Wednesday, October 17, 2012
31 Days of Dracula | Frank Langella (1979)
Coincidentally, the same year that Klaus Kinski was going old-school in the Nosferatu remake and George Hamilton was hamming it up in Love at First Bite, Frank Langella was also playing Dracula in a more or less straightforward (if not exactly faithful) adaptation of Stoker's story. (Salem's Lot also came out that year; a big one for vampires.)
Like Lugosi, Langella had played Dracula on Broadway and it was the success of that production that got the film greenlit. The '79 version (also distributed by Universal) had Lawrence Olivier as Van Helsing, Donald Pleasance as Jack Seward, and 7th Doctor Sylvester McCoy in a small part. Pleasance was originally approached to play Van Helsing, but he thought it would be too similar to his role in Halloween and turned it down. John Williams wrote the score. Notable changes to the story include Van Helsing's being Mina's father, Seward's being Lucy's, Mina and Lucy's switching places in the plot, and the whole finale.
I've seen it, but it's been years. I remember it's not being as gothic as I hoped from a '70s vampire film, but it was interesting that Dracula was played as a handsome character. I've heard that Bela Lugosi was supposed to be dashing in his version - and maybe he was in his day - but it's difficult to see him that way after the countless imitators and goofy parodies. Christopher Lee's not bad looking, but he's so sinister that his seductive qualities have to come from somewhere outside of his appearance. Langella's Dracula was set in the early 1900s, but with his poofy hair style, he looked like a modern sex symbol. It's been too long since I've seen it for me to testify about whether or not it worked, but Langella claims that men come up to him all the time and tell him how much action they got after their wives saw him in the role. Either way, it was an interesting choice.