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Jonathan Harker (Fred Williams), a young and hopeful lawyer's
assistant) travels to Transylvania to sell a mansion near London to a
wealthy client of the company he's working at, Count Dracula (Christopher
Lee). Dracula welcomes him as an esteemed guest who is to teach him in
British culture, but soon Harker notices he's nothing but Dracula's
prisoner, and Dracula's three vampire brides are also after him.
Especially one Dracula leaves for England, Harker's situation becomes so
desperate that he throws himself out of a window to either escape or die
trying ... and he's rather lucky it wasn't the latter, but eventually he
wakes up in Van Helsing's (Herbert Lom) insane asylum back in the old UK,
where he's treated for his shock. Van Helsing for whatever reason believes
Harker's wild stories about vampires ...
Oh, and what nobody knows yet,
Dracula has moved into the long abandoned mansion next to the asylum ...
Harker's fiancée Mina (Maria Rohm) comes to visit him in the asylum
together with her best friend Lucy (Soledad Miranda), and it seems from
day one at the place, Lucy turns more and more bloodless ... which
shouldn't surprise nobody, as Dracula comes for nightly visits. Van
Helsing has sent for Lucy's fiancé Quincy Morris (Jack Taylor), but even
he can't defend Lucy from Dracula, and thus he dies. Her death though
bands together Morris, Harker, and Van Helsing's favourite among his
doctors, Seward (Paul Muller), and together, the three of them set out to
find and destroy Dracula. Dracula sees himself above the trio, but he's
annoyed enough to lure Mina away from them and drain her body of quite a
bit of blood, just as a warning. Eventually though, he sees it better to
return to his ancestral castle in Transylvania ...
One of Van Helsing's
patients is Renfield (Klaus Kinski), who is somehow mentally linked to
Dracula, mostly to freak everyone out, but when Dracula releases him from
his grip and thus kills him, Renfield is still able to mutter one last
word - the port where Dracula and his belongings will land. Fortunately,
there's a more direct way to his castle, and Herker, Seward and Morris
rush there at once - so quickly that they miss out on Dracula trying to
make Mina his consort but being chased away by Van Helsing with a burning
Harker, Seward and Morris arrive at Castle Dracula well before
the count, and kill all of his vampire brides, before attacking the gang
of gypsies escorting Dracula back home and finally exposing him to the
sun, upon which he burns to death ...
El Conde Dracula
is without a doubt one of the closest adaptations of the well-known and
often-filmed source material ... and it's also one of the most
under-appreciated ones, mainly because it was made on a rather low budget
(but with rather high profile stars delivering very solid performances),
and because for the longest time it was fashionable to shun director Jess
Franco (for his trashy movie topics and quite despite his qualities as a
filmmaker). Now El Conde Dracula is very interesting for taking its
source material seriously for a change, but then again, just like in the
novel, the film lacks really interesting characters (apart from Dracula
and Renfield), is not free from narrative letdowns (again, just like the
novel), and Jess Franco seems to feel seriously limited in his cinematic
opportunities when following someone else's story that closely.
In all, not a bad movie, and certainly a whole lot better than Francis
Ford Coppola's very over-blown Dracula, which also tried to remain
very faithful to the source, but neither one of my favourite Dracula
adaptations nor one of my favourite Jess Franco movies.