Super Mates 62: House of Franklin-Stein Part 3

This episode bites! Chris and Cindy take a look at the 1979 version of Dracula starring Frank Langella as a sexy Count, and Sir Laurence Olivier as his opponent Van Helsing! How does this stack up to other cinematic adaptations? Listen and find out!

Then Batman has his first brush with the supernatural when he encounters the vampire (or is he a werewolf?) known as The Monk! It’s the Golden Age classic from Detective Comics #31-32 by Gardner Fox and Bob Kane!

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Clip credits:

Dracula directed by John Badham; score by John Williams

Opening wedding march by Marc Shaiman from Addams Family Values

“The Electric Brain” theme from the serial Batman by Lee Zahler

Tracks from Batman: The Animated Series “On Leather Wings” by Shirley Walker

“Batman, Wolfman, Frankenstein and Dracula” by The Diamonds

23 responses to “Super Mates 62: House of Franklin-Stein Part 3

  1. Part 1…

    Without exaggeration, I’ve been waiting for this episode for years. DRACULA 1979 is my favorite film version of the classic tale of Count Dracula. I explained some of my reasons for a pre-recorded segment of an upcoming episode of the BEWARE OF MONSTERS Podcast, so they’re pretty fresh in my mind if you don’t mind me repeating myself.

    Growing up, my family had a pretty decent video library because my dad would buy blank six-hour VHS tapes. My parents got HBO for a year or two in the early ’80s and would record almost everything onto one of those blank tapes, and because movies tended to be shorter back then, we’d have video cassettes with three random movies recorded onto them. Weird combinations, too, based on nothing other than when they aired on television (think: ARTHUR, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and CADDY SHACK on one tape, and MR. MOM, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and THE UNTOUCHABLES on another). Eventually, they dropped HBO as video rental stores became more accessible. Dad got a second VCR and we learned out to record tape-to-tape.

    None of that has to do with my favorite version of DRACULA, and, in fact, I never had a copy of this film growing up. Come to think of it, I still don’t. Despite our video library, there were two categories of movies we never recorded: what we called Christmas movies and Halloween movies. Pretty self-explanatory: these were the seasonal movies that showed up on TV every year around the holidays. We never bothered to record SCROOGE or IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE because we knew when they’d be on and we never wanted to watch them except in December.

    Halloween was always the favorite holiday of my brother and I. It was the one night of the year when I was allowed to stay up way later than usual in order to watch movies–not Christmas, not New Year’s–Halloween. This is how I experienced my favorite horror movies, including this version of DRACULA.

    There were two aspects of the film that captivated me as a kid. The first was Frank Langella. Before I saw this movie, Dracula existed in my consciousness as a fusion of Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee absorbed through merchandize and caricature. Frank Langella’s Count was a different animal all together. He was sexy and handsome, and he had great hair. Prior to this, the idea of Count Dracula for me had been just another movie monster only dressed in formal wear. This was the first time I saw him as a more traditional villain with his own wants, his own history, his own agenda.

    The other part of the movie that stayed with me for years because it freaking terrified me is the scene where Van Helsing and Seward sneak into the cave/crypt beneath Mina’s coffin. I think it was a combination of “hearing” the patient’s description of Mina and then actually seeing her, but the vampire Mina haunted me for a long time. My memory is that her eyes glowed almost laser-red. Obviously, that’s a fault in my memory, but the image persists. I can close my eyes today and picture what I saw–or remembered seeing–as a little kid. This corpse-like woman in a her white funeral dress, with blood oozing out of the corner of her mouth, and dirt or rotted flesh on her face and forehead. “And those eyes…” Glowing red eyes, like embers in a flame. It might not be as iconic as Travolta dancing in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, but for me, Badham’s masterpiece is that scene underground.

    I also always loved the way Dracula is killed in this film. I’d never seen another death scene as unique and inventive as that one. It hooked me as much as it hooked the Count!

    1. My family never had HBO, but I did tape the crap out of movies on both network TV and local syndication. I wish I was aware of this Dracula that Saturday 30 years ago to tape it. Then I wouldn’t have had that stupid opinion all of those years that I needed to dismiss this one as being too “mushy”.

      There’s something so disturbing about undead Mina that I think it messes with one’s memory of it. Without the movie in front of me, I can totally see that “laser” thing you were talking about. Her eyes are black with little red dots, and there is some nasty spark of…something that seems to be behind those black pits. It’s very unsettling. To me it’s the moment you wait for when watching the film, and that’s not taking anything away from Langella’s very strong performance.

      Looking forward to reading part 2!

