I saw the 1979 "Dracula"
starring Frank Langella. The reason I rented this is one of the more unique reasons I've had for renting a movie - one line in a TV episode. On "Angel"
, the title character reveals to this woman that he's a vampire, and when she mentions Bela Lugosi and Gary Oldman, he says, "the only performance I believed was Frank Langella"
I guess some writer threw in that line to express his personal preference for the movie. Since I'd been digging this show and respecting what the writers on it were doing, I decided to take his word that the movie was solid.
The gamble paid off. This is my favourite adaptation of the Dracula story I've seen so far, after previously viewing "Nosferatu"
(1931), and "Bram Stoker's Dracula"
(1992). While I appreciated the acting, direction, and atmosphere in the first two, I thought they were a bit outdated in terms of storytelling (especially the 1931 movie), and the Lugosi one also had a really disappointing climax due to the limits of what could be shown on screen at the time. The Francis Ford Coppola movie had amazing production design, but I couldn't get into the writing or any of the performances. It felt too fake and overdone.
The 1979 "Dracula"
is another Dracula movie that's really impressive visually. I love the design of Dracula's castle and the Victorian insane asylum, and the whole movie has this washed out, grayish look, so the cinematography gives it a very effective creepy Gothic atmosphere. I also appreciated that Langella played Dracula so straight, as just a very suave, eloquent high class aristocrat. He wasn't all monstrous in a goofy way like Oldman's take and easier to take seriously than Lugosi, who was entertaining, but not as intimidating.
I could see how the movie influenced Whedon a lot with its use of crosses, the 'music video smoke' that accompanies Dracula when he goes into a lady's room at night, and the way Dracula at one point kills someone by snapping their neck in one swift notion. I was, however, disappointed that I didn't get to see any vampires turn to dust or burn up in flames.
I guess it wasn't easy to do those things in movies at the time.
Overall, I'd sum it up by saying it's a familiar story, but told very well due to some tremendous style and a really fascinating lead performance that makes Dracula classier and more plausible than I've ever seen him. It's definitely one of my favourite Dracula performances, but I can't decide which one I like more between it and Rudolph Martin's on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"
. I still need to see Christopher Lee's take on the character. He doesn't deliver the line as memorably as Lugosi did with that wonderful Hungarian accent (and to be fair, who could?), but I was really delighted to hear Langella utter a variation on that immortal line, "Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make!"