The first of Hammer's celebrated series of Dracula movies is one of the
best adaptations of Stoker's original novel. At the film's opening, Jonathan Harker arrives
at Castle Dracula on foot, the coachman having refused to take him all the
way. What Harker finds is a rather quaint but charming old schloss, well
suited to the Bed & Breakfast trade, and rather oddly provided with a
fast-running stream in the front yard (not terribly convenient for a
vampire!). The Count, it transpires, has hired Harker to be his new librarian,
though it never becomes clear why the Count developed this sudden desire
to have his collection cataloged. Complicating the scenario is a buxom
young brunette who is being held prisoner by the Count. A couple of plot
twists later, the Count has ventured forth from his lair in search of
Harker's fiancee Lucy, and proceeds to wreak terror on her and the rest of
the Holmwood family.
Sangster also compresses the action from months to seemingly just a few days. Gone also are Whitby, Renfield, and Dr. Seward's asylum. But there is action galore, with galloping coaches, fight scenes and blood spurting freely. Van Helsing is dashing in the most literal sense, as he seems to sprint everywhere!
Though not following the book slavishly, this version does surface a few interesting elements from the original. The blood transfusion is interesting to see performed with period apparatus. Other nice touches are Jonathan's compulsive journal writing, and Van Helsing's dictation to an early Edison recording device. One of the comic relief elements, the bribing of a customs official is actually reminiscent of the many instances where the novel's characters rely on cash incentives to speed their pursuit of the evil one.
Cast and Crew
However, almost equally of note is the film's charming and atmospheric production design by Bernard Robinson. The barbaric and semi-Oriental splendor of Dracula's great hall adds greatly to the mood of the tale.
Coup de Gras
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