Like Alucard, Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing and the various instalments of Dracula The Messiah, Terror of Dracula is a low-to-minimal budget adaptation of a novel full of expensive globe-trotting, hard-to-achieve supernatural effects, vivid theatrical characters and other elements beyond the scope of these productions. All these productions cut their cloth to suit their resources – Terror of Dracula moreso than most. An opening caption presents the film as a rediscovered effort made in the 1970s and namechecks Hammer, Amicus and Jesus Franco – but all we get to suggest that is the odd digital scratch and the uninflected performances and threadbare look don’t really evoke even the more marginal efforts of these models (though, to be fair, at the time this was being made, Franco was making much shoddier and less watchable films). I suppose calling it Terror of Dracula is a nod to Hammer having to retitle their first film Horror of Dracula in the US, but this doesn’t feel much like a Hammer sort of effort – it’s chaste, relatively bloodless and not very exciting, though its sincerity is admirable and it manages one or two new wrinkles.
Director Anthony D.P. Mann, who also co-wrote with Bill Bossert and stars as Dracula, is plainly committed to the genre – he’s done similarly-scaled Sherlock Holmes and Phantom of the Opera projects, plus the short Canucula. Mann’s Dracula is short and a bit tubby, though he has a shaven head and a big white beard which turns into a big black beard after he’s fed a bit – he recites Stoker’s dialogue but comes across mostly as bad-tempered rather than purely evil. The script cuts out most of the big-scale action (Dracula & Co never leave Whitby for London) and drops Arthur Holmwood, but features a few folk who don’t usually make the screen – this is the first Dracula to make anything of Agatha the nun (Andrea Hiltz) – and rearranges things so that the ordeal of Jonathan Harker (Matt Davis) in Transylvania is revealed in flashbacks while the business in Whitby with Van Helsing (Terry Wade) failing to save Lucy (Angella Scott) and vowing to do better with Mina (Denise Wedge) is ongoing. The brides (Angela Faulkner, Vikki Jinn, Noelli Piche) get more to do, but self-destruct when Dracula is staked.
Renfield (Barry Yuen) can either be a highlight or an irritation, and here it’s the latter though Dr Seward (Dick Miller – not the Bucket of Blood one) is given an interesting arc as he is unable to square his rational beliefs with what he sees and does while destroying Lucy and fighting Dracula then ends up in Renfield’s old cell as a gibbering madman under Van Helsing’s care. The three suitors are reduced to one, Quincy (Ilke Hincer), and like Jimmy Sangster and Richard Matheson Mann has no use for Harker after the first act so the poor feeb gets killed off.