The Spanish film El gran amor del conde Drácula as it was originally known, stars Paul Naschy as Count Dracula, one much different to those that we have seen before, but no less competent. In fact, it is quite enjoyable to see someone who does not quite fit the classic mold of the villain, being much burlier than the slender Cushing or Lugosi. The man is just as magnetic though, using every ounce of his charisma to bring the best traits of the character forth and if you watch the Spanish language version of the film, it works incredibly well. The English language cut with its poor dubbing is not so fantastic as it shaves off just a bit of believability of the man’s ability to portray the character well, though it is no fault of his own. That being said, while there were a couple of hokey moments in the film, the dubbing is the only real drawback to the entire thing.
As the story begins, it finds two men looking around a seemingly deserted sanitarium for a few riches and much to their regret, they get themselves murdered. Cut to four beautiful women whose carriage breaks down and whose driver is killed outside the same residence, you have to know that no good will come of it, especially when they meet the good Dr. Marlowe, a.k.a. Dracula. As the movie progresses, each of the women with the exception of Karen are transformed into vampires so that Dracula may increase his might and influence. All that is left is to raise his daughter Radna from the dead and marry Karen, who just so happens to still be a virgin. That little fact plays an important part in his plans, but something gets in the way of them, something that he never expected.
For the first bit, the film plays like a game of cat and mouse as Dracula is simply toying with the women. At any given moment, he could turn them and remake them in his own image, yet he keeps up the charade until it no longer benefits him to do so. Naschy is the star of the show and he proves it throughout while the four women which include Rosanna Yanni, Haydée Politoff, Mirta Miller and Ingrid Garbo while talented, were only in this movie due to their looks including the willingness to do a few nude scenes which some might call needless and others needed. That being said, they the film called for four women and they did a fine job of it.
When watching this picture, it has that perfect type of atmosphere about it, a menacing quality at times that you can only find in European horror and at least part of it can be chalked up to the very moody cinematography by Raúl Pérez Cubero and the sharp direction of Javier Aguirre. There are a few interesting moments present throughout that seem silly like Dracula setting traps to catch people from the local town who happen to wander too close to his home or the scene when he sinks a blade through the neck of one of his brides and proceeds to drink her blood as it dribbles down her throat. They set the film apart more often than not and yet, there are a few times where things like this are offset by the pacing which tends to slow things down a wee bit, but it is so visually beautiful, the story intriguing and the performances good, that you tend not to mind. This might not have been the definitive take on the villain, but it did a good job at giving us something a little different without rehashing the same old story.
4 out of 5