6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A superior and intriguing failure,
This review is from: Dracula [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
There's more than just a touch of disco to Frank Langella's costumes in John Badham's 1979 Dracula, and along with the copious amounts of dry ice accompanying his seductions and a Maurice Binder laser light love scene it occasionally hovers on the edge of turning into Saturday Bite Fever. But this is more of a lavishly mounted old-school interpretation, with W.D. Richter's screenplay reworking both the novel and the stage play to interesting effect: the film is set entirely in England, bracketed by two violent scenes at sea, and Dracula here is more of a serial seducer than a creature of the night. But by emphasizing the Byronic seductiveness of the role there's never an real sense of menace or threat: this Dracula is more like that smooth git who steals your girlfriend at a nightclub than the embodiment of evil, and it's only in the snarling violence of the finale that you get a sense of the animal beneath. That the forces of good are such a lifeless lot doesn't help much either: Laurence Olivier isn't quite as embarrassingly OTT as my memory had him, and Donald Pleasance's habit of eating in his every scene isn't as tiresome on the small screen as the large, but along with Trevor Eve's ey-upp lad northern lawyer type Jonathan Harker they don't exactly have you cheering them on. But despite the problems, the films is full of great little moments, such as the Count clawing away at the putty in a window to get to his first victim, boasts beautiful production design (the shipwreck and Carfax Abbey are particularly impressive) and has a wonderful romantic score by John Williams. The eagle-eyed will spot future Doctor Who and holder of the Guinness World Record for stuffing live ferrets down his trousers (it's genuine: look it up) Sylvester McCoy in a cough-and-a-spit part.
The transfer on both Universal's DVD and their subsequent Blu-ray release, sadly, loses the rich colour of the theatrical release for the prefered desaturated near-black and white look Badham originally wanted - one of those occasions where you can't help but agree with the studio, I'm afraid. Boosting the colour controls on your TV won't help either: parts of the film, like the establishing shot of Whitby Harbour, have no colour at all to boost, and the desaturation has been accompanied by a lack of background detail. The retrospective documentary on the Region 1 NTSC DVD and region-free Blu-ray is interesting and informative, but the photo gallery is poorly presented and the absence of the original trailer is disappointing.