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

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