Dracula is a 1973 British television movie adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula written by Richard Matheson and directed by Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis, with Jack Palance in the title role. It was the second collaboration for Curtis and Palance after the 1968 TV film The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
"Bistritz, Hungary May 1897": natives in Transylvania seem afraid when they learn solicitor Jonathan Harker is going to Castle Dracula. Jonathan shows up, and finds the Count abrupt and impatient to get things done. He reacts very strongly to a photograph of Harker's fiancée Mina and her best friend Lucy. After rescuing Harker from the Brides, he forces Harker to write a letter saying that he will be staying in Transylvania for a month. Harker climbs down the castle wall and finds Dracula's coffin, but is attacked and knocked out by one of Dracula's gypsy servants before he can stake Dracula. They later throw him in the lower levels of the crypt, where the Brides attack Harker...
The Demeter runs aground carrying only Dracula and the dead captain lashed to the wheel. Soon after, Lucy begins to fall ill. Her fiancé, Arthur Holmwood, is perplexed and calls in Dr. Van Helsing. The doctor begins to recognize what might be happening, especially after Lucy walks out of her home at Hillingham and is found, drained, under a tree the next morning. Dracula, meanwhile, has flashbacks about a time when he was alive, when his wife (who is also the dead image of Lucy) lay dead in her bed and men had to restrain Dracula in his grief and rage.
Lucy's mother is in the room with Mina when Dracula comes calling the last time, a wolf shattering the window. Lucy soon rises from the dead, and comes to the window of Arthur's home, begging to be let in. Arthur does so, delighted and amazed that she's alive, unaware that she is now a vampire under Dracula's control. This very nearly gets him bitten, but Van Helsing interrupts with a cross causing her to flee. They go to Lucy's grave and drive a wooden stake into her heart. When Dracula comes to the tomb later and beckons to her, he goes berserk upon finding that she's truly dead.
Mina tells Van Helsing about the news story about the Demeter and the boxes of earth, and about Jonathan going to meet Dracula to sell him a house. From these clues, Van Helsing and Holmwood go about finding all but one of Dracula's "boxes of earth" (containing his native soil, in which a vampire must rest). But back at the hotel, the vampire hunters discover Dracula is there, out for revenge. He has bitten Mina, and before their eyes forces her to drink blood from a self-inflicted gash in his chest. All that they love, all that is theirs, he will take.
The tracking of Dracula back to his home commences with Van Helsing hypnotizing Mina. Via the bond of blood, she sees through Dracula's eyes and discovers where he is headed. At the Castle, Van Helsing and Holmwood find and stake the Brides. Jonathan—now a vampire, rabid and bloodthirsty—attacks Arthur and Van Helsing, but in the struggle is knocked by Arthur into a pit of spikes, and is staked. The final confrontation with Dracula takes place in what looks like a grand ballroom. The crosses wielded by the two men are something Dracula doesn't seem to want to look upon. Dracula gets the better of them, ridding them of their crosses. But Van Helsing manages to pull down curtains from the windows, so sunlight pours in. Dracula is weakened, finally going dormant long enough for Van Helsing to pierce his heart with a long spear.
They leave him there. Before the portrait of a living warrior Dracula, with Lucy's lookalike in the background, a text scrolls across the screen, about a warlord who lived in the area of Hungary known as Transylvania, and how it was said he had found a way to conquer death—a legend no one has ever disproven. The lord's name is DRACULA.
Jack Palance as Count Dracula / Vlad III the Impaler
Simon Ward as Arthur Holmwood
Nigel Davenport as Abraham Van Helsing
Fiona Lewis as Lucy Westenra / Dracula's deceased wife
Murray Brown as Jonathan Harker
Penelope Horner as Mina Murray
Pamela Brown as Mrs. Westenra
Sarah Douglas as one of Dracula's wives
Virginia Wetherell as one of Dracula's wives
Barbara Lindley as one of Dracula's wives
George Pravda as Innkeeper
Hana Maria Pravda as Innkeeper's wife
Reg Lye as Zookeeper
John Pennington as shipping clerk
Several plot elements of this adaptation were also present in the storyline about Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows, specifically that Lucy was Dracula's lost love reborn. In Dark Shadows, Barnabas Collins would find women looking like his love Josette. Dan Curtis was the producer of the original Dark Shadows series, and he carried the love story in his TV show into the 1970 film House of Dark Shadows and the TV remake 20 years later.
The initial broadcast in October 1973 was pre-empted for an address by Richard Nixon on the resignation of Spiro Agnew. Instead it was broadcast in February 1974.
Jack Palance also worked with Curtis in a television production of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Jack Palance admitted to being glad once the film was completed. A method actor, he felt that he was "becoming" Dracula more than he wanted.
According to the featurette on the DVD, Jack Palance had been offered the role of Dracula several more times after his first performance, but he turned them all down.
Dan Curtis decided to film Bram Stoker's Dracula in two locations: Hungary, where there were old castles and quiet land, and England, where the remainder of the story is set. Dracula's Castle was Trakošćan Castle in Croatia. Carfax Abbey was Oakley Court in Berkshire.
The original title was Bram Stoker's Dracula. The film was also released under that title on VHS and Laserdisc. Francis Ford Coppola and Columbia Pictures purchased the rights to that title in the early 1990s. Coppola wanted to make it clear that his Dracula movie was unlike any other Dracula movie before it. Coppola's film also takes inspiration from the two key elements in Curtis's film that separated it from other adaptations: making the Dracula character and the historical Dracula, Vlad the Impaler, one and the same person, even though Bram Stoker was unaware of the latter when he conceived of his novel; and a reincarnation romance with Dracula's dead wife, a plot point copied from the 1932 Universal film The Mummy. Nearly all home video releases of Curtis's film have since been released under the title Dan Curtis' Dracula or simply Dracula.
This film and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde marked the turning by Dan Curtis to classic horror as opposed to contemporary with Dark Shadows. In addition, he filmed both works in Europe, where he would return 10 years later to make his miniseries The Winds of War and its sequel War and Remembrance, both based on the novels by Herman Wouk.
This movie introduced Sarah Douglas as one of the brides. Later into the 1970s, she appeared as the evil Ursa in both Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980).
Marvel comics "Tomb of Dracula" series is based on the Jack Palance version of the character