      Chris

  2. Part 2…

    The story of Batman versus the Vampire/Werewolf/Monk is my favorite story of Batman from the Golden Age, possibly the Silver Age, too. I love when Batman occasionally ventures away from his Arkham-crazy rogues gallery and deals with the supernatural. We know Batman is a scientifically-minded pulp-crime hero, but he has the look of a movie monster, and I think this story presents him as one of first–if not the very first–monster anti-hero type character. Before Blade was the vampire-hunting vampire, Batman was the werewolf-hunting were-bat.

    I wish we could get something like this story adapted to other media. I suppose the subject matter of vampirism in the Monk story is too much for kids oriented animated series, so how about a movie with Batman fighting vampires? C’mon, Warner Bros. it’s clear you don’t have a clue what to do with your cinematic universe, so just crank out weird ideas like Batman: Vampire Hunter!

    Thanks for another great episode, Chris and Cindy! Loved the movie and loved the comic on this installment. Can’t wait for the next episode!

    1. Well, there is an animated movie called The Batman vs. Dracula, spinning out of the mid-2000s “The Batman” series. Even though that series is overall lighter and more kid-friendly than BTAS, this movie is pretty dark. It’s not bad at all.

      The Batman 50th anniversary short Bruce Timm did in 2014 has the Golden Age Batman battling Hugo Strange’s Monster Men. I would have loved to have seen a follow-up battle with the Monk. Plus, Kevin Conroy!!!

      The BTAS crew wanted to introduce Doug Moench’s Nocturna as a vampire character, but Fox and WB both nixed it. I guess she would have functioned as Dala more or less.

      Chris

    1. Ha! You know, I thought of a similar gag as I was editing this together, but I was too lazy to record something new.

  3. I haven’t seen this movie in YEARS. We had it on VHS, but I remember it being an odd tape. Not like Ryan’s odd collections (we had those, too, like Excalibur, The Wrath of Kahn, & The Sword and the Sorcerer all on one tape). No, this one was on a tape all by itself, and it my my handwriting, not my dad’s, on the label. I have no memory of where it was recorded off of, but I must have been the one to record it.

    Actually, the clear memory I have is Dracula crawling down the wall. Langella did a really good bat impression in that scene, and it really shocked me to see it. Up until then, it was Bella Lugosi that was my image of what Dracula was and how he acted. This was a complete departure from that.

    As to the comic, first of all, nice use of The Electric Brain music, Chris. I smiled as soon as I heard it. :)

    This is the first comic in my copy of “The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told”, so I’ve very familiar with it. It’s a story very much of it’s time, with it’s random events and huge leaps of logic, but it’s enjoyable if you’re in that mindset. Of course, the horror fan in me just can’t get past the whole Vampire/Werewolf/Vampire thing. I know that The Wolfman wasn’t out yet, but, like Chris said, weren’t there enough Vampire films out there to figure out what was what? Sheesh.

    1. Yeah, I really like the wallclimbing in this movie. It’s very well done, and there’s more of it than most Spider-Man movies!

      The Electric Brain is the best thing about the first Batman movie serial. That and the title cards.

      That first version of The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told is where I first read this story too. The fact that this represents that pre-Robin era of Batman there says a lot about it!

      Chris

  4. Great episode, I love the HOF!

    The main memory from the 1979 DRACULA is not anything from the film itself. It was shown in the film class I took Senior yr of HS, and our teacher was so enraptured by Frank Langella that she just went on and on about how, if he had tried to bite her, she would have been okay with that. After most of the stuff I learned in HS has faded from memory, I still remember this, and how icky it was.

    DRACULA’s budget was around $12 mil and according to IMDB it made around $35 mil worldwide. Not a flop, but not exactly JAWS either. Maybe that’s why this film was a one-off, and it didn’t lead to late-70s updates of the other Universal monster properties, like these things tend to do. Might have been interesting.

    Re: The Batman comic–I wonder if that cover to ‘Tec #31 isn’t the first time an artist realized the gut-level appeal of Batman’s silhouette. His overall character shape is so simple, so recognizable, that just using it means you’re halfway home to a really captivating cover or panel.

    I loved Cindy exclaiming “I’m trying to be nice–stop pushing me!” You have no idea how many times I say that to Shag off-air.

    1. There’s nothing quite as unsettling as middle-age people talking about their fantasies in front of a group of teenagers. Having said that, if I ran a film class, I’d show The Vampire Lovers, just so I could gush about Ingrid Pitt. 😉

      It would be interesting to know just how damaging Love at First Bite was to this film. We know similar premise films do dilute one another’s box office, but when you make one of them a spoof…

      Good call on the ‘Tec cover. Kane (and his ghosts) were soon throwing throwing the Bat-silhouette around in lots of panels and covers, so you’re probably right.

