Dracula (1979, Universal Studios)
This is one I had no interest in seeing up until a few weeks ago. Just one look at Frank Langella as the Count and I just couldn’t take him seriously for all these years. Despite this, I have read many good reviews of the film and decided to finally watch it one creepy, windy Fall evening. Though the novel is the obvious inspiration, the screenplay is said to have taken more from the stage adaptation rather than the book. Interestingly, just as Bela Lugosi had starred in the stage play, Langella also had a run in the role of Dracula in the theater before getting the film role.
Although no one will ever top the suave Eastern Euro-creepiness that Bela brought to the role, I will admit that Frank does a good job playing the character with charm, sophistication and class even if I don’t think he necessarily “looks” the part of Dracula.
Though a Universal film, to my knowledge this was not an attempt at rebooting the Dracula/monster franchise. Then again, who knows where Universal might have gone next if the film was a larger financial success (reviews were positive though) as I felt the climax was a bit open-ended.
There is sense of class to the whole production (and the set design for the interior’s of Dracula’s castle is amazing) and the film is much more of a romantic drama rather than a simple case of Dracula wanting a new addition to his harem of brides. In fact, some posters for this film promoted it as a love story. In regard to the emphasis on sex & romance, and the slower pace, this actually feels a bit like a Hammer production.
All told, the 1979 version is a solid movie but it’s a bit slow in pace and still pales in comparison to the original Universal production.