Sunday, June 19, 2022

Argento at Lincoln Center: Dracula 3D

The Dracula story involved fangs, crosses, wooden stakes, and swarms of bats, so it provides plenty of stuff to jut out or fly into the camera. That all could make it appealing for 3D, but it was horror master Dario Argento who finally went there. The results are certainly mixed, but he still takes care of the essential vampire business in Dracula 3D, which screens as part of the ongoing Beware of Dario Argento retrospective at Film at Lincoln Center.

Tania agrees to meet her lover after dark, despite the town’s constant curfew. This is a mistake, but removing the cross her caddish lover gave her will be even costlier. Before you can say “prologue,” she has been bitten, killed, turned, exhumed, and living at Dracula Castle. Of course, that is where Jonathan Harker is headed. Instead of a real estate agent, he is now a librarian hired to catalog the Count’s holdings. Dracula actually wants that work done, so he halfway tries to protect him from the newly fierce Tania.

Harker’s fiancĂ©e Mina has followed after him. She will stay with her old friend Lucy Kisslinger, who is looking a little peaked herself. When she also “dies,” Mina turns to visiting scholar Abraham Van Helsing for help.

The screenplay credited to Argento and three other screenwriters could have been generated from of randomizer of old Hammer Dracula scripts, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The Carpathian village feels artificial rather than lived-in, but somehow, cinematographer Luciano Tovoli makes it look like it radiates sinister energy. It also features some of the most impressively brutal killing scenes of any
Dracula adaptation.

However, the cast is a bit of a mixed bag. Thomas Kretschmann’s cold, clammy portrayal of Dracula takes some getting used to, but it is arguably a valid interpretation. The late, great Rutger Hauer is probably the best part about the film, also playing an untraditional Van Helsing, who is humble and world-wearing, rather than an arrogant know-it-all. However, Asia Argento and Miriam Giovanelli, as Kisslinger and Tania, are almost laughably overheated and would better fit the naughty vibe of
Embrace of the Vampire and it’s like.

Dracula 3D is better than you might have heard (but admittedly not a classic). Let’s face it, there are a ton of Dracula adaptations, so when Argento makes one that feels a little different in interesting ways, that’s something at least. Recommended for Dracula and Argento fans who understand it isn’t going to be perfect, Dracula 3D screens in 3D Thursday (6/23) and next Sunday (6/26) at Film at Lincoln Center.