, the casting choices are inspired. Besides Lee as Count Dracula, Herbert Lom (Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus in several 'Pink Panther' films) turns in a great performance as Abraham Van Helsing. Klaus Kinski plays the part of R.M Renfield to a tee, leaving little to no doubt about the psychotic break in the mans mind. This is also one of the last films for Soledad Miranda, who died shortly before the film was released in Europe and the US. Miranda plays the pivotal role of Lucy, one of Dracula's first victims during his foray into London.

The DVd features few additional material, "Beloved Count" is a featurette on Director Jess Franco, an essay on Soledad Miranda, and a still gallery. The most interesting of these however is Christopher Lee himself reading directly from Bram Stoker's novel, if there was ever a voice that can add more gravitas to the prose of Stoker, it is Lee's.

The DVD may not be a hot buy among the younger crowd who have more up-to-date and exciting films to watch, however lovers of classic horror films will enjoy this one. It certainly is something to see if you are a Christopher Lee or Dracula fan!

Jess Franco's Count Dracula (Special Edition)