      I thought it was sweet that Cindy didn’t want to rip into a Golden Age comic. This one could have sent Logic Less into a seizure, but she resisted. She is redeemable, unlike a certain someone we know.

      Chris

  5. A few things I forgot to mention in the show:

    • Right now, many Wal-Marts have an endcap display with Universal Horror films with neon glow-in-the dark slip covers. Among them is this version of Dracula. I think the price is $6 or something, so if you haven’t seen it in awhile, it’s an easy get.

    • Our podcasting friends Scott Gardner and Chris Honeywell did an audio commentary for Dracula a few years back on their old Commentary Monthly Monday show. I haven’t listened to it in years, but those two are always a good listen. You should check it out here: http://twotruefreaks.com/media/podcasts/commentarymonthly/mp3/Episode383-CommMM-Dracula1979.mp3

    Chris

    1. ^That was awesome Chuck! Loved the twirl of his cape at the end.

      Looks like once Langella went off to film the movie, first Raul Julia and then Jeremy Britt assumed the role on Broadway. Not bad replacements!

      Chris

  6. Given his roles in more recent years (well, post 70s, really) it’s hard to remember that Frank Langella was considered a romantic lead, in his younger days. The Mark of Zorro (a near scene-for-scene remake of the Tyrone Power movie) was pretty good, with Ricardo Montalban as Esteban, in the Basil Rathbone role. That was actually my real introduction to Zorro, though I did see the John Derek Mask of the Avenger, which is essentially Zorro, though it trades on the name of the Count of Monte Cristo.

    Also forgotten is Curse of Dracula, aka Dracula ’79. It was actually part of the Cliffhangers tv series, where you had 3 serialized segments: Curse of Dracula, Stop Susan Williams! and The Secret Empire. Curse of Dracula was, by far, the best segment and the only one broadcast (in the US) in its entirety. It was also shown in repeated form, then edited together as a movie. It features Dracula in San Francisco, masquerading as a professor of Eastern European History. A Van Helsing descendant is chasing him and his female partner goes undercover, only to fall for the professor. It played Dracula as a bit of a tragic character, caught between good and evil. Michael Nouri was the Count, while Stephen Johnson is Kurt Van Helsing and Carol Baxter is Mary Gibbons. You can see clips on Youtube and the series can be had on bootleg or legitimate download.

    When it comes to Golden Age stories, I find it depends on the writers. Gardenr Fox is generally good to readable. Bill Finger is the same. Will Eisner is good, Otto Binder is good, Jack Cole is good, William Woolfolk is good. The pulpier stories tend to work a bit better, for me, or the purely original ones, like Plastic Man and Captain Marvel. From there, it varies quite a bit. Simon & Kirby often get buy purely on visuals, though they had some great stories. Batman tended to swipe from the best of the pulps, which adds a lot to it.

    1. I have only the vaguest memories of that Zorro movie. I need to see if I can find it again.

      I also have a vague recollection of that Dracula with Michael Nouri. Seems like that one was aired on a Saturday matinee on channel 19 as well. I’m guessing it was the movie version. They showed the Nicholas Hammond Spider-Man movies the same way. For years I think I got that mixed up with Fright Night a bit, as Nouri and Chris Sarandon look a bit alike (or they did to me as a kid). I eventually found out about the series, and it all made sense.

      There was a lot of swiping when it came to Batman (and we’ve learned more and more about that in the last few years), but there’s no doubt that Kane, Finger, Moldoff, Robinson, Fox, Sprang, etc, stirred it up into a delicious stew.

      Chris

      1. I used to catch the Battlestar Galactica movie edits (the two-part episodes and some others cobbled together into a movie) in syndication, as well as the Planet of the Apes tv series episodes edited into movies. Of course, Disney did this with Davey Crockett, Zorro, and Scarecrow of Romney Marsh.

        I got a copy of The Mark of Zorro, as a bootleg, on iOffer. I used to have a vhs recording, off the Disney Channel, of all places, from the early 90s. I hadn’t seen it since I was a kid and only remembered Langella and Montalban. The love interest is Ann Archer, in her very young days, while the Munsters Yvonne Decarlo is Diego’s mother. Funny thing; I always recalled the scene where he takes up the sword to become Zorro. He takes down a sword from his father’s wall and slashes a Z in the dust on a mirror (and no one ever notices the sword is missing). A couple of years later, I was reading the copy on the back of the Star Wars novelization, where it talks about Luke taking up his father’s lightsaber, and I immediately pictured a large fireplace and a young man picking up a laser sword (I hadn’t seen the movie, yet).

