Sunday 31 March 2019

Dracula (1979) - A missed opportunity

Watching John Badham's Dracula. The thing is the first fifteen minutes are excellent. I know the locations are Cornwall, but at least everyone is Northern. Janine Duvitski too, but then it goes all slushy. Langella has a presence. He's a solid, good choice for the role, but having him as a ballroom dancer is a bit, well, it belongs in Love at First Bite. AndKate Nelligan as Lucy seems too unlikeable, to the extent you want her bitten, and lovely Jan Francis left alone. Did they reverse the Lucy/Mina thing for a Psycho-type shock... Plus the thing is they make everyone useless in their attempts to fight Dracula. Yes, that worked in Love at First Bite, but Love at First Bite is a silly, fun comedy. And there it was endearing. Here, it is frustrating.  And there's bits of this, i.e.Trevor Eve's burning cross that feel like a comedy. There are things to like about it. Tony Haygarth's greasy Yorkshire Renfield may be the best serious take on the character. The sets are great, but the washing-out of the restoration just makes it more boring. Trevor Eve is distracting, because it's just Shoestring. He's not Harker. And as for Olivier, the trouble is you want Pleasence in the role. Apparently, he turned it down as he felt it was too Loomis-ish. But the thing is he is a more magnetic screen presence than doddery Dutch Larry.  Plus John Williams' score has been recycled.

The climax kind of works, and letting Dracula go is not unlike the sequel hooks Hammer did, but here it almost feels like we want Dracula to be the hero.  The reason why I'm angry is that they had the opportunity to make the best Dracula film ever. And they squandered it. Plus there are bits that feel a bit De Palma-esque. And don't get me started on that ridiculous Maurice Binder cartoon sex scene... At least it's better than Coppola. 

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