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I’m visiting one of our clients. Maybe you know him? Count Dracula.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Keeping the Christopher Lee theme alive (or at least undead) today’s movie is Jess Franco’s COUNT DRACULA.

I’m not a terribly big fan of Jess (or Jesus) Franco’s work. Sure, it’s hard not to like some of his exploitation work, like the infamous VAMPIROS LESBOS, but his work as a director is inconsistent and rushed. It’s no wonder, the man seemed to direct 4-6 pictures a year in his prime… I guess that makes him the Takashi Miike of his day. So, it’s no surprise to me that I found his retelling of the original Bram Stoker story a little on the slow side, featuring a few great central performances and some horrendous directing. I mean, seriously. How hard is it to keep a continuity on what time of day it is? Every other shot seems to contradict the previous. Inside Castle Dracula it’s nighttime, cut to Fred Williams as Jonathan Harker looking outside where it’s blue skies and sunshine, cut back inside as Dracula appears to talk to Harker, back to night. That happens throughout the whole movie. Franco also has a bad habit of making his features look too bright. If you’re lucky, you get moments of atmosphere (you do get a few key scenes looking good in this movie), but on the whole it looks like 70s TV lighting. I might be a little too harsh on this. Dracula was never my favorite story to begin with (I prefer Mary Shelley’s literary monster), but I love the character of the Count and the character of Van Helsing, which are two of the strongest elements of this movie. Christopher Lee could play Dracula in his sleep and still be menacing, horrifying and strangely charming. Here Van Helsing is played by Herbert Lom, an apt opponent for the one scene that the two share together.

Also good in the flick is Klaus Kinski as Renfield, played with more humanity than I’m used to seeing. Sure, he eats bugs, but he’s played as an empty and demented good man. He never really leaves the Sanitorium, but is still used by Dracula in a few key sequences. Kinski plays him almost childlike. The eye-candy is provided by VAMPIROS LESBOS’ Soledad Miranda as Lucy and the almond-eyed beauty Maria Rohm as Mina. Fred Williams as Jonathan Harker isn’t bad, either. The problems with the movie can’t be placed on the casting or performances, but in the execution of the story. Although I will say there’s a batshit ridiculous insane moment when our three heroes are cornered by Dracula’s taxidermy animals being controlled with mind-strings by Dracula. I’m ashamed to say that I was pretty creeped out during this scene even though I was also laughing at how ridiculous and over the top it was. With all of Franco’s zooming motions I couldn’t shake the similarity between that and Dramatic Look Gopher. But even so, it is the only part of the movie that had me really involved, so I give it full credit. Final Thoughts: Franco’s overuse of zooms, disinterest in keeping any sort of continuity and lack of atmosphere on top of seeing a story I’ve seen told a few dozen times made this a little bit more of a chore to sit through than I expected. Thankfully, Lee, Lom, Kinski and the rest of the cast made it less painful than it could have been. By the way, the best thing on the DVD is a special feature that is Christopher Lee reading the entire original Bram Stoker novel, which I’ve been listening to as I’ve written up this installment of AMAD.

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Tuesday, August 19th: DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972) Wednesday, August 20th: THE STRANGLERS OF BOMBAY (1960) Thursday, August 21st: MAN, WOMAN & CHILD (1983) Friday, August 22nd: THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE (1976) Saturday, August 23rd: THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS (1959) Sunday, August 24th: THE RACK (1956) Monday, August 25th: UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957) Okay, double cheat… but since the Commissioner of the A Movie A Day column (a Mr. Ain't_it_cruel?) says I’m allowed to cover some my AMADS recorded off of TCM, I have another one. This one called UNTIL THEY SAIL, a WW2 love story starring young Paul Newman and Jean Simmons, directed by Robert Wise. Tomorrow we hit a Hammer Dracula tale also starring Christopher Lee, pairing him once again with Peter Cushing: DRACULA A.D. 1972. See you folks then. -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates

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