        1. Once you said Montalban, I remembered he was in it, but I didn’t know about Ann Archer and Yvonne DeCarlo. Man, what a cast! I need to see if I can dig this up. I’m a sucker for Zorro, and one day, Cindy and I are going to cover some Zorro here on the show.

          Chris

  7. Hi Chris and Cindy,

    I really enjoyed this episode. I saw the Frank Langella Dracula in the cinema in 1979 and loved it. I had seen the Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee movies on TV for years and loved them. Especially the Christopher Lee movies because Hammer’s Gothic horror movies have always been my absolutely favorite horror movies.

    However, in 1979 this Dracula movie was new and unique and yet also familiar. It played like a big budget version of a Hammer Horror film in my mind. I loved it then and still love it today and it’s a favorite for me and Ruth to watch together.

    Love at First Bite is a great little movie too, but I’m guessing the assumption is correct that having this serious take on Dracula follow that very humorous version of the story probably did impact its box office performance.

    I watched the Louis Jourdan Dracula with my parents when it originally aired on PBS in three episodes. A much more faithful adaptation of the story with great performances. It is creepy and slowly paced and I like it. Unfortunately it suffers from a common occurrence with BBC productions of the 1970s in that parts of the series are recorded on video tape instead of being filmed and that definitely impacts its visuals. I would still recommend watching it though. Lots of nice things about it.

    Thanks for mentioning the interesting parallels with Frank Langella and Duncan Regehr regarding Zorro and Dracula. Ruth’s a huge fan of Zorro including both the Guy Williams series and the Duncan Regehr series so talking about that really earned you some brownie points with her.

    Thanks for a great episode!

    Darrin

    1. Thanks Darrin! We’re big Zorro fans here at the Franklin household, and the Guy Williams Disney series is still my favorite version of the character. My dad and I used to watch that together, just like Star Trek. I recall really liking Regher as Zorro, but I remember the show itself being kind of toothless, probably due to it being run on The Family Channel, which had been The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) not long before. Not that I wanted it to be overly violent, but as I recall, no one ever got shot or cut! It was tamer than the Disney series.

      Now you and Jeff REALLY have me wanting to do a Zorro episode!

      I think I’m going to check into that Jourdan Dracula. It’s pretty much my blind-spot when it comes to the “major” adaptations, although I haven’t seen Christopher Lee in Jess Franco’s “El Conde Dracula” or Count Dracula.

      Chris

      1. Yes, Duncan Regehr did a great job as Zorro. In fact, all of the cast was quite good. It was big news when they got Efram Zimbalist Jr to play Don Alejandro in the first season. When he bowed out of the role, it was inspired casting to get Henry Darrow to replace him, since he had played an older Zorro in Zorro and Son in a short-lived series in the 1980s.

        Unfortunately, the budget definitely hurt the Duncan Regehr series. Basically everything had to be filmed during the day and it’s a bit difficult for Zorro to hide in bright sunlight when he’s wearing a black costume and riding a black horse in all of that tan sand. It would have been easy for the soldiers to track him.

        However, the show had a real sense of playful fun that made it easier to ignore that aspect of the series.

        Jeff and Ruth and I often think alike, so I’m glad to hear we have you thinking about a Zorro episode, though Ruth may be a little jealous that we haven’t done one … LOL!

        Of course, Mike Grell is a huge Zorro fan especially of the Guy Williams era and Ruth and I actually have an original drawing of Zorro that Mike Grell did for us, so maybe we could shoehorn a Zorro episode into Warlord Worlds … probably not 😉

        Take care,

        Darrin

        1. Funny, Efrem Zimbalest Jr. comes up in an upcoming podcast episode I was a part of…and it’s not in reference to his role as Alfred on BTAS! Weird.

          Yeah, I now remember the lack of night shots. Of course it was easier for Disney to hide day for night shots when their show as in black and white!

          I didn’t know Mike Grell was into Zorro! Imagine a Zorro GN by Grell…WOW!!!

          Chris

          1. Us too! A Zorro GN by Mike Grell would be heaven!

            Yes, Mike Grell has told us the story of being a huge Zorro fan. Zorro, Tarzan, and Robin Hood were his childhood heroes.

            As a kid, he made his own Zorro costume and made a sword out of a piece of metal. He said there wasn’t a single telephone pole in the town where he grew up that didn’t have a “Z” carved into it by him :-)

            Let’s see, Efram Zimbalist Jr … Remington Steele, 77 Sunset Strip, FBI, Maverick, BTAS … I’m intrigued by what it might be :-)

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