Dracula’s Curse (2002)
Director: Roger Young
Dracula: Patrick Bergin
This production began on Italian TV (shot on video) as Il Bacio di Dracula (The Kiss of Dracula); I watched the Artisan DVD version entitled Dracula’s Curse, which cuts about an hour out of the run time because I just said Artisan. (Some of it shows up in the “deleted scenes,” which is even more maddening.) So I can’t speak to the pacing, which I think depends on how much you enjoy seeing the novel spool out; I didn’t find it a problem, certainly not compared to the always awful effects shots (they’re really, really awful) and the intermittently flat acting, not improved by terrible dubbing and looping. Probably the worst offender is Hardy Krüger Jr’s shouty-mannequin Harker, which is a special shame because this is the first Harker (possibly ever) to actually be written as an interesting character. He’s an American broker expat living in Budapest, desperate to score big so he can live up to his own nouveau-riche class consciousness (he splashes out on a red Porsche with his first bonus) and his fiancée Mina’s (Stefania Rocca) Davos-class expectations. That’s right, I forgot to mention — the movie is set in modern transnational Budapest, not Victorian London. The updated story and modern setting are actually the best things about this version, that and Muriel Baumeister’s party-girl Lucy. Sadly, Patrick Bergin’s lumbering Dracula (who ludicrously calls himself “Vladislav Tepes”) is not.
There’s no reason that a vampire can’t be sort of pouchy looking, but you have to really bring the menace; Bergin instead underplays his smug, mustached younger Dracula. This Dracula can change age without feeding, apparently, and impersonating his own older uncle (“Count Vladislav Tepes”) is part of his elaborate seduction of Harker. As his own older uncle Bergin looks appropriately Satanic and menacing, but overplays to compensate. Since he’s mostly acting against the world’s prettiest piece of wood Hardy Krüger Jr. it comes off as ridiculous, not scary. If I haven’t mentioned Giancarlo Giannini’s Enrico Valenzi (the “Van Helsing” part) it’s because the movie also treats him as an afterthought, and like many good Continental actors, Giannini’s response to a bad role is to quietly wait it out. Director Young made a lot of Bible movies, and may be the source of the Dracula-as-Nietzsche element — this Dracula seduces the striving youngsters with the promise of a life without a conscience, which is another good idea in this frustrating mix. Dracula Dossier Directors can get a lot of mileage from that and other underused good bits here: the Demeter recast as a Danube barge is fresh, Quincy as an Argentinian makes good cosmopolitan sense, and Lucy’s daylight bloofer lady scene plays with current child-abduction panics. See it as an arsenal of modernized Dracula tropes first and a movie second, and you’ll be happier — and from all evidence, closer to the filmmakers’ intent.
The 31 Nights of Dractober is a daily preview of a “first cut” essay on a cinematic Dracula. Updated to the New Europe (and by your comments and responses), it will appear in my upcoming book Thrill of Dracula, part of the Dracula Dossier Kickstarter. Speaking of which, for the final battle you can pre-order hard copies of The Dracula Dossier Director’s Handbook and Dracula Unredacted from your Friendly Local (Bits & Mortar participating) Game Store or from the Pelgrane store and get the PDFs now!