Hardy Krüger Jr.
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Dracula (aka Dracula's Curse) (2002)
10th Oct 05
A contemporary update for Dracula that remains fairly faithful to Stoker’s novel.
Review (Part of Anchor Bay's Box of Blood)
Even in the best DVD box sets there is usually a disc that will end up doubling as a drinks coaster. I don’t know what Vampires: out for Blood is like (Rawshark took that one - see here) but I imagine it’s going to be close run thing between it and Dracula for that dubious accolade.
This film first aired on Italian TV as a two-part mini-series called Il Bacio De Dracula (The Kiss of Dracula), and you can really tell. Apparently the original lasts nearly three hours and - according to a bizarrely fawning review I found on IMDB - has more in the way of ’character development’. Great. Even shorn of 60 odd minutes the film drags, so that should not be taken as any kind of incentive to seek out the full version.
To be fair Roger Young’s updating isn’t actually that bad - there have been far worse cinematic incarnations of Stoker’s tale than this - but it must rank as one of the dreariest adaptations ever - a toothless bore shorn of any frisson of eroticism, with nary a drop of blood in sight.
The idea of putting a contemporary spin on Stoker’s tale has been adopted before but this is a conservative reworking, retaining all the main characters and keeping their original names. The setting here is modern day Budapest and Jonathan Harker is an investment banker attending a society ball with fiancée Mina Murray and friends Lucy, Quincy and Arthur. After the party (which plays out like an extended Ferrero Rocher ad) Jonathan is summoned to meet the mysterious Vladislav Tepesh (Patrick Bergin) an enigmatic charmer looking to secure Harker's services and help purchase a house in Budapest for his Uncle, Count Vladislav.
Harker gets in his natty sports car, kicks back with some FM rock and belts it over to the Count’s place, only to crash the car and get twatted by some angry locals. He is rescued by a mysterious coachman and taken to the Count (Bergin again, only older looking, fatter and with an odd resemblance to an aged Billy Connolly) and well; you know the deal from there…
Having a modern day Harker as a callow yuppie is a good idea, but someone forgot to tell Hardy Krüger Jr that trading on poppas name isn’t enough - you actually have to emote. This man is clearly not an actor - he’s a TAG Hauer/GQ model - and I soon found myself in the extraordinary position of missing Keanu Reeves’ endearingly bad Harker in Coppola’s Bram Stokers Dracula, and that really is saying something.
The rest of the cast fare a little better, with Steffania Rocca (from Argento’s The Card Player) quietly effective as Mina, and Giancarlo Giannini entertaining as the Van Helsing figure (here renamed Dr Valensi). Muriel Baumeister is a very pleasing distraction as Lucy, but this being a TV movie the clothes stays on, sadly.
One of the most noticeable things about this version is how faithful it is to Stoker’s novel, so in between slabs of leaden exposition, we are treated to vast swathes of the original text. The choice of Budapest as location is admittedly pretty effective - a city that has an eye pleasing blend of ancient and modern, with plenty of gothic cathedrals. But the strongest influence on this version is the aforementioned Bram Stokers Dracula and the best, most effective scenes in Young’s film – the seduction of Harker by the counts three brides, Dracula’s wooing of Mina – play out like straight lifts from Coppola’s camp cavalcade, shot for shot.
Given the films TV origins, it would be a tad harsh to diss the FX but hey let’s do it anyway. They are atrocious. Ultimately though, this Dracula is ‘cursed’ not by budget limitations but by the casting of Patrick Bergin in the lead. Step forward and take a bow Pat – you’ve successfully realised the least menacing Dracula put on screen (and I include Leslie Nielsen in Dracula: Dead and Loving It). How can we take his effortless seduction of the luscious Lucy seriously when he shuffles across the screen looking like a weird cross between Lech Walesa and an ageing Scouse footballer? Daft old count.
Versions Originally aired on Italian TV as a two-part mini-series called Il Bacio De Dracula (The Kiss of Dracula) lasting nearly three hours.