An odd, rather sweet Russian animated version of Nosferatu/Dracula, written and directed by Vladimir Marinichev. It has a lumpy, not-always-appealing CGI look but its bald, pop-eyed, slightly sad Dracula is an interesting reading of the role – and this must be the first screen take on Bram Stoker’s Count in which the vampire lip-syncs a Cab Calloway number, which explains why his loose-limbed, pliable form evokes those early Fleischer Brothers cartoons which rotoscoped Calloway as a clown.
The opening is a straight redo of the first scenes of the 1931 Dracula – I saw it in unsubtitled Russian, but know the text well enough to recognise lines and shots – though here it’s law clerk Jonathan Harker who journeys to Borgo Pass and is conveyed to Castle Dracula by the Count in (thin) disguise as a coachman (who gets carried away by the blues music on the soundtrack and floats over the horses). It’s the early 1930s, to judge by the fashions and music and slightly fantastical vehicles (a literal flying red bus), and the wants to relocate to London. Influenced perhaps by the way New York is turned into Belleville in Belleville Rendezvous, the animators make London into a stylised compendium of familiar and lesser-known authentic views (along with bits of Dublin, unless I miss my guess) and indulge in a bit of cynicism about British values and institutions. Here, Mina is a streetwalker – and Dracula rips up her pimp and stashes the bits in a suitcase (played as a joke rather than for gone) … and the stalwart Anthony Seward enlists vampire-hunter Van Helsing and a police commando squad to go after Dracula only for a British bobby to beat ten kinds of shit out of the distinguished professor during a fight (on the theory that he’s foreign and probably a rotter?).
In this version, Harker replaces Renfield as Dracula’s all-round minion – he also gets badly beaten by the coppers (is this how Russians think of the Metropolitan Police?) and spends much of the film in plaster casts and traction, which doesn’t prevent the good guys from torturing him in pursuit of his boss. A finale set in a chemical works on the Thames features a lot of CGI fire and a deus ex machina hook that (temporarily) impales the Count – the (very nice) blues soundtrack gives way to something like heavy metal for the action scene. Besides doing Cab Calloway, this Dracula dresses up as a London policeman, eavesdrops on his enemies during an autopsy on one of his victims by passing himself off as a corpse in the morgue, and imagines himself as a centaur (indeed, a herd of centaurs). Because he speaks Russian, this Dracula can’t have a Central European Bela Lugosi-Adam Sandler accent – so he has a distinctive, raspy voice instead.