Count Dracula – UK, 1977

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Count Dracula is a British television adaptation of the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. Produced by the BBC, it first aired on BBC2 on 22 December 1977. It is among the more faithful of the many adaptations of the original book.

Directed by Philip Saville, the 150 minute production stars Louis Jourdan (Fear No Evil; Ritual of Evil; Swamp Thing) as Count Dracula and Frank Finlay (The Deadly Bees; Murder by Decree; Lifeforce) as Van Helsing, plus Susan Penhaligon (House of Mortal Sin), Judi Bowker, Bosco Hogan and Jack Shepherd.

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Lucy Westenra’s sister Mina bids farewell to her fiancé Jonathan Harker, who is leaving for a business trip. Harker, a solicitor, is travelling to Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania to expedite his purchase of Carfax Abbey and other properties in England.

At the door of the castle, Count Dracula himself welcomes Jonathan. Abandoned by superstitious locals, Harker was forced to accept a lift there from an anonymous passing coachman. Jonathan agrees to stay for a month to help the Count with his English. Dracula is urbane and gracious, but also vaguely sinister, and casts no reflection. After a series of disturbing events, Harker explores the castle, finds the Count asleep in a coffin, and tries (ineffectually) to kill him with a shovel…

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Reviews:

‘A nice plushy production with much galloping off in all directions and sulphurous smoke effects, a pleasant sensation of space and time and money. Something of a hole in the middle though, like a vampire after remedial treatment.’ Nancy Banks-Smith, The Guardian

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‘ …a classic for its concentration on acting and a more literal treatment of the Dracula story. Louis Jourdan turns in a terrific performance as the legendary king of all vampires … Much like the book, the Dracula character is only used sparingly to great effect. The longer running time makes the story feel complete, and the English cast play everything serious and tight.’ Brett Cullum, DVD Verdict

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‘ …has a rich gothic drama atmosphere that avoids falling too far towards melodrama. It does fail to be horrific, generally, but when it achieves it, such as with the staking of Lucy, it seems so more effective due to the gentile dramatic quality imbued within the production.’ Taliesin Meets the Vampires

‘ …the most careful adaptation of the novel to date, and the most successful.’ David J. Skal, Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen

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Cast and characters:

  • Louis Jourdan as Count Dracula
  • Frank Finlay as Abraham Van Helsing
  • Susan Penhaligon as Lucy Westenra
  • Judi Bowker as Mina Westenra
  • Jack Shepherd as Renfield
  • Mark Burns as Dr. John Seward
  • Bosco Hogan as Jonathan Harker
  • Richard Barnes as Quincey P. Holmwood

Wikipedia | IMDb | Image thanks: Taliesin Meets the Vampires

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