DARIO ARGENTO’S DRACULA… THE LEGEND RISES. BASED ON THE BOOK BY BRAM STOKER. DIRECTED BY DARIO ARGENTO.
STARRING THOMAS KRETSCHMANN, MARTA GASTINI, ASIA ARGENTO, UNAX UGALDE, MIRIAM GIOVANELLI AND RUTGER HAUER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
I loved this beautifully lavish re-telling of the Dracula story. Okay, so some of the effects may have been a little cheesy, and nowhere have I ever read that Dracula has the power to transform himself into Grasshopperus, but I still loved every minute of it, especially the first eight minutes.
We’re in a small Transylvanian village. A busty young red-haired lass called Tania is urged by her nervous mother Jarmilla to be sure and put up the shutters as it’s… Yeah, yeah, sure, it’s Walpurgis Night, replies the daughter with the distinct air of someone who thinks that her ma is an old fusspot who flaps about too much.
Tania feels differently later that night, as she makes her way alone, after dark, through the decidedly scary woods to a rendezvous with her married lover on the other side of the village. They make love (in the nip!) in an old barn, and afterwards Tania gets an attack of the heebie-jeebies and begs her lover Milos to walk her home back through the creepy woods.
You came here alone, he counters, so why can’t you go back alone? Ah sure, you’ll be grand, you’ve got the cross I gave you, haven’t you? So Tania gets angry and comes back with: Take your mouldy cross back, you lazy bastard! You’re never getting the ride off me again, so how’d you like them apples? Or words to that effect…
Tania therefore walks home alone through the haunted woods, where she is attacked by Dracula in the form of an owl. She screams and screeches with fear initially, then an expression of the most sublime sexual bliss spreads across her face as Dracula vampirises her. He brings her back to his castle to live with him then as his concubine. Lucky Tania…
The story proper starts then. Jonathan Harker is a dark-haired fop who comes to the village seeking Count Dracula, the village’s patron and richest, most important resident. Jonathan’s wife Mina’s friend Lucy has managed to wangle a job for him as the Count’s librarian. The library is a magnificent room in the castle filled with lovely old books, enough for a lifetime, and the Count himself seems like a charming host.
Jonathan is even more taken by Titty Tania, the busty young one who lives at the castle now. When she tries to bite him, she is savagely thrown aside by Dracula, who fiercely exclaims as he grabs Jonathan and chomps down on his neck: ‘He’s MINE…!’ It’s a great atmospheric scene reminiscent of Valerie Gaunt, John Van Eyssen (who also plays a librarian) and Christopher Lee doing the same scene in the first ever Hammer Dracula film back in 1958.
Jonathan’s wife Mina arrives in the village then. She stays with her cousin Lucy, played by Asia Argenta, the movie director’s daughter. Lucy’s not in the best of health though, as, unbeknownst to Mina, she’s been receiving nocturnal visits from none other than the Prince of Darkness himself.
He’s been depleting her of her lovely blood and drawing it out from a place where it won’t be noticed, ie, the back of her left leg. What are those strange marks? Mina wants to know when she’s giving Lucy a nudie bath. Ah, sure, they’re only insect bites, replies Lucy flippantly. They’re nothing at all.
It’s only when Lucy dies that Mina realises there’s something dreadfully wrong in the little village. Luckily by then, cool guy Rutger Hauer has turned up in the village as Abraham Van Helsing, the vampire hunter, just in time to put the screws on the by then Undead Lucy. Van Helsing is looking to stamp out the reign of terror of the Fanged One.
When Lucy goes to the castle, only to find that Dracula is a handsome, charming and cultivated man (quietly spoken; a bit lacklustre for me personally) who actually thinks that she is the reincarnation of his dead wife, Lucy doesn’t need Van Helsing to tell her that she’s in a whole heap of trouble. The scene in the forest around the dead wife’s crypt is beautiful to look at, as is nearly everything in the film. It certainly all looks Transylvanian, anyway!
I loved the scene where the villagers, ie, the innkeeper, the local sergeant, the local drinkers, etc., all conspire around the table in the inn to wipe out Dracula, even though he’s built them their school and other amenities and he’s pretty much their bread and butter, so to speak. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, you ingrates, lol.
They have a symbiotic sort of relationship with each other. The Count is generous with his wealth, in return for the townspeople turning a blind eye to the occasional busty village maid going missing while making her way through the forest. Just like Titty Tania, yes!
I loved the way that Dracula then turns up at the meeting out of the blue, because he knows when people are talking about him, and he says solemnly: O-ho, gentlemen, so which one-a youse is trying to break our bleedin’ pact then?
He knows full well it was all of them, with the exception of one gigantic villager, a chap called Zoran, who sometimes does the Count’s dirty work for him. The way the Count handles those sneaky villagers is top-notch entertainment. There’s a Renfield-type character in the film too who is devoted to Tits-Out Tania, and also to the Master for freeing him from prison.
The film has everything you could desire, really, in a Dracula adaptation. Illicit sex in a barn; nice tits (Tania’s and Lucy’s, but not Mina’s, her’s a goody-two shoes! PS, how can Asia Argenta let her actual father film her in the nip…?); plenty of blood and gore and good strong violence, a Dracula pining over his wife who’s been dead for over four hundred years; loads of howling wolves (‘The children of the night; what music they make!’); a swarm of flies; and Mina giving a starkers Asia Argento a bath, in a scene reminiscent of one in Hammer’s THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970), in which a nudie Ingrid Pitt cavorts merrily with a half-nudie Madeline Smith after she leisurely uncurls herself from her hip bath. Seriously? Come on, guys. Never mind the critics. This is the stuff. I rest my case.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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