Friday, March 25, 2011

Franco Friday #9: Count Dracula

Thank you (in advance) for not storming the place with torches and pitchforks.

Franco Friday #9:

Count Dracula
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom, Klaus Kinski, Soledad Miranda, Maria Rohm
97 minutes

Johnathan Harker (played by Fred Williams) has been hired by Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) to help him find residence in England. Harker ventures out to Transylvania to meet the Count and some spooky shit happens. Long story short, Harker ends up in a sanitarium to recover from nervous exhaustion and the Count has a new home in a big ass creepy house. Dr. Van Helsing (Herbert Lom) is treating Harker and tells his fiance Mina (Maria Rohm) to chill while he recuperates. Ever since the Count's arrival in town, one of Van Helsing's patients, Renfield (Klaus Kinski), has been going apeshit in his cell.

Next thing you know, Mina's friend Lucy (played by Soledad Miranda) is attacked by the Count (cleverly disguised as a bat-like creature) and drained of some of her blood. While Lucy fades away, Mina begins to suspect that this mysterious Count is to blame. After Lucy "dies", Van Helsing, with the help of Harker and Lucy's beau, Quincy Morris (Jack Taylor), discovers the proof he needs to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Count Dracula is none other than Count Dracula himself, VAMPIRE! The Count gets mad and summons a dragon with laser beams to shoot out Van Helsing's eyes. The end.

Jess Franco's and Christopher Lee's attempt to make a more traditional version of Bram Stoker's book is rather successful, I guess. I wish they had attempted to breathe a little life into the old story instead of trying (and failing) to follow it quite so... seriously(?). Jeez, Count Dracula just ain't cuttin' the mustard in the department that some people call "entertainment value". There is plenty of atmosphere in parts and some effective moments but this film runs out of steam (and money) way, way before the credits roll. Basically, this Count Dracula only comes to life when Christopher Lee delivers an awesome monologue and then again when Dracula goes after Lucy. As usual, there's just something magical about Soledad Miranda that just lights up the screen.

Cinematographers Luciano Trasatti and Manuel Merino and composer Bruno Nicolai do their jobs wonderfully and at least make this film easy on the eyes and ears. There is a pretty wild scene where some stuffed wild game come to life but it's just not enough to save the day. A slightly larger budget may have helped this one a little (especially with how listless and cheap Dracula's demise plays out) but come on, this is Franco! When did he ever NEED a bigger budget? Seriously! It feels silly even typing that but something is just wrong here.

I don't know, I'm not sure what else to say. This movie has a few good scenes but overall it is just too drowsy and too stiff. Count Dracula got my hopes up once things finally got moving but then it settled back into the tedium. Franco fans and Dracula nuts will definitely find some good things about this movie with its moments of gothic beauty and hilarity (when Lucy faints, I swear Van Helsing uses the opportunity to cop a feel) but yeah, this nearly bloodless melodrama just didn't do it for me.


  1. My sentiments precisely, especially about how Soledad simply lights up the screen. Alas.