Dracula (1979)


I watched this movie last night for the umpteenth (okay, okay, hundredth) time, only I didn’t watch it alone. Thanks to the wonderful wonders of the Internet, two of my friends from different time zones joined me. How does that work? Skype and pushing “Play” all at the same time.

One might wonder what would compel me to watch the same movie over and over again, much less recruit new blood (ha ha!) into joining me. So what made three grown women sit there like Dracula’s Brides grinning for an hour and a half while trading creative ways to off Jonathan Harker? Well, there’s the obvious fact that the film is more a romance than a horror story. Then there’s the fact that we enjoy giggling over the occasionally cheesy special effects and one particularly bad line of dialogue (“… you are going to sprout the most enormous wart, right on the end of your nose!” — my word, how much was the actress paid to say that without cringing?).

Or… okay. I’ll just say it: Frank Langella in his prime. End of subject. He is, without a doubt, the most attractive, charming, mesmerizing, magnificent “anti-hero” you will ever have the pleasure to meet. If your mother lets you anywhere within fifty yards of the movie (and she won’t if you let her see the back cover, which looks a pamphlet straight out of a Horror Festival — obviously, a man designed it), I would be very much surprised. I have a funny story about obtaining mine. My mother did see it. She then proceeded to do a massive eye roll that nearly popped her eyeballs out of her head. I turned around in the store and — ran into a friend’s mother, who had recently enforced what she called a “vampire ban” on the household. I think I went through about six shades of white before I blurted out, “Nice to see you, Mrs. Horton!” and fled.

But anyway, back to the movie. I will attempt, in my own way, to point out its merits beyond the dancing scene, the balcony scene, the kissing scene and basically every other scene Dracula is actually in (which translated means this movie should be more about him and less about the idiots at the asylum) — which, actually, contains the most “religious” twist I have ever seen in a vampire movie (and trust me, I have seen a few).

Basically, there are three varieties of faith that have some influence in this film.

The first, and most powerful, is the absolute faith of Professor Van Helsing, who can keep Dracula at bay by waving around a rather impressive little sunflower glued to a Popsicle stick (okay, okay, it’s actually a holy insignia and supposedly, only the most devout priests are allowed to carry it around — which tells us that Van Helsing Must Be Tremendously Important to be traveling around the country with one of those in his pocket, alongside his copy of How To Dispatch Ye Old Vampyre). He also quite giddily “plants” communion wafers in Dracula’s Box O’ Dirt to prevent him from finding “rest.” (And yes, we did make jokes about whether or not he intended to water them later, and grow baby wafers.)

The second “faith” is in the form of Lucy and her father. Well, mostly her father because in five seconds flat Lucy was charmed by those vibrating eyes and happily ditched her cross necklace in favor of a lovely blood-sharing session with the Count. (Not that I blame her.) The normally moronic Dr. Seward, frequently to be found eating whatever he can get his hands on, manages to barely prevent one of Dracula’s immortal honeys from taking a big ole bite out of his throat. Note I said BARELY — with minimal faith and two crosses in hand. Good thing for him that sharp stake was conveniently laying nearby.

The third is the lack-of-faith of Jonathan Harker, which is admittedly one of my favorite moments (and no, not merely because Jonathan gets pwned and this allows me to laugh at him). He and Van Helsing are attempting to pollute Dracula’s pretty Boxes O’ Dirt with Holy Wafers when the Count shows up. Jonathan arrogantly whips out a giant cross and holds it out. Dracula looks at him for a moment, then reaches out and sets the cross on fire. Sounds heretical, right? But it is a very poignant and dramatic indication that Jonathan, for all his determination and prowess, is nothing against an Evil Force without God backing him up. Contrast that with Van Helsing’s ability to frighten off Dracula without breaking a sweat.

It is not about the size of the symbol or depiction of faith, but faith itself that counts when it comes right down to it. You can wield crosses and sanctimonious speeches all you want to, but unless you have a solid relationship with your Savior, it won’t amount to much more than amusing our immortal adversaries.

I would much rather be a Van Helsing than a Harker.

For more reasons than one.

One Reply to “Dracula (1979)”

  1. I love the contrast of faith in each person that is shown in this film. It really almost shows the different types of people in this world as well.
    The devout Christians (Van Helsing) who have faith enough to keep evil at bay.
    The Carnal Christians who have just enough faith to get themselves out of a jam.
    Those who are the “fake” Christians who say they have faith but the cross is only used to “prove” that they have faith. (Then of course in Harker’s case his proof was tested by fire and found to be lacking.)

    Excellent post!

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