In an interview on the DarkSky DVD of Count Dracula, Franco explains that his objective was to do the most faithful film version of Stoker to date. Looking back, the prolific director scoffs at the notion that Francis Coppola's version was more faithful to Stoker than his. My friend Wendigo, who may count as more of a vampire expert than Jess Franco, claims that the 1970 Count Dracula is really no more faithful, cumulatively speaking, than Coppola's. He admits that Franco is right about how Coppola's romance storyline deviates from Stoker's more simply bloodthirsty intentions, and concedes that Franco doesn't taint his version with like sentimentality. But Franco then proceeds to distort the story in so many different ways of his own that his claim of fidelity becomes ludicrous. He eliminates characters and changes some of the relationships among the survivors, making Dr. Seward an assistant at Van Helsing's clinic and Lucy Westenra the fiancee of a British (not Texan) Quincey Morris. Franco also innovates, giving Renfield a backstory with a daughter who became Dracula's victim during a tour of Transylvania, giving Van Helsing a stroke so Herbert Lom doesn't have to travel to another location with the vampire hunters, and having Dracula attack Mina in a box seat at a theater while a chorus sings Fahoo Dores or some such thing. Most laughably, the director improvises a sort of attack upon the vampire hunters by Dracula's menacing yet immobile collection of taxidermy, and has the gall in retrospect to tell us that that was a nice scene to look at. Wendigo could go on at great length on these deviations, and is talking faster than I can write, but I think his point has been made quite sufficiently.
To be fair, Wendigo acknowledges that Franco did do some bits of Dracula right for the first time in movies. Working closely with Christopher Lee, he gives us a Count in the opening scenes that really resembles the character in the novel, and a speech that is verbatim Stoker. Dracula's brides also get to say their original lines, and the Count offers them a baby in a bag to keep them off Jonathan Harker, as in the novel. Most importantly, Lee enacts the novel's youthening process for the vampire as he gluts himself on fresh blood, going from fake grey to hair dye in dramatic fashion. As a rule, Wendigo says, whenever Lee is on screen Franco lives up to his supposed intention. Otherwise, without Lee looking over his shoulder, the director assumes artistic license, though without much artistry. Franco is off-key in a different way than Coppola is, but both versions strike plenty of false notes, though in different spots.
Men: Are you tired of going grey? You need fresh blood for darker, fuller hair! (Allow several treatments to get the full effect)
I've seen Jess Franco at something closer to his peak form, while Wendigo hasn't. Count Dracula leaves Wendigo doubting whether Franco has any talent as a director. This film has little sense of art direction or Gothic expressionism apart from whatever Franco found on his locations or could apply with a generous use of cobwebs. He does little with composition or camera movement to create atmosphere, with rare exceptions like Dracula's appearance in Mina's box seat. This is one of the films that earned Franco a reputation for a lazy reliance on zooms; a comparison with Tod Browning's use of dolly shots is telling. Franco shows little skill with the actors, leaving Herbert Lom (whom Wendigo thinks a near-ideal Van Helsing) lost while treating the other vampire hunters almost interchangeably. He certainly flatters Maria Rohm and Soledad Miranda, but Count Dracula probably is not his best showcase for either actress.
The vampire hunters had staked two of Dracula's brides without a mess before Quincey Morris (Jack Taylor) hit a gusher on the third attempt. Had they missed vital organs before?
Seeing Count Dracula after many years has only decreased Wendigo's opinion of the movie and its director. Speaking for myself, having seen more Francos (including Vampyros Lesbos, which I may get Wendigo to watch someday), it strikes me that the director is only fully engaged and energized when working with his own personal mythology and symbolic iconography, regardless of the genres involved. He may talk big about his ambitions for Dracula now, but the film looks like a work for hire in which he invested little of his own particular creativity. Whatever interest Count Dracula has rests entirely on Christopher Lee's variation on a favorite theme; apart from that, there's little here for vampire fans or Franco fans, though Wendigo can speak only for the former.
Here's a German trailer for Nachts wenn Dracula erwacht uploaded by DocPhnoeker. It's actually pretty easy to follow regardless of language.