Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973, J Lee Thompson)

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Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

Where, when and what: The film starts in ‘North America, 2670 AD’. It’s an ape-run future, even though we’re still 1,300 years before the setting of the first movie in this series. A wise leader called Lawgiver (John Huston, gamely agreeing to wear an orangutan mask) is telling a story. As he talks, we see clips from Escape From… and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes; we’re also told that after those events there was the vilest war in human history. We then cut to a flashback, which takes up most of the movie. It’s set in the early 21st century. The DVD box set’s packaging claims it’s 2001 but a human character refers to ‘12 years of peace’ since the war that began in 1991, which would put this film at no earlier than 2003.

Humans: Living in the ape community of the noughties is MacDonald (Austin Stoker), whose brother was in the previous film, and Abe (Noah Keen), who’s teaching young apes about language and ethics. However, Abe causes tension when he says “No!” to a student: that’s a forbidden word because of its association with the apes’ slavery past. Later in the story we meet the human survivors of the war, who now live under the ruined remains of a major city and are riddled with ennui. Governor Kolp (Severn Darden) is angered when an ape scout party breaks into his domain so vows to wage war. We also learn that the governor we saw in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes has been killed.

Apes: Rather oddly, in the decade or so since rebelling against mankind, apes have developed speech, human-level intelligence and an entire culture. Darwin didn’t see that coming! Caesar is back from the previous film, again played by Roddy McDowall. (This was McDowall’s final Apes movie. He’s been terrific, playing two characters and conveying so much through his eyes, posture and voice.) Caesar leads a mission into the radioactive city of the humans to find film footage of his long-dead parents. Caesar’s wife Lisa (Natalie Trundy) and son Cornelius (Bobby Porter) get a subplot. The shit-stirrer of the group is the militaristic, pigheaded and easily riled General Aldo (Claude Atkins), who wants to take over as leader. Meanwhile, Virgil (Paul Williams) is the community’s wise old man – he spouts elaborate metaphors when trying to explain time paradoxes.

Review: While not being anything spectacular, this film nevertheless has a few things to commend it. It’s nicely structured, with a story that builds effectively and various plot strands that are weaved together nicely. Also, the two competing groups are interesting. The apes like to think they’re idealistic and liberal, but it’s an uneasy alliance with the humans who live among them and tension is never far from the surface – it’s far from an equal society. Meanwhile, over in the post-apocalyptic ruins, the listless humans are even more interesting. Sadly we don’t spend much time with them, but the writing, acting and production design are working well to sell a community well past the edge of coping. (Also, when they later drive across the desert to attack the apes, their convey is a fun precursor of Mad Max.) But the movie fails on a number of levels, not least the hackneyed dialogue. And while the battle itself is well staged – extras running everywhere! Explosions! – the director can’t disguise the fact the human force is about three people and a bus. It’s also unfortunate that two characters are clearly replacements: the story would pack more punch if the Governor and MacDonald were the same men as their equivalents in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes.

Six negative imperatives out of 10

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972, J Lee Thompson)

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Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

Where, when and what: Eighteen years have passed since Escape From the Planet of the Apes – ie, it’s now a 1970s vision of what 1991 might be like – but we’re still in the United States. The action mostly takes place in an unidentified city with Brutalist architecture and big blue skies. It seems to be a police state, with Tannoy announcements about potential crimes and fascist cops prowling the concrete city centre. Its military control rooms, meanwhile, look like the Death Star from Star Wars. We’re told that, in 1983, a disease killed off all the world’s cats and dogs. Because humanity couldn’t cope without domestic pets, apes were kept instead. However, people then started giving them chores to perform…

Humans: Armando the circus owner (Ricardo Montalbán) is back from the previous film and is still secretly looking after Caesar, the child of intelligent apes from the future. After being intimidated and tortured by the suspicious authorities, Armando is killed while trying to flee… Meanwhile, the city is being run by the cruel and arrogant Governor Breck (Don Murray), who desperately wants to prevent any ape uprising. His advisor MacDonald (Hari Rhodes) is a kinder, more levelheaded man. Tasked with finding Caeser, he actually helps the ape escape, then counsels peace once a revolution begins.

