This blog is a place for Me to review classic British films (in particular horror films) by Hammer, Amicus and the like. But I will occasionally branch out and review international films as these are the international counterpart to the British films, some of which will include works by American International Pictures, Mario Bava et al. I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Count Dracula


Jonathan Harker is travelling to meet Count Dracula to discuss a property in England. After the discussion he unwittingly becomes Dracula's prisoner. Whilst there he witnesses unholy goings on involving Dracula and three females with sharp teeth. After he manages to escape he awakes to find himself a patient at a psychiatric clinic and under the supervision of Dr Van Helsing and Dr Seward. Later, Jonathan's fiancée's friend Lucy becomes victim to Dracula. After examining the evidence Van Helsing, an expert in vampirism, comes to the conclusion that Count Dracula is a vampire and must be stopped. As Dracula goes about picking off victims and regaining his youth, Van Helsing and his band of heroes are planning their attack to stop Dracula once and for all.

Count Dracula is a 1970 European horror film. It stars Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski and Maria Rohm. It was directed by Jess Franco. It is an adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. Although Christopher Lee stars as Count Dracula this is not a Hammer Production and is not part of the Hammer Dracula film series.

Jonathan Harker climbs into a carriage to take him to Dracula's castle. But wait, that carriage driver's voice sounds suspiciously like Christopher Lee, which can mean only one thing. DRACULA! AHHHHHHHHHHH! Hold on a second, that also means that Dracula is either very tight or he can't afford to hire any staff around his castle, not even the typical hypnotized servant or whatnot. Which means Dracula plays all and every role needed to keep his castle up and running, these include Chef Dracula, Servant Jeeves Dracula, Cleaning Lady Dracula and of course when he gets time Count Dracula.

Now that was rather bloody cool. Mina is following Dracula and before she can catch up to him he turns into a shadow on the wall and fades away. Dracula's abilities seem to be somewhat more supernatural in this adaptation which in my opinion only adds to the fear factor, giving the impression that nothing can stop him, nothing will get in his way (except of course a cross, but shhh).

I love the fact that in this adaptation the aspect of him starting out old and drinking blood to regain his youth is utilised, it gives a great effect to the idea of drinking someone's blood, that you take not only their life but their youth, it's brilliant. And, and, and on top of that...DRACULA'S GOT A MOUSTACHE! Yey!

There is a frequent use of zoom in close ups on characters' faces to the sound of music that connotates a sense of surprise, shock or horror for the character. This to me is very “70's” which I'm not saying is bad, it's just a very “70s” technique which I would commonly associate with Grindehouse films of the time. I actually rather like this camera technique, it does what it's meant to do; express the character's shock, and it's amusing when used quite often as it is in this film. I like to imagine it would start to be used when it's not necessary like for instance Van Helsing pops to a corner shop “I'd like some rice pudding please.” “We're all out of rice pudding I'm afraid.” [zoom in close up on open mouthed horrified Van Helsing].

Poor old Renfield, Dracula doesn't even use him to do anything for him, he just makes his life worse and worse. It all started when Renfield's daughter was killed by a vampire; presumably Dracula, and he was left no longer sane. So Dracula kills Renfield's daughter, causing him to lose his mind and end up in an asylum where he eats insects. Then when Dracula uses his mind control on him, he makes him break open the bars on his window and simply jump out. After that big drop and hitting the ground appearing as if in pain (obviously), the next time we see him he's back in his cell in a neck brace. Poor Renfield.

Now that was creepy, another one of Dracula's many abilities, whilst using his remote control ability over Renfield he is also using some sort of control thing over a collection of stuffed animals making them, or at least making them appear, as if they are returning to life. It's really creepy seeing a stuffed owl shaking and and making noises all the while with red glowing eyes, along with various other animals doing much the same thing.

It's a shame about the ending, such a shame in fact. I was rather enjoying the film up until that point. It was pretty anti-climactic, they just set him on fire. They being Jonathan Harker and Quincey Morris, the only two who went to destroy Dracula. Whatta gang, whatta crusade. Van Helsing didn't even go to fight along side them as he decided to go and have a stroke so he ended up having to stay at home and look after Mina. So that left Harker and Morris as the only two to take on the Prince of Darkness in an epic final battle. Problem with that is it's not an epic final battle, there seems to be an absence of a race against time before the sun sets and Dracula regains his powers. Not only that but when they do open up his coffin there isn't even a struggle Dracula just lays there and gives them a shocked look leaving them enough time to slowly set him a light and throw the coffin off a cliff. Not only was there no epic battle, no fight from Dracula but they didn't even stake him and cut off his head like they did with other vampires, they just set him on fire and chuck him off a cliff, I mean what's that all about?! No stake?! It's a disappointing end to what appeared to be a pretty decent Dracula film. It's not a brilliant Dracula film but it certainly wasn't bad, and like I said earlier I was rather enjoying it then came the ending. The ending just seemed to damage the film for me. By all means it wasn't a terrible ending but it was certainly a disappointing one.

To end on a lighter note, it being a lighter note purely because it's a bad but funny visual effect. The burning Muppet Dracula.

Count Dracula 3/5

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