When Dracula starring Frank Langella (Robot & Frank) was being promoted in 1979, it was a strange proposition. He was a Dracula that was not being presented like Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee with slick back hair. He had normal haircut that would have looked stunning on the dance floor at Studio 54. He wasn’t the most imposing of undead figures since the commercial had him looking rather smooth like he was on the dance floor of Studio 54. He was a bit more seductive with his female victims like he was on the dance floor at Studio 54. But it wasn’t Disco Dracula since that was Love At First Bite which came out three months earlier. Dracula was a bit more serious and Rated R. Langella did turn into a bat and wolf. But the for a fan of classic horror, this new Dracula was an outlier since it dared to look like a date night movie. You could taken someone who didn’t normally like horror films, but was intrigued by the shot of Dracula entering the room with all the smoke behind him. Sadly I couldn’t see it in the theaters since the film was R-rated and my parents weren’t intrigued. For those of us were curious about the Langella bloodsucking, Dracula: Collector’s Edition has the color version that played in the theaters and the desaturated color timing transfer that has played on video since 1991.
Unlike earlier versions of Dracula, the action doesn’t open in Transylvania. All of that has be chopped away so that a ship is fighting a massive storm off the coast of England. As if the crew doesn’t have enough to worry about the wind and the waves, there’s a creature ripping out their throats. This mayhem on deck is matched by things going wild at the nearby insane asylum run by Dr. Jack Seward (Halloween‘s Donald Pleasence). The next morning, they find the wreck of the ship on the beach. The only survive is Count Dracula who just bought a nearby estate. Seward invites the new neighbor over for dinner and a chance to meet his daughter Lucy (The Onedin Line‘s Kate Nelligan) and Mina Van Helsing (Ripping Yarns‘ Jan Francis). Turns out the Count has already met Mina. Their late night encounters don’t go well for Mina as she gets sick and dies. The Count gets a certain attraction to Lucy and doesn’t just want to go at her like he did Mina. His plans for Lucy get interrupted when her father Professor Abraham Van Helsing (The Marathon Man‘s Laurence Olivier) arrives. Suspect something is up with the new neighbor and investigates his daughter’s death. When he finds out the truth, does he have the ability to take care of the Count?
Whenever I hear a debate about the better Dracula, it’s always Bela Lugosi versus Christopher Lee. But sitting back and watching both versions of the film (color and desaturated), Langella deserves to throw his fangs in the ring. He works his lips around his victim’s bodies and lips before she offers him her neck. There’s no questioning of how anyone lets this guy close to their neck. He’s smoldering on the screen when he locks his eyes on Lucy. When he lets her lap up the blood from his chest, it’s red hot.
Director John Badham and screenwriter W. D. Richter change things up on the screen. They are able to give this romantic spin without cutting back on the blood sucking. They aren’t merely repeating the plot to Bela Lugosi’s version nor continuing the Hammer Horror series with Christopher Lee. For those extremely familiar with those versions, you do get a new film with new insight into the characters. Dracula: Collector’s Edition rises from the movie vault and will claim your soul.
The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The two choices of how to watch the film lets you see the desaturated version that gives the film a black and white look. Badham wanted to make the film in black and white and Universal nixed it. But he was able to get his own black and white version by desaturating the colors for video releases.
The color version is a new 4K Scan Of The Best Available Original Film Elements. The audio is 2.0 DTS-HD MA Stereo. The levels let you feel the passion of Langella’s Dracula and John Williams’ score. The movie is subtitled in English.
DISC ONE: DESATURATED COLOR TIMING
Introduction By Director John Badham (1:10) has him explain the two versions and the color differences. Badham had fallen in love with the darker, noir grittiness, but the studio released the other. Badham asks you to let him know which version you like better. He doesn’t seem to have a twitter account so you can send your opinion to @scream_factory.
King Of My Kind (32:18) is an interview with John Badham. He talks about how films can vanish. He’s happy that his Dracula keeps rising from the cinematic grave. He had done Night Gallery episodes for Rod Serling so he enjoyed horror. He wanted it to be more scary in the romantic way with Frank Langella. He got involved after seeing Frank Langella on Broadway with a production of Dracula that featured the artwork of Edward Gorey for the sets. He wanted to bring Frank’s Count to the screen. There’s photos from the Broadway production.
What Sad Music (33:26) sits down with interview With writer W.D. Richter. He feels he got the gig after his work on the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He changed up the campy feel of the play to be a bit more serious and focus on Dracula’s love for Lucy.
Dracula’s Guest (6:17) focuses on Camera Assistant Jim Alloway. He talks of the places they shot the film in England. He recounts how one of the actors had to be flown to London every night to be in a play so they’d toss the film on the plane to get to the lab. He talks about how Kodak’s 35mm film roles were not exactly 1,000 feet long.
Interview With Editor John Bloom (21:13) has an odd splice. Jim’s wife and kid saw Langella’s Dracula on Broadway and then discovered the film was going to be shot at his studio in England. He pursued getting the gig because he wanted to work on it after his wife’s rave.
Interview With Make-Up Artist Peter Robb-King (25:18) lets him recount working with Badham. He talks of the director having to deal with English weather and film crews. He wanted to make Langella look beautiful and seductive as Dracula.
Interview With Hair Stylist Colin Jamison (4:36) exposes that Langella wore a wig in the film.
Interview With Assistant Director Anthony Waye (15:54) deals with the English film industry around this time. He was happy to land the gig since so many producers would call without a budget to get into production.
Interview With Production Manager Hugh Harlow (21:36) has him talk about how he took over in production after working on Flash Gordon‘s preproduction. He discusses how there was an issue with Badham wanting them to work longer hours.
Audio Commentary With Director John Badham has him breakdown working on his big horror film. He speaks about working with a bug wrangler for the first time.
The Revamping Of Dracula Featurette (39:12) is a vintage making of documentary that features Frank Langella talking about getting cast in the film after the Broadway play. He wanted to approach the character different than Bela Lugosi’s version. Producer Walter Mirisch’s wife saw the play and recommended it to him.
DISC TWO: ORIGINAL THEATRICAL COLOR TIMING
Introduction By Director John Badham (1:10) is the same as the other disc.
Audio Commentary By Film Historian/Filmmaker Constantine Nasr has him speak of how Universal was bringing back Dracula in a big way. He talks about the color versus the desaturated version. Turns out the color version hasn’t been available since a VHS tape in the early ’90s. He has also interviewed Badham for a while about the film so he’s not completely guessing on director’s intent.
Theatrical Trailer (1:44) promises a new style Dracula.
Radio Spots (1:33) will scare you into the theater during your commute home.
Still Gallery (8:27) includes wardrobe tests, publicity photos, behind the scenes pics, posters, lobby cards and t-shirt.
Scream Factory presents Dracula: Collector’s Edition. Directed by: John Badham. Screenplay by: W. D. Richter. Starring: Frank Langella, Laurence Olivier, Donald Pleasence & Kate Nelligan. Rated: R. Running Time: 109. Released: November 26, 2019.
Tags: Dracula, Frank Langella, Hammer Horror, Scream Factory