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MPI Networks presents
Dracula/The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde (1973/1968)

"Welcome to my house. Enter freely, and of your own will."
- Count Dracula (Jack Palance)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: September 26, 2000

Stars: Jack Palance, Denholm Elliot, Simon Ward
Other Stars: Nigel Davenport, Pamela Brown
Director: Dan Curtis/Charles Jarrott

Manufacturer: DVDS
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (Mild violence)
Run Time: 04h:00m:00s
Release Date: October 03, 2000
UPC: 030306635323
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B CD+B- C+

DVD Review

The classic novel Dracula has been filmed so many times, I doubt anyonecould keep accurate count. Vampires are etched into cinema, and I don't seethem fading away any time soon. The same may also be said, to a certainextent, of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It too has beenfilmed many times and has had an immense thematic influence on movies. Producer/director Dan Curtis, perhaps best known for bringing the horror/soapopera Dark Shadows to television, was responsible for two TV moviesbased on each of these works, presented in 1968 and 1973, respectively. Bothfilms starred Jack Palance, an extremely unlikely choice by any measure. Eventhough the idea sounds somewhat laughable, Palance pulls off the roles of bothCount Dracula and Dr. Jekyll with a certain amount of style and dignity.

Dracula (1973) is, of course, the classic Bram Stoker tale of amysterious, vampiric European count who moves to England where he begins toterrorize those who live around him. An exotic scientist, Dr. Van Helsing, figuresout that Dracula is a vampire and attempts to destroy him in order to save thelives of the women he's attacked. The adaption follows the original novel verywell, but adds in a few romantic aspects not found in the source material. In thisadaption, Dracula moves to England because the wealthy mistress, LucyWestenra, reminds him of someone he loved ages ago.

Although troubled by a small budget, the film succeeds in bringing a very solid,realistic atmosphere to the story. It isn't quite as a outwardly spooky as theclassic adaptions (like the 1931 version), but it isn't so inept that you laughat it. The sets are nice, the cinematography is quite good for a TV production,and the actors are first rate. Palance himself does an admirable job as Dracula. Rather than patterning himself on previous actors, he makes the role his ownand does so without affectations like a fake accent or elaborate costumes. Hisversion of the Count is one that is simultaneously magnetic and repulsive.

In a sense, though, the film is almost too good. While good acting accompanies it's tight structure, the movie is handled too formally. It winds up becoming rather stiffand dull, much like a fancy stage production. Presumably, this is a result of DanCurtis not wanting to make a film that reminds people of cheesy, schlockversions of Dracula, but at the same time it restricts the emotionalcontent of the film. Many scenes are just too long, often with nothing muchgoing on or an overuse of dialogue. While sometimes rigidly adhering to thesource novel is a good idea, here it makes it something of a chore to wadethrough towards the end portions.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1968) is a production in asimilar vein. Extremely faithful to the original novel, it tells the story of Dr. Jekyll,a medical technician who develops a potion designed to lower his inhibitions. Unfortunately, the potion does more than just lower inhibitions, and rathertransforms him into Mr. Hyde, a twisted, alternate side of Jekyll's personality that leans towards performing immoral deeds to achieve happiness. Jekyllbecomes addicted to the transformations and, even though he knows his Hydepersonality is evil, cannot stop drinking the potion.

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde fares slightly better than Dracula in thatthe source story is a little stronger. More drama is present and the presence ofgood actors feels slightly more natural. There is a low-budget feeling, but thedecent sets and presentation balance out the weaker aspects. The film certainlyranks very high as far as screen adaptions of the book are concerned. Previous films haveoften tried awkward combinations of actors or ridiculous experimentaltechniques, such as the 1973 musical version. Jack Palance earns more actingrespect here with a nice performance, though I thought that the weird make-upjob to make him into Mr. Hyde was a little goofy. For substance, I'd give this film a B-.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes

Image Transfer Review: The full frame presentations are not without their share of problems. Both films are extremely grainy and hazy, leading to a lot of pixelization and shimmer in the background. This is aggravated by the fact that so many rich colors are used inthe sets. The transfer also seems unnaturally dark; I had to make numerous TVadjustments to make the films more watchable. Colors bleed a lot, especiallyred, and the general clarity of the print seems murky. This wouldn't be aproblem I'd come down on TOO hard normally, especially given the age of thefilms, but it seems to never improve and is a constant problem.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Both films feature a Pro-Logic encoded, mono soundtrack. The audio does it'sjob, but isn't particularly memorable. Dialogue is easy to understand, soundeffects come across well, and the music score is well integrated. There is somegood clarity here, but I still wish more mono films were presented with singlechannel mixes, which seems to make them sound even better. The Spanish dubtrack for Dracula is of the same quality, though the voice acting is a little rough.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 30 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish (Dr. Jekyll only) with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Interview with Jack Palance.
  2. Interview with Dan Curtis.
Extras Review: The Dracula side of the disc is the only side to feature any real extras. Two new, present day interviews with both Jack Palance and Dan Curtis arepresented. The interviews, though short, make a nice addition to the film simplyfrom the aspect of understanding what they were trying to do with the adaption. Palance reveals being actually disturbed by playing Count Dracula and refusingto do the role ever again. There is also a trailer for the European release of thefilm, where it was marketed as a theatrical release rather than a TV movie. Bothfilms feature good subtitles, and there are sufficient chapter stops for bothmovies.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

These Jack Palance horror films have been laughed off a lot, simply for theirchoice of lead actor. In reality, I think most moviegoers would be surprised athow well he performs in these films. Though slightly dull, the movies are, at thevery least, accurate representations of the novels and manage to avoid beingunintentionally funny despite the low budget. Recommended.


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