Apes: Milo, the ape born at the end of the previous movie, is now 18 years old – and has been renamed Caesar. (He’s played by Roddy McDowall, who of course played the character’s father in earlier films.) When he and Armando arrive in the nameless city, Caesar is told the backstory about the cats and dogs: it seems the news of the devastating worldwide epidemic didn’t reach the circus. However, seeing an ape being mistreated by the police, Caesar can’t resist shouting out in protest and revealing that he can talk. With the cops now looking for him, he hides in a cage with other apes but ends up a facility where the authorities carry out bizarre tortures and experiments on primates. Caesar is then auctioned off like a slave – Breck, who suspects Caesar is the ape they’re all looking for, bids $1,500 and wins. Caesar soon begins a rebellion by inciting the other apes to disobey their masters and generally cause chaos. Eventually, the rebels square off against the military – both are armed and there’s a battle. Caesar’s side is victorious and he gives a rousing speech about the apes’ liberated future. (Then, in further dialogue added during post-production, concedes that not all humans are evil so maybe we should all just try to get along, okay?) They only other ape character of note is Lisa, who catches Caesar’s eye then is later the first ape other than Caesar to speak. She shouts, “No!” during the rebellion. Lisa is played by Natalie Trundy, who was married to the producer and played other roles in this series.

Review: This film builds its world better than it tells a story. The opening sequences, for example, have some great visual moments and little vignettes to explain the society of 1991. But things soon get quite boring. It doesn’t help that lead character Caesar has to pretend to be mute for so long – and then mostly hangs out with non-speaking apes. The actual moment where he begins his rabble-rousing is actually skipped over, presumably because it would be an odd thing to dramatise. (How does he convey his revolutionary ideas to apes who don’t understand English?) The last half hour is then action-heavy and has little to do with character or storytelling. Also, the film is generally more heavy-handed than the earlier entries in the series. The obvious analogy with slavery, for example, is made explicit a couple of times: we’re told that black character MacDonald “above all others” should understand that the apes are being mistreated. Not awful but not great.

Five lousy human bastards out of 10

Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971, Don Taylor)

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Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

Where, when and what: In the opening sequence, a spaceship has crashed on a beach in southern California. It contains three intelligent apes: series regulars Dr Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall, back after a film off) and new character Dr Milo (Sal Mineo). They fled the Earth when it was destroyed at the end of Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Travelling backwards through the time distortion that brought 20th-century astronauts to their world, they now find themselves in 1973. The date is mentioned a couple of times – even though it contradicts the first two films. In those movies, the missions took place no earlier than January 1972 but are now said to be ‘over two years ago’. While drunk, Zira says her era was ‘3950-something’ by the human calendar, which tallies with Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

Humans: Two animal psychologists are called in to assess the three apes after they’re detained by the military. Dr Lewis Dixon (Bradford Dillman) and Dr Stephanie Branton (Natalie Trundy) are decent, caring and clever people, and are taking the ‘open-minded scientists’ role that Zira and Cornelius played in the first film. Dixon and Branton soon learn that the apes can talk and are intelligent. So Zira and Cornelius are paraded in front of a stuffy presidential enquiry, during which they charm the audience but stoke the paranoia of a mandarin called Dr Otto Hasslein (Eric Braeden). A bit of an all-round shit, he advocates killing pregnant Zira’s unborn child and neutering the apes in order to prevent the ape-dominated future. After 70 minutes, circus owner Armando (Ricardo Montalbán) is introduced. He’s willing to hide Zira and Cornelius from the authorities, and their son is born in the circus. It’s not the most naturalistic plotting you’ll ever see (conveniently helpful character shows up near the end!), but it’s a fun performance.

Apes: Zira and Cornelius’s friend Milo wasn’t in the previous films. He’s been added to explain how – in the midst of a nuclear holocaust – two mild-mannered scientists retrieved a spaceship from the bottom of a lake, launched it into space and piloted it 2,000 years into the past. His purpose over, Milo is killed soon after they reach 1973. When subjected to tests by the naïve humans, Zira and Cornelius initially act dumb. But Zira can’t resist answering back and reveals her intelligence to Dixon and Branton. Once they’ve been outed to the world, Zira and Cornelius then become celebrities. They stay in a posh hotel, get makeovers, give talks and appear on TV – the film just *sings* around this point. But Zira faints during a trip to a museum because she’s pregnant. The couple are then moved to the CIA’s Camp Eleven for interrogation (Lord knows what the public gets told about the apes’ disappearance). There they explain the franchise backstory. The world encountered by Taylor in the first film came about because of a plague that killed off all the cats and dogs; humans started using apes as pets, then two centuries later as servants. Three hundred years after that, an ape called Aldo rebelled and uttered the first ape word: “No.” Distressingly – genuinely upsettingly – Zira and Cornelius are killed while trying to escape the authorities. At first you also think that Zira’s baby son is dead. But then we learn that Zira had hidden him in the circus for safety (and sequel storylines).

