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By Steve Andersen | April 24, 2004

From Artisan Home Entertainment, who is rapidly becoming the most prolific provider of direct-to-video titles since Full Moon Entertainment’s heyday of the early to mid – nineties, comes another title possibly related to Bram Stoker.

Bad news right off-there are only Spanish subtitles, so if you enjoy them or need them you’re plain old out of luck on this one. Deleted scenes also make an appearance, covering up some loose ends. Other features are also included-watch at will.

Bram’s been having a heyday these last few years, and this Italian picture is proof enough of that. Yet another retelling of the legend of this partly real, partly fictionalized Euro – Slavic – Something – or – Other Prince.

Most of the standards are here…we have Jonathan Harker, Mina Harker, Renfield and that old Dracul hisself, along with all the others. But we have a surprising amount of modern touches infused here. Modern Italian sports cars-at least it LOOKS Italian, I’m not a car buff-and cell phones make appearances alongside the old legends.

Stranger still, Dracula now looks strangely like Kevin Kline in French Kiss. Complete with hideous mustache. I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve never seen a vampire with facial hair. And predictably, he also has a problem with the Christian God, telling anyone who’ll listen at length about how “God is a murderer.”

Yet at the same time our coffin – bound Count (though he doesn’t enjoy being called such-too old fashioned! Can you believe it? The schmuck lives in the middle of Eastern Europe, in a by-God CASTLE, and he thinks being called “Count” is old fashioned.) is a religious sort of fellow. Of his own religion, anyway…he rants endlessly about “final conflicts” and “superiority to the animals”. And of course let’s not forget about how our dear Count is raising an army for this “final conflict”. Which is most of the Count’s motivation in the film-vampirism makes soldiers.

And then, in a scene of outright surrealist glee, Jonathan and Mina are married in the middle of a hospital following Jonathan’s car crash whilst escaping for our roaring contradiction of a vampire. You haven’t seen a wedding until you’ve seen old men in hospital johnnies handing out bouquets and a man in a wheelchair wearing a tiara as the groom. It wins PRIZES for being strange. Really.

So we have plenty of departures from the classic here. We have cell phones and souped-up sports cars and angry gun-toting border guards running about, but we also have the old standbys. For instance, Dracula’s need to have Romanian grave dirt around him at all times. Dracula’s ability to change forms into mists, bats, rats, wolves. Dracula’s marked susceptibility to crosses and holy water. All the oldest parts of the legend are in tact.

In fact, Dracula also develops delusions of grandeur, plotting global domination with an army of vampires at his control. But Harker and company set out to put an end to Dracula’s plans in classic style-contaminating his coffins with holy water, destroying the pure Romanian grave dirt, and so forth.

After nearly being rebuffed by several pieces of the legend, Dracula goes after revenge in the form of Harker’s new wife Mina. Turned into a vampire, Mina is now the weapon of choice for Harker and company’s plans. They set a trap for the vampire prince, waiting for him to come back to a willing food source.

In a true surprise twist, Mina slams a stake into Dracula’s ribs. Seems she’s not as turned as we thought. So, at least for the Harkers, a happy ending is realized.

Now, some points of discussion to expound on:

Notice the use of faith and religion in the movie. How even Dracula himself claims to be a believer-keeps Bibles in his castle-and yet is turned away by other parts of faith. Are we looking at a commentary on the duality of man? Or are we looking at a subtle critique of the modern era church?

Even more interesting is when one character mentions that the best way for an evil threat to all mankind to stay hidden until it’s too late to prevent or fight back against its attack is for it to become perceived as fiction. Sure! If I had a small arsenal of laser weaponry, why wouldn’t I release science fiction movies as a way to dissuade the populace from believing they existed? “That’s all fake,” folks would scoff. Right up until the very moment they were running in terror, dodging fire from those very same “science fiction” weapons. And by then, there would be nothing they could do to stop it.

Note the commentary at the end. How is a life measured? By success? By relationships?

Or by something else entirely?

Are legends so universal that they can be reworked into the modern era without qualm? You’ll see here how a story written well before the invention of the automobile manages to assimilate their existence into its confines.

Dracula’s Curse is a surprisingly engaging retelling of an old legend put almost seamlessly into the modern era. It’s quite a surprise to me that a story over three hundred years old could be modified so handily to fit our era.

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