I love Frank Langella as Dracula. My favorite vampire character is probably one of the lesser known incarnations of an extremely famous character: Dracula. I would imagine that virtually everyone has some knowledge of Bram Stoker's original character, or those movie versions featuring Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee or Gary Oldman.
However, my favorite vampire character is Dracula as portrayed by Frank Langella in the 1979 version directed by John Badham.
That's not to say that the film is amazing, and I can't vouch completely for its accuracy with regard to Stoker's novel since it has been a long long time since I've read Dracula. But it is a must see part of the vampire film repertoire. And Frank Langella as Dracula is perfect.
Really, I just love this film in its own right as an unabashed romantic fantasy. More than any other Dracula version, it really caters to that quintessential fairytale fantasy that some women - myself included - secretly dream about.
Yes, it's trite and more Barbara Cartland than Bram Stoker, but that's its appeal. In this version Dracula is suave, seductive and articulate, and the film includes several extremely romantic scenes between him and Lucy (this film, it must be noted, switches Lucy's and Mina's names around).
In an early scene, for example, Lucy asks the vampire Dracula to dance and he replies, "but I hardly-". Assuming that he was about to say that he can’t dance, Lucy reassures Dracula that she’ll teach him. However, Dracula then takes her hand in his and puts his other hand around her waist in a sensual manner, telling her, "I meant, I hardly know you". He then takes control as he dances with her, and he comes across as really magnetic and urbane.
The film also features a night time balcony scene, culminating in Dracula and Lucy's first kiss and including a particularly seductive moment where Dracula appears as though he might bite Lucy's neck but instead kisses and nibbles on her ear. The love scene later on is clichéd and features some very 1970s effects, but it caters to this same romantic sensibility. Lucy is wearing a long white nightdress and Dracula an open-chested shirt, and he literally sweeps her off her feet and carries her to the bed, telling her that he needs her blood.
My favorite moment, however, is an exchange of dialogue that occurs when Dracula and Lucy are sitting across from each other at the dining table in his candle-lit castle: Dracula says to Lucy, "Jonathan Harker tells me you speak some Romanian", to which Lucy laughs dismissively, but Dracula then says something in Romanian and a smile appears on Lucy's face.
Frank Langella as Dracula notes this and says, "Ah, see, you do understand", to which Lucy replies "No, not really, I have no idea what you said", which suggests that her smile was more due to her lack of knowledge. But Dracula then tells her, "I said, it would be nice to see you smile".
I loved this because, even though Lucy apparently didn't know that Dracula had said anything about smiling, he'd gotten her to smile regardless. I thought that was a sweet, clever moment but also quite intense, and the fact that Lucy's expression becomes more serious at that point brings out that this isn't just a light hearted exchange, and that there's an increasing attraction between them. Overall then, when I first saw this film on Halloween several years ago I was entranced by how romantic it was (it would have been just as fitting for Valentine’s Day) and how it portrayed Dracula as I'd always dreamt the character would be. Not from the perspective of a Bram Stoker fan or a vampire fanatic, but as a female viewer who can’t help but harbor unrealistic fantasies - and Frank Langella as Dracula certainly pulled the role off.
I know that a lot of other women who've seen this film feel the same way too. Frank Langella as Dracula was Dracula. Personally, I don't see the appeal of the Twilight characters and I’m sure I wouldn't have even when I was a teenager, so it's nice to have a character and film that I do find appealing in that respect (though I also adore the 1985 movie Fright Night and its main vampire character for similar reasons).
"A little child she was, but also a fierce killer, now capable of the ruthless pursuit of blood with all a child's demanding." -- Louis, Interview with the Vampire