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Television Review

'Dark Prince' Slowed by Ponderous Tale

October 31, 2000|STEVEN LINAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The prologue to USA's "Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula" reminds us that"The world knows the legend . . . but few know the truth."

No argument here.

Unfortunately, tonight's earnest treatment of the tale is, for the most part, too ponderous for us to truly care, in spite of decent performances and an authentic look enhanced by Transylvanian locations.

Testosterone flows freely in the brawny battle sequences that punctuate this deliberate biography of the fierce Romanian prince well played by Rudolf Martin, who had the same role in this season's spirited debut of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Lean and longhaired, the formidable Vlad Dracula fought to free his country from "Turk tyranny" in the 15th century and wreak vengeance against those who murdered his father.

In the script by Tom Baum, this feared warrior (a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler) must answer for past transgressions to a Greek orthodox priest (Peter Weller) who's pondering his excommunication.

Vlad's first love is the virtuous Lidia (Jane March), a high-cheekbone beauty who was bound for the nunnery until falling under the spell of his piercing eyes. The two exchange soulful stares during a brief courtship, yet fail to generate any smoldering heat that would convince us "God himself had ordained" the union.

With the support of a Hungarian king (Roger Daltrey) and his own loyal forces, the increasingly brutal and vengeful Vlad reclaims his country's throne, making enemies and crossing swords with his younger brother (Michael Sutton) along the way.

This being a strait-laced historical account of a violent, volatile life in and out of dark, dreary castles, viewers shouldn't expect any scary sequences in which Vlad bares fangs and draws the blood out of victims. "Dracula Meets the Turkish Sultan," it's not.

Martin, Weller and the supporting cast hold their own in a production that picks up the pace down the stretch.

By then, however, you already may feel as if this particular Dracula has bitten into too much of your time.

*

* "Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula" can be seen tonight at 9 on USA. The network has rated it TV-14-V (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with an advisory for violence).

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