Dan Curtis’s Dracula: Blu-ray Review - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Starring: Jack Palance, Simon Ward, Nigel Davenport, Murray Brown, Sarah Douglas
  • Written By: Richard Matheson
  • Directed By: Dan Curtis
  • Distributor: MPI
  • Original Year of Release: 1973
  • Special Features: Interviews, Outtakes, Spanish & French Audio, Trailer, Subtitles
  • Series:

Dan Curtis’s Dracula: Blu-ray Review

What could go wrong?

By Robert T. Trate     May 27, 2014
Source: Mania.com


Dan Curtis’s Dracula (1973)
© MPI
DRACULA. I have your attention. RICHARD MATHESON. Yes, the same guy who wrote “I am Legend”, again I have your attention. JACK PALANCE. Your eyebrow just went up. DAN CURTIS. Who? The writer and producer of the original Dark Shadows TV series. Yeah, you’re in. All these factors lead me to watch Dan Curtis’ Dracula, an original TV movies that is based on the Bram Stroker novel titled “Dracula”. The screenplay was penned by the legendary Richard Matheson, a man who not only wrote “I am Legend”, but numerous episodes of The Twilight Zone. Add old Jack Palance, slightly younger here, to play the count and one would think this is an recipe for an incredible tale. Now, this is a TV movie made in 1973, so the rules are slightly different. However, have you ever seen Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, also released on TV in 1973? TV got away with a lot more back then. Sadly, Matheson, Curtis, and Palance don’t do very much with the rich source material. 

The film opens with a dark unsettling howl. Jonathan Harker (Murray Brown) speeds towards his destiny. The formula is the same with only a few alterations from Tod Browning’s legendary film with Bela Lugosi as the title character. What Curtis does differently, besides having Harker sell Dracula (Palance) Carfax Abbey, is linger with Harker and Dracula at the castle. We spend an obscene amount of time on these two characters which should be nothing more than the setup. Harker reveals Mina (Penelope Horner) and Lucy (Fiona Lucy) to the count, only this time it is Lucy that Dracula wants. She has the likeness of his long lost beloved and Dracula leaves Harker to the fate of his wives. 

The production does have the advantage of real world locations. They went to Crotia, England, and Yugoslavia to establish the proper mood. The real world locations also create an interesting sound problem that hurt some of the dialogue scenes. Another interesting choice, when it comes to sound, is the accent which Jack Palance didn’t use for the role. In 1973 they had the advantage of listening to Bela Lugosi’s amazing and real accent come from the character for decades. Those of us that watched the 1992 version of Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, have another precedent set with Gary Oldman’s portrayal. Here, it is just Jack Palance talking in his regular voice. If truth be told, Palance was scarier in Tango and Cash (1989) than his turn as Count Dracula. I get that they wanted to do something different, but something would have been better than nothing. 

Dan Curtis’ Darcula is also confusing. We jump from Dracula’s ship arriving in London to Arthur (Simon Ward) and Van Helsing (Nigel Davenport) trying to determine what is plaguing poor Lucy. Mina is reduced to the role of friend and not someone Dracula is interested in. We get the flashback scenes of Dracula and his original beloved, but they mean very little to the plot. In fact the whole film, in juxtaposition to the opening, now feels very rushed. The danger is gone, Dracula is more of a ghoul than a dark prince, and Mina comes back into the story, but only to be used as a revenge tactic. There is no sense of the characters and their relationships to one another, so nothing feels in jeopardy. Without the urgency for Dracula to be reunited with his love, Arthur to save the day, or Van Helsing to just figure out what is going on, everything is lost. In fact, if I never saw the 1932 version or read the book, I would have been completely lost. 

There were a lot of great ingredients to make this particular Dracula story. Perhaps there were too many cooks in the kitchen? Perhaps production was cut short? Maybe Palance couldn’t do the accent and just went with his normal voice. Whatever the case, you’re better off skipping Dan Curtis’ Dracula

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COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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keithdaniel 5/27/2014 8:07:40 AM

Hello, Robert, since this is a blu-ray review maybe you could've gotten into more detail about the picture and sound quality of the movie and not just the movie itself!

Anyway, I see what you mean about aspects of this particular Dracula movie, it could've been much better written no doubt about that.  However, I don't think it's the worst Dracula movie either.  It used real world locations as you've mentioned which helped the mood and setting.  Even though I understand that they wanted to do something different with this Dracula and I don't think he was terrible in it, I still think Jack Palance was miscast.  Like virtually all Dracula films I've seen and although this one had a bit more than most, it also could've used some more action.  I liked the scene where Jonathan Harker gets attacked by the vampire women, the scene where Dracula as the wolf attacks Arthur, and (spoiler for those of you who haven't seen this!) the scene where Harker as a vampire attacks Arthur and Professor Abraham Van Helsing.  I didn't mind the scenes with Dracula and Harker after the beginning.  I just think they could've used more excellent dialogue from the novel where Dracula explains more about his background and the past glories of his nation.  But sadly most Dracula films omit that.  It's certainly dated now but overall, I still think that there's enough there to see it, a guilty pleasure.

monkeyfoot 5/27/2014 11:03:34 AM

I loved this movie when I saw it on TV as a kid. I think it was the first time I recall seeing Jack Palance.

blankczech 5/27/2014 5:34:50 PM

As far as made for TV horror movies go I thought Palance was better in the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1968).

RobertTrate 5/27/2014 6:15:51 PM

 Sorry Keith, it looked great. I did mention the sound. There were no real flaws int he transfer. 

fenngibbon 5/29/2014 11:15:47 AM

 Dracula doesn't really have a strong accent in the novel, does he?

keithdaniel 5/30/2014 7:52:17 PM

In the novel, Jonathan Harker states that Dracula has an accent and also that his english was excellent.

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