A Movie A Day #97: Dracula’s Widow (1988, directed by Chistopher Coppola)


Since we are looking at and reviewing each and every episode of Twin Peaks, every movie-a-day this month has a Twin Peaks connection.  Today’s entry, Dracula’s Widow, stars Lenny von Dohlen, who played reclusive shut-in Harold Smith on Twin Peaks.

Von Dohlen plays Raymond, the nerdy owner of a Los Angeles wax museum.  When he receives six antique chests from Romania, he does not realize that one of them contains, Vanessa (Sylvia Kristel).  Vanessa is a vampire and soon, she is killing the usual collection of perverts, muggers, and occultists.  She also bites Raymond and turns him into her Renfield.  Under her influence, Raymond even dumps his girlfriend, Jenny Harker (Rachel Jones).

However, Vanessa is not just a vampire.  Vanessa is the wife of Dracula, himself.  When she demands that Raymond take her to her husband, Raymond tells her that Dracula was killed nearly a hundred years ago by Prof. Van Helsing.  (How did Vanessa not already know this?)  Vanessa hunts down and kills Van Helsing’s grandson (Stefan Schnabel) but this brings both her and Raymond to the attention of Inspector Lannon (Josef Sommer).

In the 1990s, Dracula’s Widow was a late night HBO mainstay and it still has a cult following.  I could sit here and count out all the ways that Dracula’s Widow does not make any sense but I’ve got a deadline.  For all of this low-budget movie’s flaws, Dracula’s Widow is saved by the sexy presence of Sylvia Kristel and the atmosphere that can only be provided by neon lighting and a fog machine.  Josef Sommer’s hard-boiled narration, in which he refers to Los Angeles as being Tinsel Town, is another highlight.  As for Lenny von Dohlen, his performance as Raymond feels like a dry run for his turn as Harold Smith.

Dracula’s Widow was the directorial debut by Christopher Coppola, whose uncle Francis would later make Bram Stoker’s Dracula and whose brother, Nicolas Cage, ate a cockroach while making Vampire’s Kiss.

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