by Philip Saville
There have been
countless adaptations of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Some of
them are more watchable than others, some border on the unbearable, and
a few even cross that border and are less undead than they are just
dead. Or should that be dud.
The 1977 TV series, produced by the BBC and called Count Dracula, is
one of the better versions. Perhaps even the best. Louis Jourdan does
not, perhaps, look the part in quite the same way that Bela Lugosi does
in the 1931 version, neither is he quite as terrifying as Christopher
Lee is in his contributions to the Dracula franchise. Jourdan's
Dracula, by contrast, exudes a quieter kind of evil. A calculating,
educated evil with a confidence and purpose all of its own.
was originally released as a TV series and many people will tell you
that it is truer to the original story than any of the others versions
are. I would quite happily stand behind those people and back them up.
A little bit of creative license has been used in places though. Mina
and Lucy, for instance, are sisters instead of just friends, and Arthur
Holmwood and Quincy P. Morris are amalgamated into a single character
called Quincy Holmwood. But these are a minor deviations when compared
with some versions of the story.
When the Count first
opens his door to Jonathan Harker there is nothing strange or
evil-looking about him. He is just a man, but soon establishes himself
to be no normal man when he insists on being the perfect host and
carrying his guest's trunk up to his room for him. The viewer has just
witnessed Harker's struggle with the trunk as he dragged its heavy ass
across the courtyard and yet the Count picks it up as if it were an
empty cardboard box and, holding it out in front of him, carries it up
the stone staircase without even breaking a sweat.
The following day,
while Harker is shaving, Dracula appears behind him, but casts no
reflection in the mirror. Harker is, as you can imagine, slightly
gob-struck by this. Unlike in some versions though, Dracula does not
fly off into a rage at this point, he is merely amused and,
picking up the mirror, he passes his hand in front of it a
few times, even tapping on the glass. "Stupid things," he says.
"Shouldn't trust them." And he tosses the mirror out of the
window. Then the Count notices that Harker has cut himself and
the young man probably never realizes just what a close shave he has
had, because it is only the sight of the cross around Harker's neck
that keeps the Count at bay.
Although Count Dracula was
originally aired on a weekend, at around teatime, it is quite a scary
version of the classic story. One reason for this is because the cast
are so convincing. Judi Bowker makes an excellent Mina and if she looks
a little familiar it is probably because she was also the young lady
who played Vicky Gordon in the LWT television series The Adventures of Black Beauty.
Frank Finlay is a great Van Helsing. In fact, I cannot think of a
single actor who has ever played the role better. Finlay's Van Helsing
is a methodical man of science, but he has an open mind and is willing
to accept the incredible. Yes, I know this applies to all Van
Helsings, but few actors have ever played the role so convincingly.
Actually, if it is of interest, the part of Lucy is taken by Susan
Penhaligon who also starred alongside Finlay in the controversial TV
series A bouquet of Barbed Wire.
It is impossible for me
to forget to mention Jack Shepherd, because he is, without doubt, the
best on-screen embodiment there has ever been of the fly munching
Renfield. He looks gaunt and ill and very strange, but comes across not
as the traditional madman, but as an educated and intelligent man who
has a strange mental link with the Count and is, perhaps, as much
haunted as he is disturbed.
Not only is the cast
good, but what with all of the swirling fog, this version of Dracula has quite a
spooky feel to it. Of course, the choice of background music helps to
maintain the effect and the addition of some interesting coloured tints
to some of the scenes gives Count
Dracula a rather and unique feel to it.
If you enjoy vampire
movies Count Dracula is a must for your collection and I cannot
recommend it enough. Don't just take my word for it though, check out a
few other sites and see what other people are saying about it. I had a
little look around myself and no one seems to have a bad word to say
about it. And why would they? It's great.
Jourdan ... Count Dracula
Frank Finlay ... Abraham van Helsing
Susan Penhaligon ... Lucy Westenra
Judi Bowker ... Wilhelmina 'Mina' Westenra
Jack Shepherd ... Renfield
Mark Burns ... Dr. John Seward
Bosco Hogan ... Jonathan Harker
Richard Barnes ... Quincey P. Holmwood
Ann Queensberry ... Mrs. Westenra
George Raistrick ... Bowles
George Malpas ... Swales
Michael Macowan ... Mr. Hawkins
Susie Hickford ... Dracula's Bride
Belinda Meuldijk ... Dracula's Bride
Sue Vanner ... Dracula's Bride
Bruce Wightman ... Coach Passenger
Izabella Telezynska ... Coach Passenger
O.T. ... Coach Passenger
& Rental Options~