Dracula Kinski and Bergin by Guest Author Eddie Butler

Klaus Kinski

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.

When an actor declares that “to be bitten, the desire to be blood-sucked is actually very natural”, his interpretation of Dracula is definitely one to watch out for.

He really carries the weight of centuries on his back. Moaning and groaning – literally – he seems to suck the life from his guests before he attempts to go for the jugular. Like a peeping Tom, he spies on the Harker household and is able to enter Lucy’s bedroom unbidden.

Unlike Max Schreck’s Graf Orlok, Kinski’s Count Dracula has an aversion to anything religious and is seen achingly avoiding a crucifix on his nightly rounds. Losing the supernatural and ethereal qualities of his predecessor, he projects an aura of a vapid, decaying fungus. Ironically, the script gives his reason for the earth boxes as being used as an  involvement for the Count’s botanical experiments as is the explanation that Frank Langella furnishes in John Badham’s film.

Going cold turkey as the sun’s rays strike him leaves aside the need for a big-budget disappearance or dissolution and also emphasizes the extent of research that Kinski pumped into his portrayal.

It is probably the Count’s most understated death rattle.

Unfortunately, any touches of originality that the actor puts forward are woefully misplaced as Herzog sweats to recapture key scenes from Murnau’s film without taking the time to consider why they were in the original  at all.

Kinski’s best scene is at the Castle when he intimidates Harker into giving over his blood and then collapses, totally spent, preferring to talk the night away.
The rest of his CV is littered with stints as famous characters: Jack The Ripper, the Marquis De Sade and again, Count Dracula in the sequel to Hertzog’s film. Viewed today, Nosferatu, Vampire in Venice (1988), again reveals actor/director mismatch as Kinski eventually ended up directing most of the film himself.

An actor who imprinted many feelings on others, both hot and cold, with a filmography that lists almost 150 films, he is perhaps best remembered by British and American film-goers for his scene-stealing turns in For A Few Dollars More/Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu (1965), as the psychotic, hunchback gun-slinger, and Renfield in Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula/El Conde Dracula (1970).

He was found dead in Lagutinas, California, November 23rd, 1991, from natural causes aged 65. His two daughters, Nastassja and Pola, are both actresses. The title of his autobiography is: All I Need is Love: a Memoir.

A major copout in the film is when Kinski’s vampire moans about the absence of love in his life as he visits Lucy Harker. It is a vampire staple that has dampened the action of many a horror tale, beginning with Karl Freund’s The Mummy (1932). But it is never used as so pointless a plot device as it is here.

With his powers of hypnosis gone in this film, and not being able to see himself in a mirror, he offers her the chance to stand by his side as his mate throughout the long centuries. We can see that the embittered Count is on a losing streak trying to snare the beautiful Lucy. Let’s face it, in the looks department, he doesn’t have a lot going for him and doesn’t seem to be the kind of suitor that you would like to introduce to your friends. Lucy doesn’t even offer the most heartfelt, “let’s be friends” rejection. The look of awe on her face as she gracefully parts her hair to reveal the crucifix at her throat says it all. But, thinking about it again, the vampire does wind up with the girl after all.
The whole thing has a crawling revulsion that, I believe for the most part, is unintended. Scare factor is zero in a movie whose vividly etched images stay far longer than its running time.

Patrick Bergin

Patrick Bergin Dracula’s Curse (2002). Giving this film a modern twist has caused mixed feeling amongst fans of the story and I can relate to that. However, on viewing it again, I could see how younger people could care about the characters more, if they were allowed to see them in the type of environment that they were growing up in, as opposed to the sketchy backgrounds of Stoker’s vision. The whole myth of Dracula is in the suspension of disbelief and, in a few treatments of the tale, both straight and unofficial, I have found it hard going with some movies that haven’t really understood the professional or personal status of its young leads. Seeing the Count winning easily over these children of the computer age and the corporate banks stresses even more the strength of the evil that the monster possesses. It also illustrates the ease with which this demon can entrap all of us through our own greed and avarice.

My own particular problem with the film was actually seeing Dracula moving around in the daytime. Changing into mist, rats and bats. Climbing walls. All in bright daylight and all seemingly with a view to finishing the film early. For me, the last fourteen minutes are very rushed in respect to the fair pacing for the rest of the film. Like Philip Saville’s Count Dracula (1977), this film tends to concentrate more on characterization than previous versions, adding weight to its “live for now!” motto that it imbues in its young leads. Even the vampire himself has a freshness that is lacking in many film treatments.

