Dir: Anna Procházková
Star: Jan Schánilec, Ilja Racek, Ota Sklencka, Klára Jerneková
a.k.a. Count Dracula
This was originally going to be the Czech entry in our upcoming October feature, 31 Days of Vampires. However, it’s a little too staid and familiar to merit in depth consideration. Not that this is bad. However, I will instead be including in that event, a movie from there about a car that runs on blood. My decision may or may not have been swayed by the additional presence of Eastern European breasts. That’s something this can’t provide, being an adaptation made for Czechoslovakian television. I’m not sure if it being in black-and-white is a stylistic choice, or if anything beyond monochrome was regarded at the time as a product of decadent, bourgeoisie imperialist running dogs.
At only 76 minutes, it can’t hang around, yet manages to hit all the Cliff Notes talking points from Bram Stoker’s original. The main twist is that Jonathan Harker (Schánilec) does not die in the Count’s castle, but is rescued after falling from a window in his escape bid. He therefore returns to London, and is able to help his pals as they align with Van Helsing (Sklencka), and take on Count Dracula (Racek), in an effort to save the immortal soul of Mína Harker (Jerneková). Oops, make that Mína Harkerová. You know the drill, though expect much of it in a condensed version. Van Helsing enters straight into vampire hunter mode on arrival, for example, and everyone more or less goes, “Sure, what do you want us to do about it?”
The early proceedings, with Harker in the castle, is a little more classically-paced, and is perhaps the better for it. These scenes were clearly filmed in a very real, very large castle, rather than on a set, and that helps the production values immensely. There’s one arched corridor in particular, which seems to go on for ever, and the makers take full advantage of it. The costumes of the brides of Dracula (top) are similarly impressive; I’d not have minded seeing more of them. The film, however, is busy tapping on its watch and making hurry-up gestures. One interesting twist is that the Count is hirsute, not something you often see. He even tells Harker, “I believe that a full beard would suit you. I advise you to grow one.” I’d never thought before, that shaving must be a bit tough when you can’t see yourself in a mirror…
The main problem is the rather bland performances. Though Dracula is okay, we don’t see enough of him once the focus shifts to England, to make any impression. Harker is perhaps the best of the non-vampiric cast. On the other hand, both Mina nor Lucy suffer in the pacing, never being given a chance to develop beyond being a Drac snack. The end result is competent, and occasionally decent. Yet beyond Dracula’s copious facial hair, it just doesn’t bring anything original enough to the party, to justify its existence as another adaptation of the source material.