Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula, on USA Network
IMDb; Lionsgate; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tango; Wikipedia
First of all, the coolest thing about this movie is that the same year this first aired, the star, Rudolf Martin, also played Dracula in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Um, I guess that was in 2000... which of course was before I started writing reviews of things. The internet tells me it aired on Halloween, and while I'm fairly sure I watched it the night it first aired, I had no recollection of it actually being Halloween. But I guess that makes sense. Also, it seems the Buffy episode aired in September, which means it was before this... but I would have guessed I saw the Buffy episode after I saw this movie. Oh well, I guess my memory sucks. (It's possible I'm confused because of having heard before either thing aired that Martin was going to be in both of them. Or something.) In any event, it's safe to say the Buffy episode and the movie do not share a continuity. It might be the same actor in both things, but it's not the same Dracula (he's not even a vampire in this movie... yet). Anyway... by the time I started doing reviews, I didn't remember this well enough to say much of anything except that Martin had been in both those things. But I finally got it on DVD in 2013... in October, so I planned to watch it sometime that month, on or near Halloween. But I wanted to drink a bottle of this wine I'd seen in the store, Apothic Dark... and I didn't get a chance to pick up a bottle until late November, which is when I watched the movie again, for the first time since 2000. (The DVD, incidentally, includes three other movies I've never heard of, but I'll probably get around to watching them all, someday. Also, on the DVD, the movie's title is altered slightly, to "Dracula: The Dark Prince.")
It begins in 1476. For years, Romania has been occupied by Ottoman Turks, who are allied with Romanian nobles at the expense of the Romanian people. Romanian Prince Vlad Dracula (aka "Vlad the Impaler") now leads a Hungarian army to free his people. But Vlad is brought before a group of leaders of the Orthodox Romanian church, to answer for his apparent allegiance with the Pope (they are opposed to the Catholic Church). This interrogation allows for flashbacks, which comprise the bulk of the movie. His father gave him his ring, which signified membership in the Order of the Dragon (a fact which is not explored at all in the movie), and said that if anything happened to him, Vlad should seek help from his friend, King Janos of Hungary. While his father was off fighting or trying to organize support against the Turks, or whatever, Vlad and his younger brother Radu were taken captive by the Turkish Sultan. Some time later, they learned that their father had been killed by Romanian nobles. And I guess it was some years later still that Vlad was released (though it's not until later on that the reason for this is explained). He then went to Hungary to ask Janos for help.
It was there that he met and immediately fell in love with Lidia, the daughter of a Romanian nobleman named Aron, who'd been given sanctuary by Janos. She was planning to join a nunnery, but he soon convinced her to marry him, instead. Shortly after that, Janos provided Vlad with money and arms to return to Romania and build an army of his own people to oppose the Turks. (His first recruit is a guy named Bruno, who apparently remains his top soldier throughout the film.) Vlad soon managed to reclaim his throne, but he still had plenty of enemies (including one most unexpected). And he did some things that were perhaps not entirely noble (about which he lied to his wife). There were also rumors about him which perhaps exaggerated the truth, I'm not really sure. But Lidia eventually went mad. And the Sultan's forces eventually took Romania back.
So, Vlad returned to Hungary, but... things didn't go so well, and it would be some years before he had a chance to once again return to Romania. When he finally did... well, that's where our story began. And it's not much longer before it ends. I don't want to say exactly how it ends, but the movie did sort of give me an idea (the first time I watched it) for one of my books. Just something to be mentioned in passing, not an important plot point or anything. Though it is rather more tied to vampirism than anything in this movie was. Per se. Um, but anyway... it's not a bad movie. Not sure how much relation it bears to actual history, but it was interesting. Also I enjoyed the wine. (Unlike Bela Lugosi's Dracula. Heh.)