Halloween Horror Binge: Day 2: Count Dracula (1970)
I somehow missed that Christopher Lee and Jesús Franco made a Dracula movie. If I ever saw promotional material for it, I must have assumed it was one of Lee’s Hammer films.
Jesús Franco is a director I’ve always wanted to like more than I do. I have friends who are enthusiastic about his work, but I’ve mostly felt like it misses opportunities. I prefer Jean Rollin, though neither is a favorite.
Count Dracula is a trainwreck of a movie with a ton of talent: Christopher Lee, Klaus Kinski, Soledad Miranda, Bruno Nicolai, Bruno Mattei, Herbert Lom, Franco himself, etc.
The camera work boils down to—Every zoom is sacred, every zoom is great. If a zoom gets wasted, the Count gets quite irate.
The zooms kill any chance of creating a dark atmosphere or anything remotely scary. The music is just as obtrusive, though good. The makeup budget might have been blown on the Crisco-thick gray-hair slop on Herbert Lom’s head. Lucy Westenra, often seen as a New Woman, has somehow never heard or seen a dog bark and is terrified and confused--the scene is not played for laughs. The set designer has never seen actual cobwebs or is confused about how they work, but as a bonus they come with big, fat plastic spiders. There are bats on a string and they make sounds like when you open and close your mouth on the little dentist spit vacuum.
And badly done day-for-night technique in a vampire film is confusing at best.
Obviously this isn’t a favorite, but I did like a few elements. The overdubbed sound design is like many European movies from the time period. Spaghetti Western fans may enjoy it. Franco graces us with the classic “awwoooo” wolf howl. The exteriors and interiors of most of the buildings are gorgeous. The brides of Dracula arise in a cool double exposure sequence. The Bloofer Lady design is striking. Kinski shines, but isn’t given much to do. Franco includes a speech from the novel where Dracula intensely recounts his family military history (a part I like in the novel, but one usually left out of the adaptations), and Lee ages backwards effectively.
Whew. I love gothic literature and movies, and sure, they can be goofy, but good grief, one of the children of the night in this movie is a stuffed ostrich.
I got a rock.
Tomorrow: Viy (1967)