Tuesday, November 26, 2019

DRACULA (1979) Blu-ray Review

Dracula (1979) d. John Badham (USA) (109 min)

Fresh from his Broadway triumph in the titular role, a young and handsome Frank Langella smirks and smolders his way into the hearts of heroines Mina Van Helsing (Jan Francis) and Lucy Seward (Kate Nelligan), leaving the former bitten and drained, the latter smitten and stained with his tainted blood. Donald Pleasance provides a busy and eccentric turn as Dr. Seward, head of the local loony bin, while Laurence Olivier lends estimable gravitas as an aging but feisty Van Helsing, wrestling with undead demons and an unplaceable European accent (Dutch? Swiss? German?) with equal fervor.

Screenwriter W. D. Richter (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Needful Things) pulled elements from both the Hamilton Deane/John Balderston stage play that had launched Bela Lugosi to stardom as well as from Bram Stoker’s original novel. As such, Langella – who had performed the role to great acclaim using sets based on the drawings of Edward Gorey – was occasionally flummoxed making the transition, feeling very attached to certain moments that were either no longer in the script or having to perform them in a completely different manner than he had done on stage.

Speaking of transitions, one can hardly imagine a more startling 180 degree turn from the gritty NYC streets and flashy discotechs of Saturday Night Fever to the sumptuous period setting of this supernatural Gothic romance, but Badham pulls it off admirably, aided by cinematographer Gilbert Taylor (Star Wars, Flash Gordon, The Omen), editor John Bloom (responsible for cutting eclectic fare from The Lion in Winter and Ghandi to Orca and Magic), production designer Peter Murton (Goldfinger, Thunderball, Superman II and III), and costume designer Julie Harris (A Hard Day’s Night, The Great Muppet Caper, Rollerball). The gorgeous and melancholy musical score by John Williams proved to be the magical thread pulling all the elements together.

Dismissed during its original release as lacking in horror elements – a fair criticism, as this is decidedly more a romantic thriller than monster movie (and I’m sure the laser beam-accented love scene between Nelligan and Langella didn’t do them any favors). That said, it’s exquisitely realized with superb production values, and while I personally could have done without the final bat-kite mo-mo (added to lend a sense of ambiguity), it’s a more-than-worthy entry in the undead nobleman’s cinematic legacy.


DISC ONE: Director Preferred De-saturated Color Timing

Audio Commentary with director John Badham

NEW Introduction by John Badham (1 min)

NEW “King of My Kind” with John Badham (32 min)

NEW “What Sad Music” with writer W.D. Richter (33 min)

NEW “Dracula’s Guest” with camera assistant Jim Alloway (6 min)

NEW “Dracula’s Guest” with hair stylist Colin Jamison (5 min)

NEW Interview with editor John Bloom (21 min)

NEW Interview with assistant director Anthony Waye (16 min)

NEW Interview with production manager Hugh Harlow (21 min)

NEW Interview with make-up artist Peter Robb-King (25 min)

“The Revamping of Dracula” featuring interviews with actor Frank Langella, producer Walter Mirsch, director John Badham, and writer W.D. Richter (40 min)

DISC TWO: Original Theatrical Color Timing

NEW 4K scan of the best available original film elements

NEW Introduction by John Badham (same as Disc 1)

NEW Audio commentary by film historian/filmmaker Constantine Nasr

Theatrical Trailer (2 min)

Radio Spots (2 min)

Still Gallery

Dracula is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:



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