This "made-for-TV" film should have been "made-for-cinema" as it was very entertaining and informative. If you are tired of the hackneyed Dracula movies of late, check this historical story out!
Dracula: The Dark Prince
Directors: Joe Chappelle
Producers: Butch Kaplan
Writers: Tom Baum
Features: Director and Cast Filmographies; Full Screen Presentation; Audio: English 5.1 Digital Surround, 2.0 Dolby Stereo; Trailer; Interactive Menus; Scene Selection; Digitally Mastered; Subtitles: English, Spanish; Photo Gallery; Sneak Peeks
Vlad the Impaler - Rudolf Martin
Lidia - Jane March
King Janos - Roger Daltrey
Radu - Michael Sutton
Bruno - Christopher Brand
Father Stefan - Peter Weller
There are movies that are made for TV that feel like TV movies, and then there is "Dracula: The Dark Prince." "Dracula" has a very cinematic appeal to it, but falls short due to a small budget. With a larger production, this movie could have been a lot larger than it was. That said, "Dracula" accomplishes what few Dracula movies are able to offer: an accurate look at the real Dracula.
If you are expecting a bloody vampire movie, then you will be disappointed. There is no blood sucking or turning into bats in this film. However, there is a lot of blood in an epic story about Vlad the Impaler (a.k.a. Vlad Dracul), and the myths that he spawned that form the legend of Dracula. I personally am a little jaded from all the vampire movies that are out there. It was refreshing to see a realistic(though, there are some artistic liberties taken) depiction of the true Dracula. He was not a monster in the mythical sense, but a brutal ruler who was loved by his people as a savior.
The disc was not fully loaded with special features. There were some sneak peeks of other Artisan films, some of which look really enticing (for example: "The Calling," "Sleepless," and "Deep in the Woods"). There was also a trailer that thankfully doesn't give too much away, but is enough to garner interest in the film. The cast filmographies give a movie history for various members of the cast, while the photo gallery gives some slide shots of various scenes. The audio was clear, but the sword clashes sounded tinny and fake. I write that off to the low budget, and the battle sequences are ok. The background music works well to set the mood for the movie, and the dark shades of the picture and low lighting help as well.
"Dracula" centers around Vlad the Impaler (Martin - "Swordfish"), who is trying to free his country Romania from the invading Ottoman Empire, controlled by the Sultan. He and his brother, Radu (Sutton - "Inventing the Abbots"), are captured at a young age by the Sultan and taken away from Romania. Vlad is eventually freed, but Radu is held captive by the Sultan. Vlad vows to free Romania, avenge his father's death (who had been assassinated), and free Radu from the Sultan.
He travels to Hungary to seek help from King Janos (Daltrey - "The Who"). The problem is that Janos is Roman Catholic, and Romania is Greek Orthodox. By receiving help from the king he would have to embrace Catholicism and risk angering the religious leaders in his country. He takes the gamble as well as a wife, Lidia (March - "Color of Night"), and heads to Romania with an army and support from Hungary. With the help of his sidekick Bruno (Brand, in a convincing performance), he is able to make numerous conquests and drive out the Ottomans from the region, freeing his people. Aided by Father Stefan (Weller - "Robocop"), who offers him advice on how to avoid trouble from the religious leaders, Vlad is able to turn the tables on the Sultan. Can he keep the Ottomans from mounting a crushing assault on his country and also free Radu from the Sultan?
This film was really very engaging, and I was amazed at the ability of the actors to draw the viewer into the emotional struggles of Vlad as he battled the Greek Orthodox Church, the rebellious Romanian nobles, and the Ottomans. His battles were internal as well, since he was raising a son, and trying to assuade his wife from being upset at his methods of control. Martin did a fine job as Vlad, and even looked the part, which helped the film immensely. Weller's Father Stefan looked more like an Asian than a Romanian, but his part was crucial to the movie, and he performed it well. Some people have complained about the ending, but that is where the artistic liberty comes in. There had to be a link between the historical facts of Vlad, and the myth of Dracula. I found that "Dracula" does a fair transition from one to the other.
I would rate "Dracula: The Dark Prince" with four out of five stars. It was really very good for a TV movie, and I can only imagine what could have been done with a larger budget. I would have made the battle sequences grander, and replaced certain actors with better stars to give the film top billing. The cinematography was good, as the film was shot in Romania, and used Romanian supporting cast. It helped with the authentic feel, and the set really did appear to be in the 15th century. Kudos to the production team for making a quality film, with just enough violence to satisfy the blood lust of vampire fans. Definitely check this film out at your local DVD store! I don't think you will be disappointed at all.