My wife got me Count Dracula starring Louis Jourdan on DVD this past Christmas. This version was a BBC production done in 1977, shot on sound stages and on location around England. It aired in America on the public broadcasting stations at the time. I remember watching it as a seven year old with my mom (she often kept me up to watch scary movies with her), and being terrified.
After 30 odd years it still holds up very well, even the video tape effects which sometimes look hooky today (hello Dr. Who?) actually impressed me. I originally sat down to watch a little bit because I couldn’t sleep, and wound up watching the whole thing in one sitting.
Louis Jourdan makes a perfect Dracula. He’s aristocratic, charming, sensual, devilish and evil all in one. This isn’t a brooding lonely Dracula just looking for someone to love him (hello, Gary Oldman), he a cunning blood sucker out to recruit fresh disciples to carry on his disease.
My favorite character from the whole production was Renfield, played by Jack Shepherd. Most of the time the Renfield character is played just as a madman, which does the character an injustice. Shepherd’s performance is deeper than that, showing a side of Renfield you don’t often see. As he says in the best line of the show, “I'm not a lunatic in a mad fret. I'm a sane man, fighting for his freedom. “
Sure there have been some dramatic changes to the story. Dracula doesn’t age in reverse (very few versions keep this), Lucy and Mina are sisters and so forth, but for the most part it stays very close to the original Bram Stoker novel.
I highly recommend this DVD to any Dracula enthusiasts who haven’t seen it yet, I give it ten out of ten bats (sorry, I just had a Forrest J Ackerman moment). If you’ve seen it, let me know what you thought.