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Count Dracula (1977)

Count Dracula (1977)

Count Dracula (1977) is a television adaptation of the famous novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. It was remarkably faithful to the original book. Louis Jourdan played the title role.

Cast

Plot Summary

Lucy Westenra spies on her sister Mina saying farewell to the latter's fiancee, Jonathan Harker. He is leaving on a business trip to Transylvania. The scene then shifts to the Borgo Pass where Harker is left alone by the local driver. He flatly refuses to wait for Harker and tosses his luggage out before driving away. Soon, another carriage approaches, from Castle Dracula (presumably) but the coachman does not speak. After reaching the ruined castle, Harker emerges and the coach drives away. Then Dracula himself opens the door for him, uttering the famous line "Welcome to my house. Enter freely and of your own will."

Harker, a solicitor, is there is expedite Count Dracula's purchase of several properties in England, including Carfax Abbey. The Count is urbane and gracious, but also vaguely sinister. He insists Harker stay for a month to tutor him on the finer points of English. As time goes by, Harker witnesses increasingly bizarre events. The Count--who has fangs and long fingernails--casts no reflection in the mirror. Twice Harker spots the Count crawling down the outside wall of the castle, seemingly defying gravity. Finally, he violates the Count's rules and goes to sleep in the library, where three beautiful women appear and seem to entrance him--until interrupted by Dracula himself, who gives the three a baby, which they devour. Harker explores and finds the Count asleep in a coffin, then tries to kill him with a shovel (which has no effect).

In England, Mina and Lucy go to the seaside town of Whitby and befriend an old sailor who tells them stories. One day, the three of them are atop a hill as a storm approaches, and the sailor notes a ship is in the storm, en route.

This ship is the Demeter, which goes aground. The sailor is found dead the next morning, at the very spot where he'd last seen Mina and Lucy.

Dr. John Seward, owner of a local asylum, is friendly with the Westenra family as well as Quincey Holmwood, an American diplomat who has become engaged to Lucy. Among Seward's patients is the madman Renfield who is somehow aware of Dracula's arrival, and worships (yet fears) him. Then, one night, Lucy goes sleepwalking into the local graveyard. Mina follows and briefly spots Dracula holding Lucy in his arms. From that night on, Lucy begins to change. She grows pale and weak, but rallies after sunset. She begins to sport tiny fangs. While everyone worries over her, she welcomes Dracula to her bedroom where he drinks her blood.

Seward finally call on his friend Abraham Van Helsing for help with Lucy's strange illness. He almost immediately recognizes the signs and protects the girl's bedroom with garlic. Meanwhile, Mina receives word that Jonathan has turned up in a convent in Transylvania, weak and delirious (having escaped from the castle). She goes to be with, and marry him. While she is gone, a final attack happens at the Westenra home as a wolf crashes through Lucy's bedroom window. The shock kills her mother (who has a weak heart). When found, Lucy is sprawled across the bed, pale and nearly dead.

As she fades, her manner shifts from herself to a kind of wild voluptuousness. When she finally dies, Van Helsing notices the wounds on her throat have vanished--and that she no longer casts a reflection.

Mina returns, deeply saddened at the loss of her family. Van Helsing takes Seward to Lucy's grave near dawn. They find a child nearby, dazed and talking about the "Bloofer lady" (i.e. "beautiful lady") and with tell-tale fang marks on his throat.

Van Helsing insists Seward and Quincey accompany him to Lucy's grave, where they see her approach--blood on her lips and gown. She speaks lovingly to Quincey, who nearly succumbs but flees when Van Helsing shows her a cross. In the tomb, Van Helsing explains what must be done and Quincey drives a wooden stake into Lucy's heart. Later, the professor fills her mouth with garlic and cuts off her head.

Harker, Van Helsing, Seward and Quincey all go to Carfax Abbey to sterilize the boxes of his native earth Dracula has had shipped there. They don't realize that now Dracula is visiting Mina and has bitten her. But Renfield does realize, and seeks to warn her and Seward. In revenge Dracula kills him, but before he dies Renfield manages to warn the men--who rush to Mina's bedroom, only to find her drinking blood from Dracula's chest. Dracula himself vanishes as they enter. Mina becomes hysterical, especially after Van Helsing touches her forehead with a piece of Holy Wafer and it sears her flesh. From that moment on, until Dracula's demise, she carries the scar as well as slightly noticeable fangs.

As they continue to find Dracula's boxes, rendering them useless to him with crosses and the Host, they realize he must flee back to his castle. They follow. Eventually, Van Helsing and Mina go directly overland to the Castle while the others follow Dracula's coffin, transported by Gypsies. In the Transylvanian wilderness, Dracula's brides approach the pair, but Van Helsing draws a circle around them, filling it with pieces of Holy Wafer. The Brides cannot pass, although they call to Mina to join them, naming her "Sister." The next morning, Van Helsing goes into the Castle, driving wooden stakes in each of the Brides' hearts (and Mina, sleeping, evidently feels the blows).

Finally, there is a chase. Harker, Seward and Quincey are chasing the carriage that carries Dracula's coffin. In the process, they must fight Gypsies loyal to Dracula. At one point, Harker is saved when Mina shoots a threatening Gypsy with a rifle. With hardly a moment to spare, the pursuers reach the coffin and pull off its cover. Inside, Dracula smiles noticing that it is almost sunset. But Van Helsing drives a long wooden stake into the vampire's heart, and his body erupts into a mini-sandstorm. All that is left are his clothes and ashes.

Deviations from the novel

This list is not exhaustive, but intended to convey a sense of the differences between the film and the novel:

  • Dracula does not grow younger.
  • Mina and Lucy are sisters.
  • Quincey Morris and Arthur Holmwood are combined into one character.
  • Dracula is portrayed as attractive, urbane, even seductive.
  • Dracula is not staked in the book, but has his throat slashed with Harker's kukri and is stabbed through the heart with Morris' Bowie knife.

Style

There was a surreal quality to this film. For example, several times the character of Dracula is shown as a negative image, especially when angry or feeding. When Lucy is visited by Dracula, she is shown dancing in slow motion to eerie music with Dracula's face superimposed over the screen. Likewise, when Harker falls asleep in the library, he sees Mina in the corner, brushing her hair. Often shots of particular moments (like the entry or exit of Dracula from a scene or room) are shown several times on top of one another, with slight changes of color, speed, angle, etc.

Ultimately, the effect is to make the supernatural aspects of the story blend with the more naturalistic elements--the natural light, the muted colors, the realistic blood, an actual bat, etc.

Trivia

  • After its initial USA broadcast on Great Performances, certain scenes (involving the Brides feeding from a baby) were cut from further broadcasts.
  • Other than the 1953 Turkish film Drakula Istanbul'da, which has never been released in the West, this was the first film version to portray Count Dracula crawling down a wall as described by Bram Stoker in the novel (although the earlier Hammer Film Productions movie Scars of Dracula showed actor Christopher Lee scaling up the castle wall), as well as the first to show the scene where Mina Harker meets the Brides outside the Castle.

External links

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