Dracula (1979 film): Wikis


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Promotional poster for Dracula
Directed by John Badham
Produced by Executive producer:
Marvin Mirisch
Walter Mirisch
Written by Novel:
Bram Stoker
Stage play:
Hamilton Deane
John L. Balderston
W. D. Richter
Starring Frank Langella
Laurence Olivier
Donald Pleasence
Kate Nelligan
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Gilbert Taylor
Editing by John Bloom
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) July 13, 1979
Running time 109 min.
Country USA
Language English

Dracula is a 1979 horror film starring Frank Langella as Count Dracula. The film was directed by John Badham and the cinematography was by Gilbert Taylor. The original music score is composed by renowned composer John Williams.

The film also starred Laurence Olivier as Professor Abraham Van Helsing, Donald Pleasence as Dr. Jack Seward, Kate Nelligan as Lucy Seward, Trevor Eve as Jonathan Harker, Tony Haygarth as Milo Renfield, and Jan Francis as Mina Van Helsing. It won the 1979 Saturn Award for Best Horror Film.

Like Universal's earlier 1931 version starring Bela Lugosi, the screenplay for this adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula is based on the stage adaptation by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, which ran on Broadway and also starred Langella in a Tony Award-nominated performance. Notable for its Edwardian setting, and strikingly designed by Edward Gorey, the play ran for over 900 performances between October 1977 and January 1980. It is also notable for switching the character's roles of Mina Harker and Lucy Westenra.

The film was shot on location in England: at Shepperton Studios and Black Park, Buckinghamshire. Cornwall doubled for the majority of the exterior Whitby scenes; Tintagel (for Seward's Asylum), and St Michael's Mount (for Carfax Abbey).


Plot summary

Set in Whitby, England (circa 1910's) Count Dracula (Frank Langella) arrives from Transylvania via the ship Demeter one stormy night. A sickly Mina Van Helsing (Jan Francis), who is visiting her friend Lucy Seward (Kate Nelligan), discovers Dracula's body after his ship has run aground. After praising her as his "Saviour," the Count visits Mina and her friends at the household of Lucy's father, Dr. Jack Seward (Donald Pleasence), whose clifftop mansion also serves as the local asylum. At dinner, he proves to be a charming guest and leaves a strong impression on the hosts, Lucy especially. Less charmed by this handsome Romanian count is Jonathan Harker (Trevor Eve), Lucy's fiance.

Later that night, while Lucy and Jonathan are having a secret rendezvous, Dracula reveals his true nature as he descends upon Mina to drink her blood. The following morning, Lucy finds Mina awake in bed struggling for breath. Powerless, she watches her friend die only to find wounds on her throat. Lucy blames herself for Mina's death as she had left her alone.

At a loss for the cause of death, Dr. Seward calls for Mina's father, Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Laurence Olivier). Van Helsing suspects what might have killed his daughter: a vampire. Moreover, he begins to worry about what fate his seemingly dead daughter may now have since her encounter with the creature. Seward and Van Helsing investigate their suspicions and discover a makeshift tunnel within Mina's coffin (clawed by hand) which leads to the local mines. It is there that they encounter the ghastly form of an undead Mina, and it is up to a distraught Van Helsing to destroy what remains of his own daughter.

Lucy meanwhile has been summoned to Carfax Abbey, Dracula's new home, and soon she reveals herself to be in love with this foreign prince and openly offers herself to him as his bride. After a surreal "Wedding Night" sequence (employing lasers and shot by famed James Bond title sequence designer, Maurice Binder), Lucy, like Mina before her, is now infected by Dracula's blood. However, the two doctors manage to give Lucy a blood transfusion to help prevent her vampirism, but nothing can stop the inevitable now.

Now aided by Jonathan, the elderly doctors realise that the only way to defeat Dracula (and save Lucy) is by destroying him. They manage to locate his coffin within the grounds of Carfax Abbey, but the vampire is waiting for them (despite it being daylight Dracula is still a very powerful adversary to his enemies). Dracula escapes their feeble attempt to kill him and bursts into the asylum to free the captive Lucy. While there he murders his one time slave, Milo Renfield (Tony Haygarth) for warning the others about him. Dracula now intends for he and Lucy to return to Transylvania together.

