A look at the two most famous comedy Counts.
Love at First Bite (1979), directed by Stan Dragoti, is still the best comedy on the Dracula theme. It isn’t directly in line with the major Stoker versions, but it does slot itself very cheekily into the mix, by claiming sequelitis to the Bela Lugosi original. Pasty faced and sans fangs, Count George Hamilton is the total antithesis to his usual persona of his unique sun-tanned lothario.
Evacuated from his home by the Hungarian authorities -“We will be back with the trapeze, parallel bars and Nadia Comaneci!”- Dracula sets off for New York with his scene-stealing familiar, Renfield (Arte Johnson). Quote: “You carry the master,” intones a beleaguered cab driver.
“I always do,” quips Renfield.
Screwball comedy triumphs as the Count conducts his search for the reincarnation of his lost love, Mina Harker (Susan St James), and is perilously pursued by the grandson of Dr Fritz Von Helsing (Richard Benjamin – stealing the film). (more…)
The film was scripted by Richard Matheson, the Godfather of American horror stories; The Incredible Shrinking Man, I am Legend, and scriptwriter for a number of the best horror films of the 1960s and 1970s.
There had been talk in the early 1970s of a Hammer film titled Dracula Walks the Night, to be co-written by Matheson and resident Hammer scribe Jimmy Sangster. Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing were to continue in their roles as Dracula and Van Helsing as they square off in Victorian London. Van Helsing would team up with Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to destroy the fiend. As a further plus, it was to have been directed by Terence Fisher. Unfortunately, with the advent of vampire saturation from the American market with films like Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) and Blacula (1972), Hammer had to churn out more economical potboilers like Dracula AD 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973), robbing fans of what would have been the most interesting Dracula story conceived up to that time.
On viewing Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I came to the conclusion that I thought that Matheson had meant his story to be set on a larger scale; maybe utilising ideas from the ideas mentioned above. Although that is only conjecture on my part, but with the confines of the budget and only a promise of a television showing, the finished script had to be scaled down somewhat. What we are left with is a short film loaded with references to Producer/Director Dan Curtis’s previous explorations with vampires: The House of Dark Shadows (1970) and The Night Stalker (1972), also scripted by Matheson, with a smattering of dialogue and incident thrown in from Stoker. (more…)
Klaus Kinski as Nosferatu the Vampyre/Nosferatu Phantom der Nacht (1979). With the addition of sound, Werner Herzog’s remake of Nosferatu (1922), is made even more distant than the original. Interminably long scenes slow down the action and don’t add any kind of apprehensiveness as in the original.
The Count shies away from crosses and yet runs through a whole churchyard full of them without the slightest harm. Harker walks to the Castle without Gustav Von Wangenheim’s earlier enthusiasm. In fact, everybody seems to be suffering from a severe case of lethargy before anyone is bitten.
With reservations, Herzog cast Klaus Kinski as Count Dracula. Generally, Kinski’s roles had amounted to little more than expressive character cameos and he would often refer to his films as “junk.” As Dracula, he was constantly required on screen, his unpredictable eccentricities causing numerous problems with himself and Director, Herzog.
Mainly, his interpretation of the Count.
Herzog had wanted Dracula to be swift in his movements. Kinski preferred the slow, labored characterization that eventually made it to the screen. He also denied seeing the silent inspirational film, taking credit for his original make-up of the blood sucking phantom. Massaging Japanese kabuki make-up into his bald pate and centralizing the vampire’s teeth, he cut a very disturbing figure kitted out in kinky midnight satin as he hurdles gravestones with his own coffin tucked under his arm.