Review: This is a movie that deserves to be much more famous than it is. At its heart is a bonkers idea: talking apes from a post-apocalyptic future are dropped into modern-day LA. But it works, largely because the silliness is played straight. The role reversal of a role reversal motors the story along, keeps the interest, and provides plenty of fun. The film has a dry sense of humour, while the smart satire – of the media, of celebrity culture, of racial prejudice, of political paranoia, even looking forward to reality TV – is fantastic. That’s not to say the film is frivolous or smug. There’s darkness and tension, especially in the second half. But everything is directed with an impressive light touch. Telling character moments are allowed to breathe, jokes land perfectly, themes bubble under the story rather than swamping it… On the downside, the movie is more televisual than the first two, largely being talky scenes in small sets, while the human characters are either wet or one-dimensional. But it’s still got lots of heart. What a film. A real treat.

Nine ape-onauts out of 10

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970, Ted Post)

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Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

Where, when and what: We begin with a recap of the first film’s final few minutes, so Taylor (Charlton Heston) has just found the half-buried Statue of Liberty. Soon, another spaceship from Earth’s past crash-lands (off-screen for budgetary reasons). This one contains the Taylor-like Brent played by the Heston-like James Franciscus. He claims the year is 3955 – contradicting the first film, which had Taylor landing in 3979.

Humans: At the start of the story, Taylor and his native friend Nova (Linda Harrison) ride off into an area of desert called the Forbidden Zone and Taylor vanishes. (Charlton Heston was reluctant to return for a sequel and agreed only if his contribution was little more than a cameo.) So the lead character this time round is Brent, an astronaut sent to find out what happened to Taylor when he didn’t return to Earth. This is a plot hole: Taylor’s mission was to travel so far and so fast that he knew thousands of years would have passed before his return. After some ape-related escapades, Brent eventually stumbles across the buried remains of New York City’s Queenboro Plaza subway station. Living there is a cult of psychic weirdos. They’re descendants of the human survivors of a nuclear war and they idolise a 20th-century atomic bomb. They sing hymns about it and everything. Initially they look normal, but then remove their fake skin to reveal radiation-scared bodies. Brent also finds someone else in the underground world: after an hour of absent screen time, Taylor returns. Handily he knows Brent from before their respective missions. Together they team up to resist the cult, while the now-militaristic apes attack the city. A dying Taylor sets off the bomb, which destroys the entire planet.

Apes: Dr Zira and Cornelius return from Planet of the Apes. They’re now married, though sadly they don’t feature in the story much. Kim Hunter is back to play Zira, but Roddy McDowall was busy on another project so Cornelius has been recast with David Watson. (Of course, McDowall still plays the character in the clips reused from the first film!) Meanwhile, other apes are debating what to do with the savage humans who live nearby – and whether to conquer the Forbidden Zone, which they know holds host to another culture. The plans for military action are countered by some hippy-type protests, placards and all.

Review: For its first half, Beneath the Planet of the Apes is a rehash of the original movie. But because of viewer familiarity, the story beats – the deaths of the astronauts’ crewmates, an encounter with native humans, the realisation that apes are in charge – are rattled off more swiftly. It’s enjoyable and engaging stuff, if shallower than the first film. Then, after 40 minutes, the plot heads into new territory. Sadly, the long sequence in the subway station sees the pace sag significantly and the film becomes a sub-Star Trek morality play. An anti-nuclear message is really hammered home, but the bomb subplot has little to do with either the apes or Brent. The latter stumbles across it and does little to affect the story. The second half of the film limps to a climax.

Six bloody nightmares out of 10

Planet of the Apes (1968, Franklin J Schaffner)

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Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

Where, when and what: The story begins in space. Four astronauts are six months out of Cape Kennedy and know it’s a one-way journey. The date from the crew’s perspective is 14 July 1972, but because of the time displacement caused by travelling at such high speeds, back on Earth it’ll now be March 2673. The astronauts go into hibernation, but a year later the ship crash-lands on a planet. According to the ship’s controls, ‘Earth time’ is now 25 November 3978. From this point, the film makes big efforts to disguise the planet’s identity. Not only does lead astronaut Taylor (Charlton Heston) assert that they’re 320 light years from home, but the world has no moon and abnormal weather patterns (a storm in a desert, for example). Famously, the story’s climax confirms that Taylor is actually on Earth – within a horse ride of New York City, in fact.