In a race against time, Harker and Van Helsing just manage to get onboard a ship carrying the vampire cargo bound for Romania. Below decks, Harker and Van Helsing find the Count's coffin; upon opening it they see Lucy sleeping beside her new "husband", Dracula. Again they try to destroy him, but the Count awakens and once more fights with his assassins. In the struggle, Van Helsing is fatally wounded by Dracula as he is impaled by the stake intended for the vampire. As the enraged Count now turns his attention to Harker, the dying doctor uses his remaining strength to throw a hook (attached to a rope, from the ship's rigging), into Dracula's back. Harker seizes his only chance and hoists the Count's body up through the cargo hold and into the sunlight above. Dracula then suffers a slow and painful death as the solar rays burn his body to ashes.

Lucy, now apparently herself once more, reaches out to Harker for support, but is coldly rejected by her one time suitor. It is at that moment that she looks up to see Dracula's cape flying away in the wind, where she smiles enigmatically, hopeful that her true love is not quite so dead after all. It is left up to the viewer to decide the meaning of the ending.

Main cast

Actor Role
Frank Langella Count Dracula
Laurence Olivier Abraham Van Helsing
Donald Pleasence Dr. Jack Seward
Kate Nelligan Lucy Seward
Trevor Eve Jonathan Harker
Jan Francis Mina Van Helsing
Janine Duvitski Annie
Tony Haygarth Milo Renfield
Teddy Turner Swales
Sylvester McCoy Walter

Deviations from the novel

This list is not exhaustive, but intended to convey a sense of the differences between the film and the novel:

  • The setting is shifted to 1913.
  • The entire storyline about what happens in Transylvania is omitted (as, consequently, are the Brides of Dracula).
  • Renfield is a laborer who goes to work at Carfax Abbey, encounters Dracula and goes insane.
  • Dracula already has a young appearance.
  • The characters of Mina and Lucy are exchanged and altered:
    • Mina is Van Helsing's daughter and becomes a vampire.
    • Lucy is Dr. Seward's daughter and engaged to Harker.
  • Contrary to vampire lore, the undead Mina casts a reflection in a pool of water.
  • The characters of Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris are omitted.
  • Dracula does not have multiple coffins (though the possibility is discussed).
  • Harker kills Dracula on board ship, by forcing him into the sunlight.
  • The romance between Dracula and Lucy, while a popular film contrivance, does not exist in Stoker's work.
  • Dracula is never seen with either fangs or wolf eyes (though the female vampires in the film do sport these). This was because of the insistence of Langella, who argued the case for a more believable monster.

Critical response

In 1979, three major Dracula movies were released simultaneously around the world: Werner Herzog's arthouse re-telling Nosferatu the Vampyre, John Badham's Dracula, and the comedy Love at First Bite. The success of the jokey Love at First Bite, starring George Hamilton, may have had something to do with the muted response Badham's film would subsequently experience. The film performed modestly at the box office, grossing $20,158,970 domestically, and was seen as something of a disappointment by the studio.

Some critics reacted positively toward the film, such as Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, who gave gave it 3½ stars out of 4 and wrote: "What an elegantly seen Dracula this is, all shadows and blood and vapors and Frank Langella stalking through with the grace of a cat. The film is a triumph of performance, art direction and mood over materials that can lend themselves so easily to self-satire. There have been so many Draculas (Béla Lugosi played him two times, Christopher Lee eight) that the tragic origins of the character have been lost among the gravestones, the fangs and all those black cloaks. This Dracula restores the character to the purity of its first film appearances, in F. W. Murnau's 1923 Nosferatu and Bela Lugosi's 1931 version."[1] Others reacted less positively, such as Janet Maslin of The New York Times, who wrote: "In making this latest trip to the screen in living color, Dracula has lost some blood. The movie version ... is by no means lacking in stylishness; if anything, it's got style to spare. But so many of its sequences are at fever pitch, and the mood varies so drastically from episode to episode, that the pace becomes pointless, even taxing, after a while."[2]

In the home video market of the early 80's, John Badham's Dracula became a very popular title (making it into Variety's All-Time Horror Rentals - published 1993), but it eventually seemed to fall into relative cinematic anonymity for several years (partly due to it having a very limited video release outside of the USA). In more recent years, however, the film has undergone a bit of a revival, thanks to being made widely available on DVD and shown often on cable television, enabling new audiences to discover the film.

