The 10 worst Van Helsings - ever!
|LISTS - MOVIE LISTS|
The arch-vampire's greatest nemesis is a challenge few can rise to...
For those familiar with Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula, the character of Dr Van Helsing is a strange, almost unintelligible, elderly eccentric who practically speaks Double-Dutch! After reading the book one wonders how someone as formidable as Count Dracula could ever be defeated by this rather odd and seemingly ineffectual little Dutchman.
In cinematic terms, the character is unactable on screen. Peter Cushing remains the definitive Van Helsing because he’s (thankfully) furthest from the book. His Van Helsing was portrayed as an intelligent and resourceful action hero; the prototype for Hugh Jackman’s later interpretation.
With the exception of Cushing, Jackman and Edward Van Sloan (who played the part in the thirties), the other movie Van Helsings have been pretty dire, and the better the actor, the worse he is in the role. Let’s have a look at the ten really bad ones.
10: Herbert Lom (El Conde Dracula, 1969)
An established horror name with great screen presence, Herbert Lom should have made an excellent Van Helsing, but the fault with his poor performance lies with Jesus Franco’s inept film version. Having to cope with inane, improvised dialogue and infuriating camera zooms, Lom is all at sea, spending much of his time looking baffled! Watching this garbage is an exercise in frustration at how good he could have been in a decent film adaptation.
9: Reggie Nalder (Dracula Sucks, 1979)
Another horror icon completely out of his depth. The gaunt, sinister German actor with the fire-scarred face plays the good doctor in this infamous porno fest (available in hard and softcore versions). Despite being better than most porn flicks of the time (Jamie Gillis is an effective Dracula), it’s hardly a great career move for a respected mainstream actor. Nalder looks so embarrassed it’s not surprising he is listed in the credits as Detlef Van Berg. No doubt to hide his shame!
8: Frank Finlay (Count Dracula, UK TV 1977)
Who remembers Frank Finlay oozing middle age sexuality on TV in Bouquet of Barbed Wire (1976)? Sadly his performance here won’t impress his female fans! Locking horns with the (far too) debonair Louis Jourdan as the Count, Finlay’s hilarious 'Allo 'Allo! French accent owes more to Inspector Clouseau than Van Helsing; one half-expects Cato to jump out of a coffin and attack him!
7: Giancarlo Giannini (Dracula, 2002)
This is a reasonably decent stab at modernising the novel but despite Patrick Bergin’s excellent turn as Dracula, the film suffers from a rushed second half and bland supporting performances. Best known as the shabby trench coat-wearing detective in Hannibal (2001) and the shabby trench coat-wearing agent in Casino Royale (2006), Giannini is now the shabby trench coat-wearing Van Helsing (renamed Velenzi). Lumbered with unspeakable dialogue, he is clearly ill at ease but at least he has limited screen time.
6: Robin Stewart
(Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, 1974)
Okay it’s not the man himself, but his son, but let’s face it, he is a Van Helsing and Robin Stewart is terrible. Looking out of place in period dress, the former Bless This House star comes across as a poor man’s Ralph Bates. Since most of his scenes are with Peter Cushing, he doesn’t have much of a chance!
5: Christopher Plummer (Dracula 2000, 2000)
Film critic David Quinlan described Christopher Plummer as a handsomer version of Peter Cushing. With his best film work behind him, it would have been nice to see him play worthy Cushing-style roles as he approached old age; he even made a great Van Helsing-inspired protagonist in Vampire in Venice (1988). Unfortunately he slums it as the good doctor in this laughably camp effort. One gets the impression that he was drunk throughout the production!
4: Anthony Hopkins (Dracula, 1992)
Francis Coppola’s film adaptation is certainly no classic. Despite the lavish production, the film buckles under a dreadful script and unspeakable acting. By basing himself as close to the book as possible, Sir Anthony brings out the character’s inadequacies and in doing so gives an extremely mannered and annoying performance.
3: Laurence Olivier (Dracula, 1979)
Only Britain’s finest ever stage actor could make such a bad Van Helsing. Replacing subtle characterisation with overacting in his later years, he recreates that annoying little Jewish man from The Jazz Singer (1979) to this very stuffy adaptation of the stage play. What makes his bumbling performance really sad is the fact he was Peter Cushing’s mentor during their RSC days.
2: Dennis Price (Son of Dracula, 1974)
The most tragic Van Helsing. It’s sad to recall that the once handsome star of Kind Heart and Coronets (1949) ended his career in this dreadful horror comedy musical. When gambling, alcoholism and bankruptcy (a result of being blackmailed over his homosexuality) finally damaged his health, he was forced to appear in several third-rate Jesus Franco movies. Looking ill and bloated from his years of drinking, Price is clearly at the end of his tether as he drunkenly walks through this awful piece of garbage. Hardly a fitting tribute to a once great leading man!
1: Mel Brooks (Dracula, Dead and Loving It, 1995)
It’s equally sad to note that the man best known for the classic horror spoof Young Frankenstein (1974) directed this ham-fisted effort. If Brooks spent more time behind the camera turning out great comedies instead of mugging away as the star of his later efforts, he would have been held in greater esteem. As Van Helsing, Brooks has clearly forgotten his comic timing and opts for a woefully unfunny camp performance.
Will there be a definitive cinematic version of Van Helsing in the future that is actually based on the original character in the book? I sincerely hope not!
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