Humans: Taylor is the point-of-view character and is in virtually every scene. Rugged, hirsute, very often near or actually naked, and sometimes seen smoking a cigar, he’s masculinity squared – and Charlton Heston is decent casting. When the character finds himself in Ape City, however, he’s locked up, can’t speak due to a throat injury, and his captors even threaten to geld him. At first, Taylor has three crewmates. One is killed in the crash; another dies when they encounter the apes; and the third, Landon (Robert Gunner), goes missing. He later returns to the story when we discover the apes have lobotomised him. The only other human character of note is Nova (Linda Harrison), a sexy, mute savage woman who attaches herself to Taylor in captivity.

Apes: They first appear after half an hour in an action scene – and they’re on horseback, which is a good way of immediately telling us they’re not normal apes. They have a medieval culture (well, mostly: they use modern guns and have cameras) and, notably, can talk. “Smile!” is the first word we hear, when a soldier takes a photo of some colleagues. All the apes are actors in masks, of course, and while they masks are not especially articulate the performances still pop through. The fact you can see the actors’ eyes is very important. The two chimpanzees we get to know best – scientist Zira (Kim Hunter) and her archaeologist fiancé, Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) – are likeable and decent characters. They nickname Taylor ‘Bright Eyes’ and help him escape. Their superior Dr Zaius (Maurice Evans) isn’t quite so liberal. There’s also talk of the Forbidden Zone, a nearby region of desert where relics from an age-old culture have been found.

Review: Based on the 1963 novel La Planète des Singes (Monkey Planet) by Pierre Boulle, this film was co-written by Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling. And like a lot of good science fiction, it’s deceptively full of meaning and subtext. The story of a human outsider encountering a society run by apes can be read as a number of different metaphors. It could be a satire of the class system, a discussion of science versus superstition, a look at feminism (the chimps represent women while the other apes are the male establishment), a parody of religion, war or the legal system… or simply a comedic role-reversal plot. But it never feels bogged down with dogma. This is an engaging movie that’s very often a lot of fun. And it’s solidly directed: well paced, inventively filmed, with good action and jokes that hit home. There’s also good use of wide-open, ‘alien’ locations and a terrific score by Jerry Goldsmith, which is mysterious and dramatic. But it’s such a shame that the two biggest shocks are so famous. That the society is ruled by intelligent apes is kind of given away by the film’s title. The twist that the planet is actually Earth has been revealed so often over the years it’s one of cinema’s best-known endings. (The film’s spoilertastic final image is on both the DVD cover and menu screen of the copy I used for this review.) Excellent, nevertheless.

Nine stinking paws out of 10

Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1974, Dan Curtis)

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An occasional series where I write about works inspired by Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula…

These reviews reveal plot twists.

Note: This American TV movie was originally called Bram Stoker’s Dracula. However, in the early 1990s Francis Ford Coppola bought the rights to that title for his own adaptation, so this has since been renamed Dan Curtis’ Dracula or simply Dracula. Aptly, Coppola’s movie owes it a certain debt …

Setting: Like in the novel, we start in ‘Bistritz, Hungary’. (Part of Romania since the Second World War, the city is now usually called Bistrița.) After the lengthy sequence at Dracula’s Transylvanian castle, we cut to Whitby. The Westenra home, Hillingham, is said to be 10 miles away from Carfax, the house Dracula buys – both seem to be nebulously close to Whitby. There are also quick scenes set in Stockton, Darlington, Richmond and at Scarborough Zoo. The story begins in May 1897 and takes place over a few weeks.

