Count Dracula (review)

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I have a friend who swears that Louis Jourdan as Count Dracula is just about the sexy-scariest thing she’s ever seen. I can’t say that I agree, having finally had the opportunity to see the 1977 two-part BBC miniseries, at long last available on DVD to the delight, I know, of the legion of fans slavish devoted to this incarnation of the bloodsucker. Maybe it had more of an impact in the 70s — my friend remembers the original American broadcast on PBS’s Great Performances — but today, while it remains a stylishly surreal reinterpretation of Bram Stoker’s novel, there’s something a bit dated and stodgy about it. Oh, Jourdan does indeed put a sexy, urbane spin on the vampire — that he is attractive and seductive is the only serious deviation from the Victorian novel, in which the count was repulsive; this is otherwise a remarkably faithful adaptation, adhering closer to the source material than any other — and all the nightgown-clad virgins fluttering dreamily across manor lawns and moany, groany scenes of nocturnal bedroom neck-rophila make for quite a sexually charged story of the supernatural. Still, it’s slow moving to modern eyes, which makes it a big of a slog. The 1977 picture has not been cleaned up, and is rather faded and scratch, and the sound is in the original mono; there are no extras on the disc. [buy at Amazon]

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Mon, Sep 24, 2007 4:05pm

Have you seen the latest adaptation? It was screened at Christmas in the UK and starred Marc Warren (Elton, from DW 2:11 “Love and Monsters”) as Dracula. He was excellent – really creepy in a sensual sort of way. And they got David Suchet for Van Helsing. They took enormous liberties with the plot, which I thought was a shame, but it looked lovely and I enjoyed it anyway.

Charlie S
Charlie S
Tue, Sep 25, 2007 9:24am

I gotta admit, despite good actors like David Suchet, Sophia Myles, Stephanie Leonidas and Marc Warren, I thought Marc Warren didn’t fit the role well. Louis Jourdan is certainly much closer to the idea in the BBC 1977 version than Marc Warren in the BBC 2006 version. While a lot of old, classic BBC dramas like the 1977 version may be slow to modern eyes, I find a lot of those low-budget, old classic dramas are still a lot more eerie, creepy and atmospheric than a lot of BBC’s modern dramas, especially some those that try to pretend being quality drama by looking modern.

Tue, Sep 25, 2007 5:54pm

I saw the Marc Warren one, too, and reviewed it here.

Charlie S
Charlie S
Wed, Sep 26, 2007 4:03pm

MaryAnn, what did you think of Louis Jourdan’s performance as Dracula compared to Marc Warren?

Personally, judging from Jonathan-Rhys-Meyers playing Steerpike in Gormenghast, Rhys-Meyers would have a much better choice than Warren because Rhys-Meyers is definitely a lot better playing evil villains than Marc Warren. By the way, the 1977 version seems a lot creepier, eerie and atmospheric than the 2006 version with Marc Warren to me. So what I’m wondering, is being “slow-moving to modern eyes” really makes it worth skipping it for the 1977 version of Dracula and to make it worth seeing the 2006 modern version of Dracula?

Wed, Sep 26, 2007 11:48pm

It’s apples and oranges. Both actors are very fine in their roles, but the movies are very different — that’s okay, they have different agendas.

The 77 *is* more atmospheric, but it suffers from trying to be too faithful an adaptation. Cinema ain’t prose, and not everything that works in prose works on film. Of course, part of the “problem” may be that the 77 was meant to be viewed over several weeks — watching it all in one sitting is not how it was originally intended to be seen.