Since I became a novelist, many people have asked me how I “got into vampires.” My typical response is that I have been a fan of Gothic Horror since I was very young, that I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I was nine years old or so and that I have just been drawn to the genre.
While all of that is true, there is one film that started it all – Dan Curtis’ Dracula starring Jack Palance as Stoker’s titular vampire king. This 1974 made-for-TV movie scared the living daylights out of a then-four-year-old me. Now, I have no idea why my mother had this on the 19-inch Zenith when I was at that tender age. But, I was quite taken with Palance and of course, the character of Dracula.
The digitally remastered film is now available on Amazon Prime video and I just watched it in its entirety for the first time in 45 years. Palance, although uneven, is commanding as Dracula. The great Richard Matheson, author of I Am Legend, penned the screenplay for this version. Liberties were taken and characters were omitted but several elements that many adaptations remove from the source material were included.
Dr. Jack Seward, Renfield and Quincey P. Morris are omitted, Lucy Westenra is now the Count’s long-lost love interest, and Jonathan Harker … well, you’ll just have to watch the film. Mina and Van Helsing remain, along with Arthur Holmwood.
The lavish set pieces and countryside scenery add to the richness of the production and they are reminiscent of the many Hammer Gothic Horror productions. There is a fair amount of fangs and blood, especially for a made-for-TV production.
If you are a fan of the genre and Dracula in particular, this is a more than acceptable entry in the canon. Check it out on Amazon Prime.
And the fact that I first saw this film when I was four years old certainly explains quite a bit.