JESS FRANCO MONTH: Count Dracula (1970)

After years of being in Hammer Dracula movies, Christopher Lee starred in this Harry Alan Towers produced, Jess Franco directed version of Bram Stoker’s novel.

There’s a great cast and by that, I mean the kind of cast that I look for in movies. Klaus Kinski, (before he played Dracula in Nosferantu the Vampyre and Nosferantu In Venice) is Renfield, Herbert Lom is Van Helsing, Frederick Williams (A Bridge Too Far) is Jonathan Harker, Maria Rohn (Venus In Furs) is Maria, Paul Muller is Jack Seward, Jack Taylor is Quincey Morris (he had vampire hunting experience after being in the Mexican Nostradamus films) and Soledad Miranda — and who else, really? — is Lucy.

This could have had an even wilder cast, as both Vincent Price — sadly under his American-International Picture exclusive contract — and Dennis Price were both selected to play Val Helsing.

At the same time that this was being made, so was Cuadecuc, vampire, which was shot on the same sets with the same actors by the experimental director — and a senator elected in Spain’s first democratic elections who participated in the writing of the Spanish Constitution — Pere Portabella.

As for Franco’s film, it’s one of the first attempts at being faithful to the novel, with Dracula starting as an old man and gradually gaining in vitality as the movie goes on. Lee* was supposedly tired of playing Dracula and was only convinced to join the cast only after being promised that this movie would be faithful to Stoker. It still plays fast and loose; oddly enough Towers has claimed he tricked Kinski into being in this with a fake script. Franco has said that that wasn’t true, but what was is that Kinski ate real flies.

I wouldn’t expect the Franco madness that most associate with him, but this is the first extended time he’d work with Miranda before the films they’d be known for making together (she was an uncredited dancer at just eight years old in Franco’s Queen of the Tabarin Club). But there’s a great Bruno Nicolai score, Lee is super into everything he’s doing, the sparse sets work and Bruno Mattei was one of the editors.

There’s always been a contingent of people who claim this movie is boring, but look, any movie with Soledad Miranda in it is worthwhile.

You can watch this on Tubi.

*To be fair, Lee played the role three other times in 1970: in One More TimeTaste the Blood of Dracula and Scars of Dracula.

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