Drakula Istanbul’da (1953)

This Turkish re-telling of Stoker’s story is set in modern times and is surprisingly faithful to the original source novel. The story begins as Azmi a lawyer arrives by train to Bistric on a mission to house the mysterious Count – who is referred to by many names –Drakula/Drukala/Draquell/Dracula – in Turkey. Azmi (Bulent Oran) is the no-nonsense Jonathon Harker clone who becomes disorientated by the events happening around him and wanders around the Counts very convincing, if sparsley decorated, castle. The castle is adorned with many suits of antiquated armour hinting at victories of a bygone time and there is a hunchbacked Renfield character housed within its walls. In the first thirty seven minutes, Harker’s scenes are played out very faithfully to their source material. Harker/Azmi finds a book on superstitious Rites in the Count’s library whose writings of ghosts coincide with the innkeeper’s fears for his safety. It is the hunchback who warns Azmi not to fall asleep in strange places. Azmi agrees but is rendered unconscious by gas that seeps through the live eyes of a portrait and then seeps through the very stonework of the castle itself. The lawyer is then visited by a young girl who eagerly nuzzles at his throat .causing the Count to lament that she would let him, 

 “miss the best opportunity I’ve had in years!”

Azmi is wakened and winesses all the horrors of the novel. A woman offscreen screams for the return of her ‘kid’ (sic) and wolves are heard lolling and smecking. Dracula is seen retreating hastily down his castle wall like a giant bat or lizard. The best scene at the castle is the discovery of the Count in his coffin! Azmi attacks the sleeping corpse with the shovel, not once, but many times and causes the scar that never heals. As Azmi runs away encompassed by fear, the coffin lid gently replaces itself over the sleeping husk. When the lawyer decides to attack again after he witnesses Dracula murder his own servant, he beats the Count unmercifully, then fires bullets into the box and with a final gesture throws the gun into the coffin as well! Such a display of emotion by the lawyer has never been seen in any other Dracula movie!

The scene then cuts to modern day Turkey where Azmi’s wife Gunzi Alosy (Annie Ball) makes her living dancing Rumba on a nightclub stage, while fighting off the advances of her theatre manager. She visits her sister, Sadan (Ayfer Feray) and their ailing mother. Sadan is engaged to Turin (Cahit Irgat), but has been taken by bouts of sleepwalking. Gunzi promises that she will stay by her sister until her husband returns. Awaking the next night, she realizes that Sadan is not in her room and ventures outside to the rocky beach. Sadan is being seduced by Dracula who beats a quick exit.

The girl is in a really bad way and Dr Nuri (Kemal Emin Bara) is brought into the case seemingly to give a second opinion. Nuri is the Van Helsing equivalent who, with a disarming likeness to Sigmund Freud, is well versed in these matters and orders blood transfusions from Turin’s arm. The Count appears the next night while Gunzi is telegraphed to join her husband in a Turkish hospital. The next few scenes follow the ailing Sadan who expires after her mother has fallen victim to the obligatory heart attack during another of the Count‘s midnight visits. Dr Nuri and followers venture to the girl’s grave to find it empty. Returning the following day, they wait for the semi-clad girl to arrive back at the crypt with Nuri enquiring to a stunned Turin,

*Now will you let me do what I want?” 

Turin agrees and as Nuri has explained, pins the vampire to the ground with a pole. Nuri then proceeds to stuff the mouth with garlic and remove the head. The hunters then disable the coffins with bulbs of garlic trapped beneath the nailed-down planks. 

Dracula then sets his sights on Gunzi, trapping her at the nightclub and insists that this time she will only dance for him. Azmi arrives and, relieving the Count of his cloak – which is the key to his powers, explains Nuri – chases the vampire through the streets in scenes reminiscent from early British gangster movies. Cornering him in his tomb, Azmi drives home the stake and removes the head after stuffing the mouth with more garlic! The film ends as the hunters all retire to bed and Azmi and Gunzi enter their own bedroom as Azmi throws away the garlic bulbs.

Like all European productions with subtitles, the film displays an unrivalled energy. The cast delivering a more forward balance of the story that is thrust straight at us and isn’t trapped by the codas of the censor. The onscreen stakings lack blood but are played out with grim purpose and intent. The vampire girl is seductively stacked like a Stepford Wife and – in subtitles – the Count makes no secret of his homosexual longings for this strong young man! And we have to remember that this is still only 1953! Annie Ball gives three impressive dance sequences that call to mind the American musicals of Betty Grable or Vera Ellen. Her flimsy attire hiding no secrets as she enthusiastically throws herself into her routines.

The Count himself uses many of the powers that Stoker armed his own monster with. Atif Kaptan is shorter than most Counts, but has a hypnotic stare and hungry retractable fangs – the first screen fangs since Nosferatu (1922), He lays out his caskets neatly side by side in a very clean and well kept crypt. He doesn’t change into a bat, but wears a rather unconvincing bat-mask that is wisely kept in the shadows. He attacks his servant unmercifully when the hunchback stops him from taking the blood of his sleeping visitor and is the first Dracula to scale his castle wall. Promising to drain Gunzi, “drop by drop”, he insists that she perform his own private lap dance.

Atif Kaptan was born in Izmit, Turkey in 1908 and was, apparently, as big a horror star as Peter Cushing in his own land! Billed fifth on the credits he gives an honourable performance as the fourth official Count Dracula. He died, still in demand on April 22nd 1977 aged 68. His last film being Toybekar, released in the same year.

Filmed on a shoestring budget with a generous nod towards cameraman Ozin Sermet for his atmospheric cinematography, the film doesn’t disappoint and, after fifty eight years, was well worth the wait.

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