Film Review: Dracula (1979)

Also known as: Dracula ’79 (Germany), Dracula 80 (Canada – French language version)
Release Date: July 13th, 1979 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: John Badham
Written by: W. D. Richter
Based on: Dracula (novel) by Bram Stoker; Dracula (play) by Hamilton Deane, John L. Balderston
Music by: John Williams
Cast: Frank Langella, Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasence, Kate Nelligan, Sylvester McCoy

The Mirisch Corporation, Universal Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“In the past 500 years, Professor, those who have crossed my path have all died, and some not pleasantly.” – Count Dracula

Until this viewing of the film, the first in ages, I didn’t realize that the 1979 Dracula was a Universal release. I guess that ties it to the Universal Monsters banner and with that, kind of makes me see how it sort of matches up to the original Dracula films, tonally and stylistically.

I like that this has its own alternate take on the classic story, though, and I thought that they did a tremendous job in telling a different version of the Dracula legend while keeping it fairly true to the source material.

One thing that I really love about this movie is that we get to see one of the greatest actors that ever lived, Laurence Olivier, work alongside a bonafide and legendary horror icon, Donald Pleasence. Both men are great on their own and for different reasons but it’s like seeing what’s considered the top tier talent of motion picture history working with one of the best actors in what’s considered a trash genre by most critics and Hollywood elites. That being said, Pleasence shows that he can hang with one of cinema’s most celebrated actors.

However, even with good performances from those two legends, it’s Frank Langella who really steals the show, as the lead and title character.

Langella is a damn near perfect Dracula, especially for this story. As much as I like this take on the tale, Langella enhances the overall production with his charm, charisma and classically good looks. He looks the part and in some respects, makes it his own. Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone else being as perfect for this version of the story as Langella.

The world that this is set in is a great mixture of opulence, darkness and mystery. It feels like an extension of this Dracula’s aura and that everyone else is trapped within it with the monster, himself.

The atmosphere and tone of the picture are also heightened by the score of another legend contributing to this picture, John Williams. This was something he worked on between Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope and Raiders of the Lost Ark. These themes, however, are less adventurous and fun and more brooding and dark. Although, the score isn’t too similar to Jaws and with that, shows John Williams’ great range.

Out of all the Dracula movies ever made, this is what I would consider one of the best. At worst, it’s still top tier and features one of the greatest onscreen Dracula’s of all-time. Surprisingly, this is a movie that’s seldomly mentioned today.

Rating: 8.25/10