'Count Dracula - BBC Mini-Series'
(Louis Jourdan, et al / DVD / NR / (1977) 2007 / BBC Video)
Overview: This fan favorite three-part series from the BBC is now available on DVD for the first time! Louis Jourdan stars as the deliciously blood-thirsty Count Dracula in this version of Bram Stoker's horror classic. Keeping close to the original novel, the series begins with Jonathan Harker visiting the Count in Transylvania to help him with preparations to move to England. It is in the Count's castle that Jonathan becomes a prisoner, and discovers Dracula's true nature. Many scenes shot on location - such as the Gothic graveyard of London's Highgate Cemetery - add extra atmosphere to an already powerful production.
DVD Verdict: I first saw this version of "Dracula" on PBS back in the 70's (shortly after having read the novel) and thought it a wondererful (albeit a little stiff) and very faithful film adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic gothic novel. Of course there have been hundreds of films featuring Count Dracula down through the ages but very few of them adhered closely to the orignal source material.
In fact most of them just borrowed a few key characters and maybe a plot thread or two and then just created their own story. Thankfully the BBC decided to rectify matters by filming their own adaptation for television and this is the first film that I am aware of that really does stay true to the novel. In fact this was the first film to show many of the famous scenes from the novel that previous films had ignored. Namely the scenes of Dracula crawling down the castle walls and a very controversial (at the time) scene where the Count offers a baby to his three vampire brides.
Now keep in mind this is 70's era BBC televsision. While the acting is quite good some of the other production values are not going to be of the same quality that many of today's viewing audiences are used to. For example many of the exterior scenes are filmed outdoors while the interior scenes are filmed on sets. Consequently there is going to be some sequences with a certain stagey quality to them. Some of the special effects shots are going to be...well, lets just say not all that special.
Now having said all that I still can tell you that there are more chills to be had from this version than the BBC's most recent and very disapointing adaptation of "Dracula". In fact, I'll go so far as to say that this version is even better than Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula". I never really cared for Coppola's version anyway but I will give it high marks for production values. One of the big mistakes with Coppola's film was the changing of Dracula's character from Stoker's concept of evil vampire to that of a silly, romantic love-struck vampire.
Louis Jourdan (Gigi, Octopussy) does a fine job as the Count despite the fact that he is one of the few things in the film that doesn't quite mesh with Stoker's original concept. He does however convey very well that strange dichotomy of vampires. Namely the sensual yet evil qualities we've come to expect from many other screen Dracula's.
To sum up: this film may be cheap in the production values department but if you are looking for a version that is faithful to Stoker's original story, character and concepts then you are on the right track with this offering from 70's era BBC. There's lots of atmosphere and plenty of good chills to be had from this version despite the shortcomings it may have. This is a Standard Presentation (4:3) enhanced for 16x9 TVs, but does not come with any Special Features.