Saturday, September 8, 2012
Count Dracula (1977)
This 1977 Masterpiece Theatre version of Bram Stoker's gothic horror classic "Dracula" is considered by many people to be the best of this often retold and re-imagined story. It stars Louis Jordan, who, at the time was also known for playing the 400 year old count in the comedic broadway play version inspired by the art of Edward Gorey.
The claim this is the most faithful version is not unfounded, but even at 150 minutes long, some liberties were taken. A couple characters are combined into one and Lucy and Nina are sisters, an odd decision since it neither adds or subtracts from the story. Dracula, as in most adaptions, is young looking throughout and clean shaven, unlike the old mustached repulsive character who gains youth in the original tale.
The acting holds up fairly well overall. A notable exception is the sexy vampiric Lucy who comes across as fairly ridiculous with her suddenly raspy voice and Linda Blair inspired tongue wagging. Louis Jordan is perhaps a little too understated in his performance, coming across as bored occasionally. The role of Van Helsling is played with humor and sincerity by Frank Findlay.
The real problems with this telling is in the production values. The images are flat and the night scenes are obviously lit by a single spotlight, sometimes with great effect and other times, not so much. Music choices are downright bizarre. 70's horror electronica. While most of the effects are stylistically fitting, the decision to use the never appropriate "solarization effect" really ruins the gothic feel of the story and settings. Some scenes involving a bat, as in almost every other filmed version, are simply terrible. Even today, this particular effect is always a weak point in the production values. Oddly enough, I saw the Jordan stage interpretation and the bats were better than I'd seen in any film.
One odd critique in this mostly lauded television play is that Jordan was too old for the part. It's unfounded, he looks perfect in the role. Dracula is a man hundreds of years old, not a tween.