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E.C. McMullen Jr.
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E.C. McMullen Jr.
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The Silver Scream
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E.C. McMullen Jr.
Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
DRACULA. When you hear the name, you know the story. With that in mind, I'll assume that you guys are already up to speed regarding plot content, and will skip forward to what makes this presentation unique.
Since this movie debuted in 1979, a good many of you have no doubt seen this version. For those who haven't, it's definitely worth checking out.
I'm a serious Drac-head, and this version ranks way up there on my list (below Christopher Lee's, but above Oldman's and even Lugosi's). Frank Langella's (THE NINTH GATE) gravitic portrayal takes the material seriously without delving into melodrama like some previous versions. Like Lugosi, he delivers a lot with the eyes. He plays Dracula as a guy who only wants love, like the rest of us. He finds that love in the form of Lucy Seward (Kate Nelligan: WOLF), who happens to be engaged to Jonathan Harker (Trevor Eve: DOOMWATCH). Trevor Eve's embodiment of Harker comes across as a bit of a jealous, petulant turd, and we can see why Lucy fancies the Count. We find ourselves rooting for this charismatic villain, as Langella plays him as a bit sad at how his life has turned out, but is making a good go of it anyway - even when he's drinking the local maidens dry and snaps his enemies' necks like twigs.
As a side note: a female friend of mine saw Langella's stage version of Dracula, and said that when he first appeared onstage, every woman in the audience seemed to sit up a little straighter and pay a LOT more attention.
Langella's compelling performance definitely carries the movie, but the addition of Sir Laurence Olivier (THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL) as Dr. Van Helsing and Donald Pleasance (THX 1138, HALLOWEEN) as Doctor Jack Seward, makes this a pairing to remember. Their confrontation in Van Helsing's quarters is riveting, with only the performances of the two actors to hold our attention.
The production value is brilliant, with giant set pieces and sprawling outdoor locations. There's a real sense of scope with this version, helmed by hit-and-miss director John Badham. He manages to re-tell this oft-told tale with a sense of dignity and fun that was found in the Hammer films.
This DVD boasts a brand-new documentary, shot exclusively for this release. It's a fascinating piece that even manages to dish some dirt – particularly about Pleasance's incessant scene-stealing and Langella repeatedly sending his capes back to the costume department because the collars were either too tall or too short.
The DVD sounds beautiful run through a home theater system; John Williams' sweeping score is one of the most beautiful of his long career, and this mix definitely does it justice. The picture is where I have the biggest gripe, but it's a small one. There's a bit of film flaw evident that could've been cleaned up with a bit of effort, but it doesn't distract from the overall experience. It does, however, cause me to give this Movie/DVD 4 out of 5 stars.