Dracula's Widow Review
Dracula’s Widow would appear to be a film struggling to find its own identity. At times it’s difficult to tell whether it’s simply confused or just plain confusing. Of course, certain things are clear, so it perhaps best to open with them. Sylvia Kristel of Emmanuelle fame plays the eponymous widow, not just a simple bride of Dracula but, we are told, his true wife. Indeed, she’s something of a monster herself and upon arriving at the Hollywood House of Wax (for reasons which are never completely divulged) sets about dispatching various lowlifes and Satanists before tracking down Van Helsing’s great grandson in order to wreak her revenge.
Yet the world in which all this takes place isn’t the most recognisable of settings. Much of it is unmistakably eighties (Lenny von Dohlen’s eyeliner, Kristel’s shoulder pads), but then it also evokes the film noir. That said, it is also very much a kindergarten version, a place where detectives speak mainly in hard boiled voice-over and strips of matches left next to dead bodies help them on their case. Moreover, director Christopher Coppola combines such devices with more far flung steals. He borrows the iris effect from the silent period, throws in a few nods of a more self-conscious kind to Murnau’s Nosferatu, and adopts an art direction reminiscent of Fassbinder’s Querelle, albeit on a much lower budget.
This latter element is at least notable, however, as it does provide Dracula’s Widow with a modicum of style. Certainly, Coppola isn’t attempting a fantasia as rich as the one imagined by Fassbinder, but then it does make the various gore-heavy slashings far more stylish than you’d expect from a low-budget vampire flick. Indeed, there may even be enough individuality to these scenes to secure Dracula’s Widow a moderate cult audience, though it’s unlikely to extend beyond that.
Part of the reason for this is that – much like its stylistic choices – the film goes for a pick ‘n’ mix mentality rather than offering anything truly coherent. There are nods, perhaps unsurprisingly, to Bram Stoker’s novel, but then also a complete ignorance; the various myths and folklore surrounding vampires are plundered for whatever takes Coppola’s fancy and the rest discarded without a second thought.
Yet whilst such wilfulness may prove increasingly annoying, it is the tonal inconsistencies of Dracula’s Widow which are ultimately fatal. Seemingly every actor is working on a different production. Kristel, no doubt utterly disinterested, plays it for high camp. Josef Sommer on the other hand appears to believe that this is a work of the utmost seriousness. Whilst Stefan Schnabel as Van Helsing (or simply Helsing as the credits have it) treats it as a knockabout comedy. Moreover, Coppola similarly switches and changes from scene to scene leaving the audience utterly befuddled and left to salvage whatever minor pleasures they can lay their hands on.
Though accompanied by only its theatrical trailer (which similarly isn’t too sure as to whether the film is a comedy or more serious minded), Dracula’s Widow does at least offer a fine presentation. Given an anamorphic transfer at a ratio of 1.78:1, the films look extremely good for its age. The print is clean and sharp with only those scenes utilising very deep blues coming across as fuzzy and ill-defined. That said, such a problem could perhaps be the result of the filming process and as such we are likely to be getting the film is as good a condition as could be expected. Similarly impressive is the soundtrack, here present as a crisp, clean Dolby Digital 2.0 mix as would have been the case for its theatrical showings.
Last updated: 09/06/2018 06:43:02