The mere thought of Jess Franco adapting Dracula is intriguing. He’s a filmmaker who is prone to sleaze and erotica, but he’s also a filmmaker who, I would argue, is at his most competent when he puts in the effort. There’s just something about a quality Franco film, and Count Dracula is no different in this regard. It’s a film that is moody as well as mystical; a film in which the relationship between man and monster is front and center, what with the regaining of youth, Harker becoming Dracula’s prisoner, and, to a lesser extent, the efforts that are made to put an end to the count’s reign of terror. These illustrate that not only does Dracula have a presence, but also that, as the villain, he possesses a great deal of control. This is a detail that Franco emphasizes as victims are corrupted.
In terms of atmosphere, it emanates from the screen whether Harker is in the midst of thick fog on his way to Dracula’s castle, or Dracula himself is seducing a maiden by calling her name from outside her window. It’s details such as these that are simple but effective and add to the immersion in such a way that complements Dracula’s allure. This is a characteristic that Lee gets a lot of mileage out of; in fact, he wears it so well that it’s hard to imagine the film without it. With this in mind, there is a sensual quality to Dracula’s seduction of Lucy, which, considering that Franco isn’t up to his neck in erotic affairs, stands out like a sore thumb.
I’m not overly familiar with Bruno Nicolai as far as his collaborations with Franco go; if anything, I’m more familiar with Nicolai’s giallo and spaghetti western work. However, I appreciate the fact that he got around. Nonetheless, the score is on point. It fits the atmosphere well, and it has a sinister yet anxious quality to it, a quality that is all the more apparent given the way the camera emphasizes details. There are many instances of this, so not only is Franco aware of his surroundings, but zooming in and out are executed with flair. Granted, it’s odd to regard the scene in which Renfield eats bugs in the same light, but given that the director is no stranger to experimenting, it doesn’t feel out of place.
I was overdue to feast my eyes on Count Dracula, and I must say I’m glad I did. I found it captivating but also stylish, so I don’t see myself forgetting it anytime soon. If anything, I’ll look back on the film favorably, provided my neck isn’t punctuated by a pair of fangs. I’m not sure if my fondness for Franco would be as potent as garlic, but nonetheless, he has a winner on his hands.