Brisk, informative, quite entertaining doc on the Drac. Severin Films and Intervision Picture Corps have released THE TRAIL OF DRACULA, a 2013 documentary on the folklore and literary origins of the vampire and Dracula legends, as well as various subsequent stage and movie incarnations, including the famed Universal and Hammer productions. Directed by David Mitchell and Jamie Lockhart, THE TRAIL OF DRACULA is a spirited introduction to a fairly huge subject, featuring a wealth of movie clips and stills interspliced with interviews from various authors and experts on the subject, including Elizabeth Miller, Joseph Laycock, Kim Newman, John Florescu, Jonathan Rigby and DVD Drive-In favorite, David Del Valle. Extras included here are impressive: along with brief interviews, both audio and video, from Christopher Lee, Udo Kier, Francis Lederer, and Werner Herzog, there are 94 minutes worth of Dracula-related movie trailers.
With vampire and specifically Count Dracula-related works such as books and movies having been so ubiquitous in our 20th (and now 21st) century western pop culture, it’s relatively easy to feel you know what the character or the surrounding myths are all about...without really understanding the actual history and timelines. If you had asked me, prior to watching THE TRAIL OF DRACULA, what the origins of the Dracula myth were, I might have been able to hit a few historical highlights, like Bram Stoker and Transylvania and Murnau and Vlad the Impaler, but I couldn’t do much better than that, before running scattershot down the various permutations the character endured on screen.
In a succinct 63 minutes, THE TRAIL OF DRACULA proved quite informative, beginning with authors/historians Elizabeth Miller, Joseph Laycock, Kim Newman (the best thing he ever wrote? A positive review for my book, The Espionage Filmography...), Professor Sabina Ispas, John Forescu, Catelin Gruia, and Professor Constantin Balaceanu-Stolnici quickly but carefully discussing the widespread vampire legends that permeated European folklore (particularly in Romania, rather more important to the subsequent Dracula character than Stoker’s selected Transylvania), as well as the impact of historical (Vlad the Impaler) and literary figures (Lord Byron’s The Vampyre, Varney the Vampire, the lesbian vampire Carmilla) on the Dracula character. Author Jonathan Rigby (well spoken and delightfully “correct”) and film historian David Del Valle (not nearly bitchy enough...) run down a solid bio on Dracula author Bram Stoker (the connection between Stoker’s boss, actor Henry Irvin, and the Dracula character, was fascinating—too bad it was so briefly sketched), as well as discussing the Hamilton Deane play, Dracula. Murnau’s highly influential 1922 NOSFERATU is also discussed, before a lengthy, entertaining look at Universal’s and Hammer’s spate of horror and vampire outings. THE TRAIL OF DRACULA’s only major drawback: comprehensiveness. Nothing but the briefest mention is made of a couple of Dracula movies produced after the 1970s.
THE TRAIL OF DRACULA’s standard definition, 1.85:1 anamorphically-enhanced widescreen transfer does an excellent job of accommodating the various clips and original source materials, ranging from the new HD interviews to silent clips (all quite clean and correctly ratioed and platformed). The Dolby Digital English 2.0 stereo track is entirely serviceable, with an agreeably loud re-recording level, and clean dialogue. No subtitles are available. Extras for THE TRAIL OF DRACULA include a two short audio interviews with Christopher Lee (2:20—he sounds pretty peeved, making excuses for starring in vampire movies) and Francis Lederer (1:50—he states he was tricked into taking on THE RETURN OF DRACULA: I highly doubt he was that naive). A video interview with director Werner Herzog (9:49) is quite interesting for his take on filming NOSFERATU, while actor Udo Kier’s (7:36) subtitled German interview is sleep inducing (all that staring and the listless monotone).
Best of all, 43 original trailers for Dracula movies have been included (timing out at over 93 minutes total), featuring Hammer, Universal and other foreign titles, including works by Jess Franco and Jean Rollin. Titles featured are: TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, DRACULA (1931), OLD DRACULA, DRACULA & SON, DRACULA JACHT FRANKENSTEIN (DRACULA CHASES FRANKENSTEIN), ZOLTAN HOUND OF DRACULA, HORROR OF DRACULA, FIANCEE DE DRACULA, THE RETURN OF DRACULA, BLACULA, DRACULA IM SCHLOSS DES SCHRECKENS (DRACULA IN THE CASTLE OF HORROR), MY SON THE VAMPIRE, COUNTESS DRACULA, ALUCARDA, IN SEARCH OF DRACULA, BLOOD FOR DRACULA, BRIDES OF DRACULA, COUNT DRACULA’S GREAT LOVE, LAKE OF DRACULA, DRACULA (1973), SON OF DRACULA, THE 7 BROTHERS MEET DRACULA, NACHTS WENN DRACULA ERWACHT (WHEN DRACULA AWAKES AT NIGHT), DRACULA SUCKS, SCARS OF DRACULA, DRACULA’S DAUGHTER, DIE VAMPIRES DES DR. DRACULA, COUNT DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDE, BLOOD OF DRACULA’S CASTLE, DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN, LADY DRACULA, BLOOD OF DRACULA, A TASTE OF BLOOD, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM, DIE TOTEN AUGEN DES DR. DRACULA (THE DEADLY EYES OF DR. DRACULA), SEXCULA, THE DRACULA SAGA, DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, HOUSE OF DRACULA, VAMPYROS LESBOS – ERBIN DE DRACULA, DRACULA AD 1972 and GUESS WHAT HAPPENED TO COUNT DRACULA. (Paul Mavis)
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