There have been countless adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Some of them are more watchable than others. Many border on the unbearable. 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.
Count Dracula 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 other 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. For instance, Mina and Lucy 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 minor deviations when compared with some versions of the story.
When Count Dracula 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, is 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 the BBC originally aired Count Dracula during the weekends, at around teatime, it’s quite a scary version of the classic story. This partly because the cast is 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’s 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 does not come across like a 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 1977 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 a few of the scenes gives Count Dracula a unique feel.
If you enjoy vampire movies, Count Dracula is a must for your collection. 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 have to say. 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.
Louis 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
Director: Philip Saville
Count Dracula (1977) DVD Information
Run Time: 150 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1