Faithful to the novel? More than most adaptations. It captures the spirit of the book even if a number of plot changes have been made. It’s one of the few Dracula movies to commit to the book’s lopsided opening, for example. We’re with Jonathan Harker (Murray Brown from Vampyres) and Count Dracula (Jack Palance) for half an hour before we cut to other characters. And it’s apparent very quickly that Richard Matheson’s script is a truncated retelling of Stoker’s story – Harker already knows that friends Lucy Westenra (Fiona Lewis) and Arthur Holmwood (Simon Ward) are engaged, which in the book happens while he’s away, and he also realises he’s Dracula’s prisoner very quickly. The biggest tweak to the established tale is the addition of an entirely new subplot. Harker spots a 1475 painting on a wall of the castle showing Vlad Tepes and his wife. We immediately see that the man in the painting looks identical to Harker’s host. The idea that the fictional Dracula *is* the historical Vlad III (aka Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad Dracula, aka Vlad the Impaler, who lived circa 1428-1477) is a literal-minded reading of the novel. Bram Stoker certainly reused one of Vlad’s names and some of his history, but it’s doubtful he intended the character to be a real person. Thanks to movies like this one, though, this is now an essential part of the mythology. Another huge addition this film brings to the canon is the notion that one of the female characters is a reincarnation of Dracula’s long-dead wife – an idea totally absent from the novel. In this telling, the Count sees a photograph of Lucy and recognises her from 500 years earlier (and we recognise her in the painting). We even see soft-focus flashbacks to the couple’s happy life together, scored by a whimsical music-box tune. The idea has an interesting history. Producer/director Dan Curtis had previously created Dark Shadows, a US TV soap opera with supernatural characters and concepts that ran from 1966 until 1971. Its most popular character was a Dracula-like vampire called Barnabas Collins, who had lost the love of his life centuries earlier and now encountered her doppelgänger. Curtis happily admitted that he ‘plagerised himself’ by adding the concept to this adaptation of Dracula. (A year or so before this film was made, blaxploitation movie Blacula also used the same conceit, but this seems to be a coincidence.) Like with the Vlad the Impaler notion, Dracula meeting the reincarnation of his lost love is now used so often that many think it’s from the novel. Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film is the most famous example, though it has Mina as the double rather than Lucy. Anyway, back to this version… At the half-hour point, we cut away from Harker and switch to Whitby – as in the novel. But the plot is speeded up here quite a bit: Dracula has landed in the Demeter and Lucy has started sleepwalking by the time Mina (Penelope Horner) arrives to visit. It also becomes clear that the script has culled a few characters and subplots. There’s no Quincy Morris or Jack Seward: both men have been merged with Arthur, who now carries the bulk of the story. (Losing Seward means we also get no hospital storyline and no Renfield, of course.) The story now starts to deviates more from the novel. Van Helsing (Nigel Davenport) is English in this version and is said to be a friend of Arthur’s. Having deduced that Dracula is in the area, he and Arthur move Mina and Lucy’s mother (Pamela Brown) into a hotel for safety. But Dracula tracks them and attacks the hotel staff to gain entry. Meanwhile, Arthur and Van Helsing travel to Whitby to investigate the vampire’s arrival in England. When the pair and Mina later track Dracula to his castle, there’s a superb twist… Jonathan Harker hasn’t been seen or heard from since his escape attempt. An hour of screen time has passed so we’ve kind of forgotten about him. (In the book he goes missing for a while, but then Mina learns he’s in a Romanian hospital and goes to fetch him.) Van Helsing and Arthur search the castle… and are attacked by Harker, who’s now a vampire!

Best performance: Jack Palance is terrific. He’s honouring the text, rather than the cliché, and is commanding and – in a strange way – sympathetic. The actor loved the role, but said he worried he was getting lost in the darkness. He was later offered further Dracula scripts but turned them all down. Though proud of this performance and the film, he hadn’t watched it when interviewed about it in the 1990s.

Best bit: Dracula has ‘turned’ Lucy, who of course he equates with his long-dead love, so sneaks down to her crypt. He’s actually smiling at the thought of being with her. But when he reaches her coffin he’s distraught to find that Van Helsing has staked her…

Review: This is broadly enjoyable stuff if you know the novel well and enjoy spotting the ways the script is concertinaing in order to cut sections out. It’s engaging, creepy, and there’s plenty of fine location filming in eastern Europe and England (including at Oakley Court, a house seen in various Hammer horrors, Vampyres and The Rocky Horror Picture Show). However, the briskness comes at a cost. We power through the story at such a rate that there’s no time for any depth. No character is especially interesting (except possibly Dracula himself, thanks to Palance’s charisma) and we never get to know any of them. Even worse, the women are barely more than plot devices. Lucy is a very important character, but is turned into a vampire so swiftly that it’s difficult to care about what happens her. Also, because the film was made for TV, there’s a distinct lack of sex, violence and genuine scares. Originally planned for broadcast in October 1973, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was pulled in favour of news coverage of US Vice President Spiro Agnew’s resignation and eventually screened in February 1974.