DVD and video re-coloring

The 1979 theatrical version of the movie looks noticeably different from all modern prints of the film. Up until the early 1990s the film was shown in full Technicolor; however, when it was re-issued for a special Widescreen Laserdisc release in 1991, the director chose to alter the color timing and desaturated the once vibrant look of the film. The controversial choice left all subsequent prints (including DVDs) virtually colorless, prompting many arguments on internet movie forums. The reason for the change is that John Badham had originally wanted to shoot the film in black and white (to mirror the monochrome 1931 movie and the stark feel of the Gorey stage production), but at the time Universal refused and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor was instead prompted to shoot the movie in very warm 'golden' colors, helping to show off the stunning production design. The original version has been out of print for several years and it remains to be seen if it will be given a re-release by Universal at some point in the future.

See also


External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Dracula is a 1979 film about the ancient Transylvanian vampire Count Dracula, his voyage to England and his hunting by legendary monster hunter Abraham Van Helsing. It is a remake of the 1931 classic.

Directed by John Badham. Written by Bram Stoker, Hamilton Deane, John L. Balderston, and W. D. Richter.
Throughout history, he has filled the hearts of men with terror, and the hearts of women with desire. Taglines


Count Dracula

  • You fools! Do you think with your crosses and your wafers you can destroy me? Me! You do not know how many men have come against me. I am the king of my kind! You have accomplished nothing, Van Helsing. Time is on my side. In a century, when you are dust, I shall wake and call Lucy, my queen from her grave.
  • [to Lucy] Now it is you, my best beloved one. You will be flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. You shall cross land or sea to do my bidding. I need your blood. I need...


Dr. Jack Seward: Count, some wine? You haven't...
Count Dracula: No thank you, Doctor. I never drink wine.
Lucy Seward: Before you arrived, we were looking at the ship's log.
Count Dracula: It wasn't lost at sea?
Lucy Seward: No. The very last entry was a strange word, a word that Mina thought meant "undead".
Count Dracula: Undead?
Mina Van Helsing: Yes. "Nosferatu".
Count Dracula: Ah, it means "not dead".
Lucy Seward: Then you were right.
Count Dracula: No, with your permission and all due respect to Miss Van Helsing. Yes, I'm quite finished, thank you. There is a distinction, the words "not dead" carry the simple meaning.
Mina Van Helsing: Dead... undead... I don't care! They all frighten me!
Lucy Seward: Oh, I love to be frightened!
Count Dracula: Do you?

Dr. Jack Seward: [sending a message to Van Helsing over the phone] Mina has died. No, not lied... died! Telegraph or come at once. Your dear friend on this saddest of occasions, Jack Seward. [hangs up the phone] Yes, I do hope the professor gets it. That poor, poor man.
Lucy Seward: Poor Mina.
Jonathan Harker: Do you think it was her heart?
Lucy Seward: Or that pain in her head last light?
Dr. Jack Seward: I don't know. It's been so long since I've practiced real medicine.
Jonathan Harker: Well, what do you think killed her?
Dr. Jack Seward: Killed her? That's an odd word. Yet, there was no sign of disease.
Jonathan Harker: What about those marks on her neck?
Dr. Jack Seward: Marks on her neck? Perhaps she injured herself from fastening her shawl.
Lucy Seward: Oh, father, don't be absurd! You saw those wounds!

