DRACULA (1979) Reviews and overview

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‘A Love Story’

Dracula is a 1979 British-American horror feature film directed by John Badham from a screenplay by W. D. Richter (Needful Things; Invasion of the Body Snatchers), loosely based on Bram Stoker‘s novel and Edward Gorey’s 1977 staging of (John L. Balderston’s adaptation of) Hamilton Deane’s 1924 play.

The Mirisch Corporation production stars Frank Langella, Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasence and Kate Nelligan.

Frank Langella, who had already played the Count for months in a successful Broadway stage production, said he wanted to explore sides of the character that weren’t shown before:

“I decided he was a highly vulnerable and erotic man, not cool and detached and with no sense of humour or humanity. I didn’t want him to appear stilted, stentorian or authoritarian as he’s often presented. I wanted to show a man who, while evil, was lonely and could fall in love”

New release:

The movie is being released by Scream Factory as a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray on November 26, 2019. Mark Maddox (Frankenstein Created Woman; Dracula: Prince of Darkness) designed the new cover artwork; naturally, the original poster will be on the reverse side.


1913: In Whitby, England, Count Dracula (Frank Langella) is washed ashore when the ship Demeter runs aground one stormy night. Sickly Mina Van Helsing (Jan Francis), who is visiting her friend Lucy Seward (Kate Nelligan), discovers Dracula’s body.

The Count visits Mina and her friends at the household of Lucy’s father, Doctor Jack Seward, whose clifftop mansion also serves as the local asylum. At dinner, he proves to be a charming guest and leaves a strong impression on the hosts, especially Lucy. Less charmed by this handsome Romanian count is Jonathan Harker (Trevor Eve), Lucy’s fiancé.

However, when Mina dies and her father, Prof. Van Helsing (Laurence Olivier), attributes her death to a vampire, evidence indicates that Count Dracula is the monster, and Lucy is his next target…


“The picture is weirdly glacial at times, lingering in stale mood and fatigued acts of seduction, while overall familiarity with the story lets a little air out of the tires as well. Reverence is fine, yet Badham and Richter don’t summon feelings of fright key to the success of the character.” Blu-ray.com

“Director John Badham, working with cinematographer Gil Taylor, brings more style to the film than one might expect. After a busy career in television, his early films at least maximize and make cinematic every scene, and Dracula, with its excellent blocking and compositions, is stately without ever getting dull.” DVD Talk

” …while we have a Dracula that is smoulderingly romantic, we also have one who never wields any threat. Rarely does this version ever engage as a horror film – we only ever see Frank Langella with fangs once […] There is one good shock scene where Van Helsing meets the undead Mina, all white-faced, with blood-red eyes, calling “Papa”, but that is about it.” Moria

“The film is a triumph of performance, art direction and mood over materials that can lend themselves so easily to self-satire. The art direction, the music, the special effects give us a 19th-century setting that is at once halfway convincing and charmingly unreal.” Roger Ebert

“The sight of Dracula climbing down a wall headfirst is the highlight of the entire movie; the rest of the film is just another plodding remake. The familiar story is given no new twists, save for an updated Edwardian setting and a few automobiles. Langella repeats his suave and seductive portrayal, and a hammy Olivier plays Van Helsing.” TV Guide

“Of course, many people would say in that that the film is way ahead of its time, it took writers and filmmakers at least ten years to jump on that bandwagon and turn the vampire into a sympathetic character – a love interest… Then there are those of us who realize that this is a monster, not some playboy of the night, and it deserves to be treated as such…” The Video Graveyard

Blu-ray release:

The Scream Factory Collector’s Edition Blu-ray was released on November 26th 2019. The 4K scan version has the following special features:

Disc 1 – Desaturated colour timing:

New introduction by director John Badham
New King of My Kind – an interview with John Badham
New What Sad Music – an interview with writer W.D. Richter
New Dracula’s Guest – an interview with camera assistant Jim Alloway
New interview with editor John Bloom
New interview with make-up artist Peter Robb-King
New interview with hairstylist Colin Jamison
New interview with assistant director Anthony Waye
New interview with production manager Hugh Harlow
Audio Commentary with director John Badham
The Revamping of Dracula featurette

Disc 2 – Original Theatrical Colour timing:

New 4K scan of the original film elements
New introduction by director John Badham
New Audio Commentary by film historian/filmmaker Constantine Nasr
Theatrical Trailer
Radio Spots
Still Gallery

Cast and characters:

Frank Langella … Count Dracula
Laurence Olivier … Professor Abraham Van Helsing
Donald Pleasence … Doctor Jack Seward
Kate Nelligan … Lucy Seward
Trevor Eve … Jonathan Harker
Jan Francis … Mina Van Helsing
Janine Duvitski … Annie
Tony Haygarth … Milo Renfield
Teddy Turner … Swales
Sylvester McCoy … Walter (as Sylveste McCoy)
Kristine Howarth … Mrs Galloway
Joe Belcher … Tom Hindley
Ted Carroll … Scarborough Sailor
Frank Birch … Harbormaster
Gabor Vernon … Captain of Demeter
Frank Henson … Demeter Sailor
Peter Wallis … Priest

Filming locations:

Black Park, Buckinghamshire, England
Cornwall, England
Shepperton Studios

Technical details:

109 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.39: 1
Dolby sound

Box office:

Distributed by Universal Pictures, Dracula took $31,235,812 worldwide on an estimated budget of $12,164,000.


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