A young lawyer travels to Transylvania to close a business deal with the mysterious aristocrat, Count Dracula, only to find that the local villagers live in fear of him and shun his castle. Later on, after spending a few days enjoying the not so nobleman’s form of hospitality, he finds out why…
Fairly stately and faithful adaptation of the Bram Stoker classic, which offers little new and delivers it on a fairly limited budget. The most obvious shortcoming of this lack of finance is that we see nothing of the Count’s trip from the Carpathians to lstanbul (bravely standing in for Whitby), we only hear of a shipwreck and the mysterious deaths of the crew. Similarly, set dressing is rather minimal, which works fine for the early castle scenes, of course, but is somewhat less effective later on.
The only real departure plot-wise from the novel concerns the heroine, played by Annie Ball. She has a few other credits and there’s no biographical information to suggest otherwise, but obviously her name could have been anglicised in anticipation of a possible release overseas. Here, she is a dancer at a local theatre, engaging in some pretty tame ‘follies’ rather brilliantly sponsored by ‘Minerva Sewing Machinery’! In fact, the Count likes her performances so much that he demands a private show, although this does tend to make him look like a dirty old lech rather than the king of the vampires.
The Count also gets a strange servant in the castle scenes; a weird looking man with bushy facial hair and a huge nose, although exactly who he is supposed to be remains unclear. He’s standing in for Renfield of course but, as he doesn’t make it out of Transylvania, his presence seems rather pointless. The one definite nod to the novel is that the Count (in the person of Atif Kaptan) is a much older man than usual, with white hair (what’s left of it).
Elsewhere the film has as much in common with F.W. Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’ (1922) as it does the all-conquering version starring Bela Lugosi as ’Dracula’ (1931). The vamp is interrupted mid-bite by a cock crow, the lid of his coffin replaces itself while he rests inside and a few shots of the lawyer’s approach to the castle are partly shown in negative – all elements of the earlier German classic.
But, despite their mutual – and completely blatant – disregard for copyright law (Stoker doesn’t even appear in the credits here!), there’s no record of this version falling into the same kind of legal swamp that threatened to destroy ‘Nosferatu’ (1922).
Unfortunately, what it has in common with the 1931 version is the theatrical staging and a very laboured pace, not assisted by the 102 minute running time. Kaptan makes very little impression in the title role, the SFX techniques are pretty basic (Dracula’s fangs aren’t even straight!) and the ending is a total anti-climax. The print that I saw also had some rather dodgy English subtitles which leant an unfortunate comedic aspect to proceedings: ‘Doctors are suspicious of brain shivering’,’Therefore, write three emails now and get prepared’, and, referring to the Van Helsing character, ‘He is the best shriek in Turkey and Western Europe’!
A curiosity then, with neither enough money nor talent involved to overcome a suffocating lack of originality. Probably the story behind the making of the film is far more interesting than the film itself.