Count Dracula: Jonathan Harker tells me you speak some Romanian.
Lucy Seward: Well, hardly, I know...
[Dracula says a sentence in Romanian and Lucy smiles]
Count Dracula: There, you do understand.
Lucy Seward: [still smiling] Not really. I have no idea what you said.
Count Dracula: I said it would be nice to see you smile.
Lucy Seward: [pause] Then you should be pleased.
Count Dracula: Oh, I am. But I must warn you to take care.
Lucy Seward: Whatever for?
Count Dracula: If, at any time, my company does not please you, you will have only yourself to blame for an acquaintance who seldom forces himself but is difficult to be rid of.

Count Dracula: [hears wolves howling] Listen to them, the children of the night. What sad music they make.
Lucy Seward: Do you think it's sad?
Count Dracula: So lonely, like weeping.
Lucy Seward: I think it's a wonderful sound. I really love the night. It's so simple.
Count Dracula: So deceptive.
Lucy Seward: So exciting.
Count Dracula: You take the dawn for granted. The warm hot sunlight. Ah, but the night...
Lucy Seward: was made to enjoy.
Count Dracula: Yes. Yes, it was. It was made to enjoy life... and love.

Count Dracula: You are a wise man, Professor, for someone who has not yet lived a single lifetime.
Prof. Abraham Van Helsing: You flatter me, Count.
Count Dracula: But not wise enough to return to Holland at once, now that you have learned what you have learned.
Prof. Abraham Van Helsing: I prefer to remain.
Count Dracula: In the past 500 years, Professor, those who have crossed my path have all died, and some not pleasantly. Come here! [raises his hand to hypnotize Van Helsing]
[Van Helsing take hypnotized steps towards Dracula but soon steps back, resisting Dracula's power over him]
Count Dracula: Your will is strong. Then I must come to you.
[Van Helsing reaches out for his eucharist as Dracula lunges towards him]
Count Dracula: Sacrilege! Sacrilege! [snarls and turns into a wolf to escape]

Lucy Seward: [talking about Dracula] He's no danger to me.
Jonathan Harker: He's a monster, a vampire!
Lucy Seward: You fools, all of you!
Prof. Abraham Van Helsing: She means to warm him.
Lucy Seward: Jonathan, if you try to stop me, I shall kill myself.
Abraham Van Helsing: I charge you on your living soul, Lucy Seward, that you do not die or think of death until this great evil which has fouled your life is true dead himself!
Lucy Seward: You dare try to confuse me! Tormenting him who is the saddest, the kindest of all!
Prof. Abraham Van Helsing: Kind? If I could send his soul to everlasting, burning hell, I would!
Lucy Seward: I despise you, all of you. Get out of my way!

Milo Renfield: I'm a slave, I'm a dog, master. But please don't kill me. For the love of God let me live.
Count Dracula: Did I not promise you that you should come to me at you death, and enjoy centuries of life and power over the bodies and souls of others?
Milo Renfield: But I don't want human life.
Count Dracula: You betrayed me. You sought to warn them all against me.
Milo Renfield: Then punish me, torture me, I deserve it. But please don't kill me.
Count Dracula: Oh, Renfield, you disappoint me so. [breaks Renfield's neck]

Count Dracula: Lucy, come! Come to me!
[Lucy runs into Dracula's arms, and he embraces her]
Count Dracula: Now, you must go on a bit longer as of a creature of this earth. Only until we have left behind those who would destroy us.
Lucy Seward: And then?
Count Dracula: Then you will join me on a higher plane feeding on them. We will create more of our kind, Lucy.


  • Throughout history, he has filled the hearts of men with terror, and the hearts of women with desire.
  • The story of the greatest lover who ever lived, died, and lived again.

Main cast

Actor Role
Frank Langella Count Dracula
Sir Laurence Olivier Abraham Van Helsing
Donald Pleasence Dr. Jack Seward
Kate Nelligan Lucy Seward
Trevor Eve Jonathan Harker
Jan Francis Mina Van Helsing
Janine Duvitski Annie
Tony Haygarth Milo Renfield
Teddy Turner Swales
Sylvester McCoy Walter

External links

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