10 January 2004 | TorontoJediMaster
Best, and Most Faithful, Version of the Story Ever Filmed!
This is, without a doubt, the best and most faithful version of Bram Stoker's novel ever filmed.
Anyone who went to see the 1992 Coppola version and was disappointed at it's failure to live up to its billing as a faithful rendition of the novel, then they should check out this superlative effort by the BBC.
The cast is uniformly excellent. Louis Jourdan gives a tremendous performance as the Count. He brings a subtle menace to the role that few actors have ever been able to do. He has none of Gary Oldman's over-the-top theatrics or bizarre appearance. When Jourdan's Dracula answers the door, he appears as a normal looking man, dressed in black. The signs of something amiss are subtle; not in your face. When Dracula insists on helping Harker with his heavy trunk (which Harker had been forced to drag, due to the weight) he effortlessly picks it up and carries it in and up the stairs. He projects charm and menace in the role. This is also the first version that has his descending down the outside wall of his castle like an insect.
Frank Finlay is also wonderful as Professor Van Helsing. He makes the character a kindly, likeable man, but with an unbreakable determination. He is determined to stop Dracula, but also is genuinely concerned about the welfare of companions in the crusade; as well as any potential victims -i.e.his genuine horror at discovering the vampiric Lucy has attacked a small child. (Compare that to Anthony Hopkins overacting every scene he's in). Bosco Hogan is probably the best actor to play Jonathan Harker. And, Judi Bowker is the perfect Mina. She projects innocence, intelligence and is more than able to handle herself in a rough situation. (She saves Jonathan by shooting one of the Count's bodyguards off his back). Susan Penhaligon is fine as the doomed Lucy. Mark Burns, Jack Shepard and Richard Barnes give very good work as -respectively- Seward, Renfield and Quincy.
The sets are marvellous. The castle looks creepy and authentic (both interiors and exteriors). The homes look like people actually live in them. As an added bonus, there are actually scenes filmed in Whitby.
There are some deviations from the novel (Mina and Lucy are sisters. The character of Arthur and Quincy are merged into one -Quincy Holmwood). However, compared to other adaptions these are very minor. (None of the Mina being a reincarnation of his lost love...None of the whole story being turned into a parlour mystery that never leaves Dr. Seward's living room...etc)
I cannot recommend this film highly enough. If anyone enjoys Dracula films, go check it out. The DVD picture and sound quality are amazing. They also restore a scene cut from TV viewings where Dracula's brides feast on a baby.
This version was shut up in BBC vaults for over 25 years. Now that it's been released I sincerely hope that more people can see it, and it can be accorded it's deserving title as the most faithful and well done version of the novel, ever.