Iconic at home, loved, laughed at or ignored abroad, quondam master of lurid off-color giallo gore and sex adapted beyond Hitchcock, Dario Argento softened after an initial burst to fame. The Roman’s descent to pedestrian filmmaking following trendsetting 1970s-‘80s output could be traced over two months last year in the Museum of Arts and Design’s (MAD) dozen-and-a-third-screening Argento: Cinema in the Blood celebration of three generations of that film family. A not-included insipid 1998 retooling of The Phantom of the Opera merely confirming the ossification, career corpse certification now arrives DOA in redo Dracula 3D.
Titter- and guffaw- rather than shiver-inducing, this rise and fall of the undead -- final seconds threaten the horror of future resurrections -- comes co-written by father Argento and expectedly rams in only somewhat less than a Russ “King Leer” Meyer quota of well-filled breasts, bare limbs, and Sapphic baths. Public and reviewers alike can be counted on not to have read Stoker’s 1897 novel, so, like Coppola’s equally fraudulent technical Oscar-winning “faithful” adaptation, this desecration too can come billed as “very faithful to the story.”
Aside from eye-candy female flesh for the sake of eye-candy female flesh, the either villain or Byronic Romantic hero is in both Italians’ takes a Carpathian Im-ho-tep sorrowfully browsing over centuries for Princess Anck-es-en-Amon, the sweetheart or wife he lost to death. I.e., he is a steadfast bereaved husband-lover, not a really bad guy. This newest script is thereby freed from breaching by far the bulk of the diary- and letter-told novel, the boring stuff back in boring England.
Though a century-plus less old then than now, the medieval Transylvanian town is still half a millennium old but nevertheless screen-spotless, in immaculate fresh-painted nick, nary a cobblestone dislodged nor dung nor sewage in sight. Wolves snarl outside the walls, a token rat scampers away, three scarab-symbols-of-resurrection invade hizzoner’s house, and there buzzes a swarm of weird flies that are really the materializing Count. Plus a cameo appearance by a giant decapitating praying mantis which needs to be seen to be believed and to puzzle out Aragento’s assertion that “there is nothing gratuitous about my films.”
Through 3D glasses too darkly, the extra dimension is not taken advantage of -- and in fact appears detrimental. A sinister pact has provided village prosperity in exchange for its leaving Count and castle alone, though his powers are so hellacious that no treaty would seem necessary. Mayor Andrej (Augusto Zucchi), not pleased with his town’s sellout, worries more about voluptuous daughter Lucy (“the director’s own daughter” Asia). She, in turn, awaits a visit from childhood bosom buddy Mina Harker (Marta Gastini).
Aside from bathing Lucy, Mina is coming to join recent husband Jonathan (Unax Ugalde), hired as library cataloguer by Dracula, whose purpose involves luring the blooming bride to him as the spitting-image reincarnation of his own very-late lamented love. In looks and wardrobe channeling Hugh Hefner, Thomas Kretshmann’s fastidious count has zero interest in the chesty lass (Miriam Giovanelli, as Tania) he himself has already feasted on and infected and who sighs for him only and spurns an unrecognizable Reinfeld (sic for Renfield, played by Giovanni Franzoni), who in turn chastely worships her.
In flat dubbing, so many unrequited loves lead to complications, solvable by a burly Rutger Hauer’s standby vampire-staker. Mina is ravishing as a square-bodiced Renaissance lady in this bodice ripper, but nothing else is.
(Released by IFC Midnight; not rated by MPAA.)