Roger Young’s script gives Dracula the ability to frighten people again, soliciting the love of his victims, that they join him in the last battle for Armageddon. Cajoling them with golden idols and poo poo-ing the need for morality in a world where “do unto others” has always been the way of life and would never change.
Back in more conventional attire as the Count, Patrick Bergin never misses a step. He physically resembles Stoker’s character more closely than anyone else, before or since. He adds new resonance to the clichéd speeches of the novel and is believable as both a warrior and a father of dynasties.

He is shrewd in his choice of servants. He picks Jonathan Harker to seal the deal for Carfax House in this version.
But, should he lose his control, he has already fastened on the young Lucy Westenra to begin his recruitments. Not slow to come forward, he begins his seduction of Jonathan Harker almost immediately as he laps blood from the head wound inflicted on the young solicitor by greedy peasants. The homosexual eroticism of this scene becomes more abhorrent than any type of monster that Lucy Westenra is fated to become later in the movie.

He tempts Harker with gold from his cellars and plays on his avarice by offering to throw these trinkets into his deal along with the deed for Carfax House. In fact, he literally does seem to have the Midas touch. His own brides look to have been painted with gold paint, like Venusian statues come to life from Roman mythology. He talks extensively and, like his vampire cousins in Abel Ferrara’s grim The Addiction (1995), leaves his victims open to the choice of wanting to join him of their own free will. Whatever they decide will forever be on their conscience. He requires love, but not lovers, as he wastes no time in letting his conquests know that they will be used to recruit more soldiers for his ever-growing army of the undead.

He has a male chauvinism to his personality that hasn’t been explored before, nit picking at Mina’s ideas about morality and choice, until he leaves her seething with an inbuilt desire for revenge, long before he is unmasked as the villain.

With Lucy, he breaks down her healthy libido through steamy caresses beneath his cape, nibbling on her it seems, simply as a tasty appetizer to the main course. Keeping all of his shape-changing techniques from the novel and adding a reversal of the rat into man transformation from Coppola’s movie, he literally does become unstoppable by these men of the modern age. Professor Valenti tells his followers that he has the best cover, in this age of B movies and comic books, and Bergin does seem to rejoice in this aspect of the character as well – toying with them for most of the film as separate characters with their own secret identities of the camp, chain-smoking Vladislav Tepesh and his uncle, the fiendishly lecherous Count Vladislav Tepesh; clues that any monster-savvy ten year old would crack almost immediately, but which go straight over the heads of the college seniors on his tail.

Author Eddie Butler
Photo by Branwell Bronte

As the men wreck his coffins, Dracula sets his sights on Mina. She takes his blood communion, but spreading his cape wide proves to be his eventual undoing as Mina denies her love for him by ramming home the obligatory stake. But as the Count constantly refers to his belief in the prophecy of Genesis and rebirth, not to mention his love for Jonathan, we are left wondering at the film’s fade if he has transplanted his soul into the body of Mina herself.

Patrick Bergin came to prominence as Julia Robert’s wife-beating husband Martin Burney in Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) and in the following year starred as Victor Frankenstein in an accurate UK/Polish version of Frankenstein (1992).

The two part television dramatisation has extra scenes showing Jonathan’s arrival at a Romanian hotel and the unease turning to hate from the superstitiously petrified locals as they smear the word Satana in blood on the windscreen of his car. The Count is seen to conjure the wolves to eat the peasant woman who cries for the return of her child whom he, in turn, has just fed to his brides. Also apparent are the scenes of Jonathan witnessing the Count’s coffins being loaded for transportation and his attempt to get a letter to the outside world; Roenfield’s escape from his cell and eating dirt from Dracula’s coffins, and Lucy’s attempt at seduction on Dr Seward. Collapsing, she has to be immersed in hot water to raise her body temperature as more time is given to Valenti’s diagnosis of the case. Finally, we see Jonathan’s shunning of Mina as she drives him back home after his ordeal.

The quick ending of the film and the clichéd, but well thought out, suppositions of the continuing evil are the only failings in an otherwise excellent production.

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