Thursday, November 3, 2016

Dracula 1979 part 2

Click here for part one

5) Director John Badham biggest picture before this one was Saturday Night Fever

I guess that explains Count Dracula’s collars, deep V-neck, "Seventies stylish" shirt, and perfect hair. 

It may also explain another element.

4) That weird biting each other / love scene between Lucy and Dracula. 

Badham brought in Maurice Binder, creator of all those psychedelic “naked watch” opening credit scenes in the Bond films. He wanted something never before seen, representing a vampire wedding.  Something both original and symbolic. 

I thought it looked stupid.

I don’t feel guilty about saying this, because someone key to the creative process of this film agrees with me:

Frank Langella

3) Langella’s performance itself was amazing.

He pretty much, single handedly brought the confident, desirable and romantic version of Dracula into the popular culture.  Most of his actions were quiet and subtle, but every look, word, motion and gesture was planned and controlled.  The intent and drive behind all of them was always evident.

Though Lucy and Mina got the full Hammer Horror treatment when turned, he had no makeup, fangs or other effects. Developing the role on stage may have a great deal to do with this.  (Lugosi was similar, but with a decidedly different end result.) 

In my opinion, the wolf and bat transformations took away from the performance rather than adding to it, and they should have stuck with him appearing and disappearing out of mist and darkness.

Even the vibration of his eyeballs when he stared intensely was a stress reaction of the actor, not a post production effect.

There’s a bizarre side effect that came from his fantastic gothic, yet romantic, interpretation.

2) Dracula is the most likeable character in this movie. 

I’ve mentioned the women being marginalized as accessories, but more than anyone else, the Count encourages Lucy to be her own person. 

Jonathan (Trevor Eve) was mostly kind of a weenie. 

Seward was useless and incompetent, both as a vampire hunter and doctor in charge of an insane asylum.  That may be accurate for the time, but doesn’t add sympathy to him. 

Van Helsing came off as far more book knowledge based than effective as well.

Langella’s Dracula calls to mind his Ostap Bender from The Twelve Chairs.  (Oops, I guess there was one more Mel Brooks reference after all. That happens when you live in my head.)  They both come off as having a dangerous side when pushed, but for the most part are charming, dashing, lovable rogues with an eye for the ladies that is happily returned.

And it’s a darn good thing Frank Langella’s character is the person (vampire) most people would ally with in this version, as can be seen in my final observation.

1) Dracula wins!

Sure he gets wicked sunburn in the only makeup scene Langella had.  (And he fought against that one too.)   But before the light of day can dissolve him completely, he pulls a hitherto unused power out of his undead heiney, transforms into a kite, and flies away.

Van Helsing is dead.

Seward is still useless, and has had his asylum broken into and out of so many times his reputation must be as broken as its locks.

Jonathan is battered, scarred and injured mentally and physically.  (And still a weenie.)

His fiancé is clearly still on Dracula’s side, but not through hypnosis or enthrallment. 
It’s obvious by her knowing smile at the end, that she knows he’ll be fine after some rest and blood therapy. Just like the viewer, it’s also obvious she greatly prefers his magnetism, style, charm and promise of an eternal life of thrills and excitement to the repressive tool with the mustache she’s engaged to.

It’s a shame Frank Langella decided to never don the cape again after the two years he spent preparing and performing the role on stage and screen as he was sure it would type cast him. 

He made an impression that still endures in that short time, imagine what more he could have brought.

Perhaps Twilight would have been too ashamed to ever show its sparkly face in comparison to the master.

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