Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a 1973 American television horror film adaptation of Bram Stoker‘s 1897 novel Dracula written by Richard Matheson and produced and directed by Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis (Burnt Offerings; The Norliss Tapes; Trilogy of Terror), with Jack Palance in the title role.
This was the second collaboration for Curtis and Palance after the 1968 TV film The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the UK, the film was theatrically released by EMI as Dracula in 1974.
“Bistritz, Hungary May 1897”: natives in Transylvania seem afraid when they learn solicitor Jonathan Harker is going to Castle Dracula. Jonathan shows up and finds the Count abrupt and impatient to get things done. He reacts very strongly to a photograph of Harker’s fiancée Mina and her best friend Lucy.
After rescuing Harker from the brides, the Count forces Harker to write a letter saying that he will be staying in Transylvania for a month. Harker climbs down the castle wall and finds Dracula’s coffin, but is attacked and knocked out by one of Dracula’s gypsy servants before he can stake Dracula. They later throw him into the lower levels of the crypt, where the brides attack Harker…
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“Palance’s take on Dracula as a weary, lovelorn immortal is another riff on Barnabas Collins and represents a departure from the two most noteworthy Dracula turns from the 20th century in Lugosi and Lee. Palance’s age and stateliness recalls the former, while his feral bursts echo the latter, but his performance is more than just a simple portmanteau of those two titans. There are moments of profound, human despair here…” Oh, the Horror!
“Drac has feelings… but this is what makes him all the more dangerous. Palance is as imposing as Christopher Lee with his stature and projects perfect menace as he throws grown men like their nothing.” Cinema Head Cheese
“Dan Curtis’ Dracula contains all of the elements to make a perfectly fine – and maybe even spooky – Gothic horror film. But the most important element of Bram Stoker’s story has always been – and will always be – Dracula himself. To get him wrong is to negate any of the elements that are done right, and to render the film both flawed and forgettable.” Battleship Pretension
“Palance is just terrific. He’s genuinely unsettling and gives such a great impression of an unstoppable force, plus a sense of great evil, but also agony with it, tormented by his eternal existence, and with quite a few moments where he seems to be in great mental and even physical pain […] Nigel Davenport is a refreshingly un-eccentric, down to earth Van Helsing, even though the character as written here is a bit wimp-ish in places, and the almost entirely British cast members are all solid…” Horror Cult Films
“Jack Palance is unable to shake the image of the old warhorse of countless westerns and makes his way through the role with characteristic asthmatic wheeze. The performance is appalling – the scenes where Palance tries to demonstrate anger by throwing things around in a room are so lacking in threat, so lacking in anything except hammy melodrama, that the entire plausibility of the film collapses. The rest of the casting is not much better.” Moria
“Palance gives his all (and of course hams it up on occasion) with every line that he delivers and every physical attribute of the vampire king that he interprets. He is one of the most intimidating screen Draculas, and his technique brings a fresh, sympathetic vulnerability to the character, yet his animalistic growls and fits of anger make sure he remains scary.” DVD Drive-In
“Rather than ape the fairy tale artifice of Hammer, Curtis grounds his Dracula in the realism of Nineteenth-century Europe. This yields mixed results. On the one hand, aside from a pack of German Shepherds doubling unconvincingly for wolves, the sober treatment renders fantastical events never less than believable. Yet the prosaic handling of several of Stoker’s most famous set-pieces cry out for a more magical, supernatural charge.” The Spinning Image
“The movie is quite well shot, using locations from Yugoslavia as well as those in England (Oakley Court, best known as the house from The Rocky Horror Picture Show is featured prominently) and using some nice compositions to build mood and atmosphere. The story plays out at a good pace and Curtis’ direction is more than capable here. This one really comes together nicely and it holds up well.” DVD Talk
Cast and characters:
Jack Palance as Count Dracula / Vlad III the Impaler (Alone in the Dark; Craze; et al)
Simon Ward as Arthur Holmwood (The Monster Club; Dominique; Deadly Strangers)
Nigel Davenport as Abraham Van Helsing (Phase IV)
Fiona Lewis as Lucy Westenra / Dracula’s deceased wife (Strange Behavior; The Fury; Blue Blood)
Murray Brown as Jonathan Harker (Vampyres)
Penelope Horner as Mina Murray
Pamela Brown as Mrs Westenra
Sarah Douglas as one of Dracula’s wives
Virginia Wetherell as one of Dracula’s wives (Demons of the Mind; Disciple of Death; Curse of the Crimson Altar)
Barbara Lindley as one of Dracula’s wives
George Pravda as Innkeeper
Hana Maria Pravda as Innkeeper’s wife
Reg Lye as Zookeeper
John Pennington as a shipping clerk
Oakley Court, Windsor Road, Oakley Green, Windsor, Berkshire, England (Carfax Abbey)
Trakoscan Castle, Croatia