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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Dracula: The Dark Prince
Dracula: The Dark Prince
Artisan // R // April 23, 2002
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted April 8, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
The Dracula myth is one that has seen innumerable permutations over the years, from classic horror and out-and-out gore, to lesbian erotica and Mel Brooks spoof. All of this legend, however, originated in Romania in the fifteenth century when a prince named Vlad Dracula vowed to liberate his homeland from various pressures of the Muslim and Roman Catholic world. Despite it's extremely misleading cover art (complete with pointy vampire fangs) Dracula: The Dark Prince is a telling of the Vlad story from this historical perspective that long time fans might want to check out.

Vlad (Rudolf Martin) and his young brother Radu (Michael Sutton) are kidnapped by a nefarious sultan who holds the boys (and molests Radu) for years under the guise of ransom to force Vlad's father to join the rest of his countrymen in paying off the marauding thug. When it turns out that Vlad's dad has been dead all along - buried alive, in fact - he sets his sights on revenge. After his somewhat puzzling release Vlad aligns himself with King Janos of Hungary (Roger Daltrey) and falls in love with the fetching Lidia (Jane March). With his new Roman Catholic alliance Vlad returns to his Orthodox homeland and begins to build an army, starting with the orthodontically challenged Bruno (Christopher Brand). Twists and turns in the rest of the story find Dracula fighting aggressors on virtually every side.

Vlad's penchant for skewering enemies alive (hence his famous nickname "Vlad the Impaler") and then drinking their blood is shown in some detail, but the film never portrays him as a vampire, per se. Even though some key details of vampire lore are referenced (like bats and mirrors) the film tries to show how supernatural legends can have their origins: Vlad's followers believe he has risen from the dead after a battle when he probably was just knocked unconscious. The film also seems to have a good deal of sympathy for Vlad, portraying him as somewhat righteous in his efforts to free his country of foreign tyranny. He is betrayed time and time again but maintains a certain amount of dignity.

Rudolph Martin (who also played Dracula in a particularly lame episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) tries to play the dark prince with a cool, creepy growl and he is intermittently successful. I'm not sure what his original accent sounds like but his Romanian accent drifts in and out. Daltrey plays his Hungarian king like the infant of Prague come to life, strutting around pompously. Peter Weller is virtually unrecognizable as a wizened Orthodox priest and, other than an unconvincing accent, is quite good.

There is something slightly off about the storytelling. The film drags at times and the pacing is a mess. Years pass all of a sudden and we don't know where Vlad is. The mix of accents among the lead actors makes it tough to figure out where some scenes take place.

VIDEO:
Dracula is presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio. The image looks fairly good. Much of the cinematography is dark and moody.

AUDIO:
The soundtrack is available in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. The 5.1 track is more dynamic and has more separation, but both tracks show the low budget nature of the production. Sometimes voices are a bit muddy and the mix is uneven (some parts are much louder than others). English and Spanish subtitles are available.

EXTRAS:
Filmographies, a photo gallery, and trailers are included.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
While the real story of Vlad the Impaler is worth telling, Dracula: The Dark Prince is a goofy and inconsistent film. Vampire lovers will most likely enjoy this look at the origins of the supreme creature of the night but they might miss the blood sucking.

Other weird vampire-related movies:
The Rape of the Vampire
Lust for a Vampire

Email Gil Jawetz at buskerdog@yahoo.com

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