Forgive the recent lack of updates; I consider myself on holiday. However, Movie Monday is Movie Monday.
I was out hanging out with some friends today and the subject of Dracula came up. One of my friends was surprised that there wasn’t a film about the historical Dracula, Vlad III or Vlad Tepes. “But there was,” I said, “and it starred the dude who played Dracula on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” It was also, to make it a good fit for my review, a smeller.
So, this film introduces us to Vlad Dracula and his rag-tag band of patriots, fighting to liberate Romania (they say “Romania” throughout, never “Wallachia,” which is what Vlad was in charge of) from Turkish tyranny. They are fighting a battle in the rain, and Vlad is upset about something or other.
Vlad looks like a handsome German soap star, not like this:
After the fight, Vlad goes on trial before some priests, who are pissed off at him because they are Orthodox and he is allied with Catholic Hungary and the Pope. They ask him some questions about his life, so it goes into flashback mode. We see young Vlad being raised by his father, Vlad II, along with his brother Radu. Vlad II wants to reduce the power of the nobles and resist the Turks with help from king Janos Hunyadi of Hungary, who is a good dude. Radu is puny and weak, but Vlad loves his brother.
The flashbacks are filled with totally uncalled-for vampire imagery:
Vlad and Radu are captured by the Turks and held hostage for their father’s good behaviour. Eventually Vlad gets out and makes his way to Hungary where he allies with Janos (Roger Daltrey):
While there, Vlad meets a fellow Romanian exile and marries his daughter, Lidia (Jane March). Jane March is a beautiful woman, I’m sure, but in the scene where she appears she is fucking funny looking:
Anyway, Vlad, with Hungarian backing, returns to Romania, overthrows the corrupt rulers, establishes justice, has a son (the future Vlad IV), resists the Turks, etc. He runs into Radu, now a Turkish officer. He starts impaling people and stuff to enforce law and order. Lidia can’t handle the violence, goes mad. Eventually she kills herself while wearing a nightgown clearly intended to evoke the “Bride of Dracula” look.
The Turks chuck Vlad out after he sasses them once too often and he runs back to Janos, who is mad at him because he thinks he’s been conspiring with the enemy (he was framed) and chucks him in durance vile. Eventually he relents, and Vlad and his guys retake Romania, only to have the church turn on him and set him up to be assassinated by Radu on the grounds that Father Stephen (Peter Weller, of all people, in a silly beard) thinks he’s the antichrist. Then he rises again as a vampire. No kidding.
So there’s a lot wrong with this movie, historically, largely in the things that are compressed: for instance, although Vlad was assassinated by pro-Turkish forces, it wasn’t by Radu, who died before he did — in fact, it was Radu’s death that prompted his last period on the throne. Radu was 40 by that time, not the active young man shown in the film. And it wasn’t Janos Hunyadi who locked Vlad up for allegedly conspiring with the Turks; it was his son Matyas. So time is compressed, minor characters are edited out and many characters are sometimes combined into one. About par for the course for a historical film, especially a 90-minute TV movie.
The biggest goof in the film is making Vlad out to be a consistently anti-Ottoman figure. In fact, Vlad II was the pro-Turkish candidate in the struggle over Wallachia, and Vlad was educated by the Ottomans, possibly as some kind of insurance policy against his dad bucking wild, but definitely not chained in a dungeon like they show here. In fact, it was the Turks who put Vlad III on the throne the first time. In essence, Vlad shifted his allegiance between Turkey and Hungary, trying to get the best deal out of the two and the most backing in his struggle against his rivals in Wallachia. He ended up on the Hungarian side in later life, but the idea that he was just always anti-Ottoman is completely daft.
As for the cruelty, I dunno. Obviously the 15th century was a pretty brutal time, but the reports of Vlad’s atrocities mainly come from foreign sources, which may be the result of propaganda (the Hungarians trying to justify their failure to support Vlad during the whole durance-vile incident) or just sensationalism. The Robin-Hood-y stuff with Vlad using guerrilla tactics against Radu’s men is probably exaggerated, but it’s probably true that Vlad’s much smaller army did rely on hit-and-run attacks and superior knowledge of the terrain.
So yeah, anyway. TV trash that probably only I remember in the first place; that’s the kind of quality content you expect from this blog.