Seven John Challis cameos out of 10

Dracula (2002, Roger Young and Eric Lerner)

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Aka: Dracula’s Curse

An occasional series where I write about works inspired by Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula…

These reviews reveal plot twists.

Setting: This two-part miniseries made for Italian television starts with a scene of a horse being attacked in the Pampas Plain of Argentina. We then cut to Budapest and the rest of the story takes place there and in Romania. It’s the modern day, circa 23 April.

Faithful to the novel? Mostly. Here are some areas in which the story departs from the original or provides a fresh spin:
* It’s the early twenty-first century.
* We never see London. The story is largely set in Budapest, Hungary. American lawyer Jonathan Harker (Hardy Krüger Jr) suggests to his fiancée, Mina Murray (Stefania Rocca), that they get married the following week. He’s even arranged for their friends – Lucy (Muriel Baumeister), Quincy (Alessio Boni) and Arthur Holmwood (Conrad Hornby) – to fly over for the ceremony. It’s not 100-per-cent clear which nationality some of the characters are. Jonathan is American, Arthur English, Quincy Italian – the women are anyone’s guess.
* Meanwhile, a local psychiatric doctor, Johann Seward (Kai Wiesinger), is dealing with an unstable patient called Roenfield (Brett Forest). After that, Seward meets Lucy and through her becomes part of her friend-group.
* Harker meets a client called Vladislav Tepes (Patrick Bergin), who needs help to buy Carfax House, a large property next to the hospital, for his Romanian uncle.
* Lucy starts to sleepwalk as in the novel, but instead of wandering a windswept cliff, she falls down the stairs of her mod-con house.
* When Quincy hears of Jonathan’s business deal, he suggests they rip off the Tepes family.
* A man shows up at the hospital – Dr Valenzi (Giancarlo Giannini off of Casino Royale), an old friend of Seward’s and an expert in zombies and the like. He’s the Van Helsing character, of course.
* Harker and the gang meet Tepes, who riles Mina for no apparent reason. Harker then has to drive to Romania (via some stock footage scored by a nondescript soft-rock song) to see Tepes’s uncle, who is also called Vladislav Tepes (and is clearly the same man). En route Harker has two encounters with nasty-for-no-reason locals.
* At Tepes’s castle, Harker is wined and dined and forced to change into Victorian-style clothes (very Doctor Who-y). He then realises he’s locked in, so escapes. But crashes his car and ends up in hospital.
* Tepes, meanwhile, sails to Budapest. (Er, Hungary is a landlocked country…) Once awake, he can CGI-transform into a wolf. He then seduces Lucy (well, you would) and starts to grow visibly younger.
* Valenzi deduces that Tepes is really the infamous Dracula. It’s 80 minutes into the piece before the word is spoken. (Arthur sarcastically mentions Boris Karloff.)
* Arthur and Lucy get engaged, but then Lucy turns vamp. There’s an equivalent of the ‘bloofer lady’ sequence from the novel.
* The gang hunt down and kill Lucy, then go after Dracula, who forms before their eyes from dozens of rats. He escapes and later seduces Mina. So the men use Mina as bait to lure Dracula in – and in the film’s one great elaboration on the Stoker plot, it’s Mina who kills the vampire.
* Quincy was killed during the climax (as in the novel) and we see his funeral.

Best performance: The Renfield equivalent, here called Roenfield, isn’t in the story much. But it’s a creepy bit of acting, helped by the fact he’s one of the few characters who doesn’t sounds like he’s been dubbed by another actor.

Best bit: The film is at its best when visually interesting – the elaborate dancing at the ball, a neat trick where Tepes moves at normal speed and everyone else is in slow motion, the creepy scene on the ship, Tepes seducing Lucy… The problems start when people talk.

Review: This is 100 minutes of heavy-handed storytelling delivered by a very weak cast. Maybe something has been lost in translation. The film is in Engilsh, but there’s a large number of badly dubbed performances and actors talking in what is clearly a second language. In its favour, the script is an attempt at a faithful adaptation of the novel with some nice twists and changes. But overall? A mess.

Four Porches out of 10