Dracula (1973)

DRACULA (1973)
TV-Movie
Article 2716 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-11-2008
Posting Date: 1-19-2009
Directed by Dan Curtis
Featuring Jack Palance, Simon Ward, Nigel Davenport
Country: UK

Dracula comes to England with the intent of finding a woman who resembles his lost love and making her a vampire and companion.

I’ve seen enough of Dan Curtis’s TV-Movies to know they are hit-or-miss affairs, but when he’s on, he’s incredibly effective. He’s on with this one, and it’s great to see Jack Palance working with him again after their effective take on the Jekyll and Hyde story. Palance is fascinating in the role; he underplays his line deliveries, but with such conviction that he’s absolutely chilling. Furthermore, the supporting cast is very strong indeed; Nigel Davenort in particular is well cast as Van Helsing. Having appeared in an especially faithful play production of the story, I’ve developed a fascination with the ways various filmmakers have amended and modifed Bram Stoker’s story over the years, not from the point of view of condemning them for not being faithful to the novel (which, to my mind, has some problems), but with real interest in the various approaches that have been taken to adapting the story. This version jettisons Quincy Morris (perhaps the single major character most likely not to appear in the various versions of the story), Dr. Seward and Renfield. The latter two omissions are a little surprising (if for no other reason that Renfield is such an interesting character), but I can also see how the whole Renfield storyline can be a distraction from the main story. It retains the characters of Jonathan Harker and Lucy’s mother, though both suffer different fates. Dracula is given a greater motivation for his choice of Lucy as his victim, a move that gives his character a bit more depth as well as giving Palance more screen time. The ending also spends a lot more time in the interior of Dracula’s castle, and though the denoument is a bit disappointing, it is better than the ending of the novel. What I like best is the wonderful atmosphere Curtis adds to the production, and the way certain visual moments manage to convey such a great deal of impact; I love the scene where we see the captain lashed to the wheel of the beached ship while Dracula looks on from the shore. Oh, it has its flaws (such as some unconvincing day-for-night scenes), but overall, I found this version very well done.

 

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