Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 11th, 2007
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1970
Director: Jess Franco
Cast:Christopher Lee, Herbert Lom, Klaus Kinski, Soledad Miranda, Maria Rohm, Fred Williams, Paul Muller, Jack Taylor
DVD released: February 27th, 2007
Approximate running time: 97 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Dark Sky Films
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.98
Synopsis:Jonathan Harker on behalf of the law firm he represents visits a client named Count Dracula in Transylvania. The Count wants to buy property located in England. Shortly after his arrival at Castle Dracula, Harker realizes that Dracula is a vampire and if he doesn’t try to escape he die at the hands of the count. Harker narrowly escapes with his life and returns to England where he tells a man named Professor Van Helsing about Count Dracula. The two men team up too put an end to Dracula’s rein of terror before he claims another victim.
From 1968 to 1970 this would mark one of Jess Franco’s most productive and fruitful eras as a filmmaker. During these years he would work with British producer Harry Alan Towers who would give Franco some of his biggest budgets of his career. The casts for most these productions would feature some of the biggest names in European cinema at the time like Klaus Kinski, Christopher Lee and Herbert Lom all three actors would also participate in Jess Franco’s retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Over the years Dracula has been filmed many times. Despite these countless retellings each version always had its own distinctive take on the source material and now matter what changes where made to the source the end result is always like returning to an old friend that you have seen hundreds of times.
By the time Jess Franco had approached Christopher Lee about playing Dracula his interest in playing this part which had garnered him worldwide fame had waned considerably. What changed Lee’s mind about playing Count Dracula one more time was how director Jess Franco wanted to approach the story and character the way Bram Stoker had written it.
Even though this film lacks the abstract style Franco would later overuse in his films that would come after this one. This film still features some stellar photography and compositions especially the scenes where Dracula visits Lucy and drains her of her life and blood. The moments with Klaus Kinski rely heavily on his performance and not as much on the visual look of his surroundings.
Kinski does a remarkable job Renfield that is on par with Dwight Frye’s memorable performances of the same character in Tod Browning’s 1931 version of Dracula. This cast is really good overall with solid performances from Herbert Lom as Professor Van Helsing and Soledad Miranda in her first collaboration with Jess Franco as Lucy Westenra. Without a doubt the performance that stand outs is Christopher Lee tour de force as Count Dracula. This time Lee captures the essence of man and the end result is spellbinding.
Besides having a strong cast Franco also had at his disposal many of the sets and costumes that he had used or would use during his several collaborations with producer Harry Alan Towers. The score for this film was written by Bruno Nicolai and his haunting arrangements perfectly complement Franco’s visual styles and moods. Ultimately Jess Franco’s Count Dracula features one of Christopher Lee’s best performances of his career which helps overcome the slower moments and familiarity that most will have with Bram Stoker’s original source material.
Dark Sky Films presents Jess Franco’s Count Dracula in a full frame aspect ratio that looks like it retains the films original compositions as the image never looks cramped. This transfer will come as a revelation to those who have seen this film via the Spanish DVD release or Republic Pictures VHS release. This film has never looked better on home video as colors leap from the screen and details look razor sharp though out. There are no problems with print damage or edge enhancement.
This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital mono audio mix in English. There are no problems with hiss, distortion or any other audio defects. The films score and sound design sounds robust. Dialog is clear and easy to understand.
Extras for this release include a image gallery with twenty four stills and a written tribute about actress Soledad Miranda. Other extras include an option to listen to Christopher Lee read Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. Rounding out the extras is a twenty seven minute interview with Jess Franco titled “Beloved Count”. Franco as usual has plenty to say about making Count Dracula, working with Christopher lee & Klaus Kinski and other film versions of Dracula including Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 adaptation. Overall the extras are all interesting and informative especially the interview with Jess Franco.
Dark Sky Films Count Dracula release is slightly marred by one minor oversight. The inclusion of a brief scene where a Gypsy woman begs Dracula to give her child back and this scene is present on the Republic Pictures VHS release. Overall Dark Sky Films release of Jess Franco’s Count Dracula is a solid DVD release that comes with a first rate audio/video presentation and a wealth of extras, recommended.