1979 - 109m.
Much like Bela Lugosi, Frank Langella once played the immortal count on the stage, but that's about where the similarities end. Actually, that's where any similarities to the true Dracula story end and the Anne Rice/gothic wanting start up. That's right fiends, 1979's version of Dracula is a brooding love story, and a total antithesis of what the story actually is.
Of course, many people would say in that that the film is way ahead of it's time, it took writers and filmmakers at least ten years to jump on that bandwagon and turn the vampire into a sympathetic character - a love interest... Then there are those of us who realize that this is a monster, not some playboy of the night, and it deserves to be treated as such - those of us who are sick of seeing one of, if not the, greatest monsters turned into a pansy.
Now, before I start getting any outraged emails about the vampire being "hurt and lonely, having to live through the ages without love", think of it this way. The vampire, more or less, eats people to stay alive - no one can disagree on that. Ergo, a vampire loving a human woman would be similar to a human loving a cow - we eat cows, they eat us, same thing. Only thing is, it isn't cool or dark for a human to love a cow, therefore the aforementioned barnyard shenanigans don't ruin powerful literature and films like so much chocolate in my peanut butter.
Anyway, back to the review. Despite having a great cast, a large budget, and some of the best scenery ever, this version of Dracula falls flat on it's fanged face by the lack of passion and respect for the work. Langella never once attempts to make the Count scary, Olivier chews more scenery than Drac does necks and embarrasses himself doing so, and Eve's Harker seems more like and afterthought than the hero of the piece. The only commendable acting of the lot is Pleasence's Seward and Tony Haygarth's Renfield. Pretty bad when the cast is full of such greats to have a bit genre actor and an unknown outshine the lot of them.
Acting aside, the worst part about this film is the constant and unnecessary changes to the story - like changing Lucy and Mina's characters, more or less switching the names for no apparent reason - and of course the romanticizing of the vampire which we discussed earlier.
On the positive side though (yes, there is one), the big budget of the film gives the sets a truly epic feel. Everything from Seward's sanitarium to the rolling hills and ancient cars lends credibility to what could be considered one of the worst interpretations ever.
As a side note, this movie has recently been released on DVD, and a lot of you will no doubt be confused as to what it is (it's largely unknown as far as Dracula movies go) and to whether or not it should be purchased. I implore you to pick up the cheaper (and far better) versions of the story from Universal and Hammer studios. (Red, 10/25/04)
Directed By: John Badham.
Written By: W.D. Richter.
Starring: Frank Langella, Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasence, Trevor Eve.