(In anticipation of the coolest day of the year, this month-long series will offer one recommended horror flick a day up through Oct. 31.)
COUNT DRACULA (1970). While far from the upper echelons of the numerous Dracula films, I’m including it as a tribute to character actor Herbert Lom, who passed away last Thursday (Sept. 27) at the age of 95. In some respects one of the more faithful screen adaptations of Bram Stoker's Dracula, this English-language co-production of Spain, Italy and West Germany finds the prolific Jess Franco (with nearly 200 directing credits to his name) toning down his commonplace sex 'n' gore to present a stately version of the vampire classic. It's a good effort by all, even if it does fall short of complete success. Christopher Lee, who spent many years playing Dracula in Hammer Studios' successful franchise, here forsakes the animal magnetism and portrays the Count as a stuffy aristocrat who becomes visibly younger the more he drinks the blood of innocents. Franco provides an appropriately somber atmosphere for the proceedings, but an obvious low budget (the pack of wolves patrolling the terrain outside Dracula's castle is played by a pack of German shepherds) and wretched performances by the no-name actors in the supporting ranks seriously damage the picture's pedigree. Lom, best known as the twitching Chief Inspector Dreyfus in The Pink Panther series, was an interesting choice to play Professor Van Helsing (Franco originally tried to snag Vincent Price), while it's amusing to see Klaus Kinski as the insect-munching Renfield, nine years before he graduated to the role of bloodsucker in Werner Herzog's Nosferatu remake.