Friday, November 24, 2006

Count Dracula’s Great Love – review

DVD

Director: Javier Aguirre

Release Date: 1972

Contains spoilers

Another from the Elvira’s Movie Macabre series and another bad transfer, though not half as bad as The Devil’s Wedding Night.

We begin with two men delivering a crate to an old castle (actually an abandoned sanatorium). They complain about the weight and the fact that they have to take it into the cellar. Not getting all the way to their destination they decide to abandon the crate in a side room when one has the idea of opening it. It contains a coffin and so they open that and find nothing but a skeleton. Somewhat depressed they decide to case the rest of the building for valuables but it is an abandoned wreck. Suddenly they are attacked by a cloaked man, face unseen. One is bitten. The other has a hatchet buried in his head.

Imre (Victor Barrera) is in a coach with four young ladies - Karen (Haydée Politoff), Senta (Rosanna Yanni), Elke (Mirta Miller) and his illicit love Marlene (Ingrid Garbo). He regales them with tales of the area. They are in the Borgo Pass and it is here that Jonathon Harker and Abraham Van Helsing finally killed Count Dracula. He points out the abandoned sanatorium. It once belonged to a Doctor Kargos, a man killed when it was discovered that his patients were dying of anaemia and he was suspected of taking their blood and using it in bizarre experiments. It has recently been purchased by a Doctor Marlow (Paul Naschy). The coach looses a wheel and whilst he and Marlene search for it the horses spook, kicking the driver in the head and killing him. The horses then run off. When Imre returns they decide they have little choice but go to the sanatorium and see if anyone is there.

They are greeted by Doctor Marlow and offered hospitality but he has no transport and no one is due to make deliveries to the sanatorium for a week. That night Karen is woken by a noise, whilst investigating she comes face to face with the deliveryman, who is now a vampire, but is quickly bundled up by a figure. Back in her room we see it is Marlow, who claims that she must have seen a tramp.

The next day Marlow cannot be found – he has left a note to say that he has gone to check his traps in the woods. Now, given that he must have seen the vampire the night before and yet covered it up and he has vanished during the day we, the audience, are left in no doubt that he must be Dracula. Let’s face it Naschy is credited as such. During the day Karen, Elke and Senta investigate the house and find the diary of Van Helsing – Senta reads a bit of it but it is Karen who becomes interested.

Scene in negativeThat night Karen is reading the book in bed and, with a rather nice sequence in negative (presumably to hide the identity of Dracula - which was a bit pointless, but I reiterate that it did look good), we hear more of the plot from Van Helsing’s research. Dracula is resurrected regularly but not at full power. To regain his power he must be loved, by natural means – no supernatural seduction, by a girl who is a virgin. He will then use her blood to resurrect his daughter (the skeleton in the coffin). It is all a bit convoluted, in truth.

Vampire effectsFollowing this Imre is attacked by the deliveryman and he, in turn, attacks Marlene. The vampire effects are rather good, with plenty of blood and weird looking eyes. Meanwhile Marlow and Karen get to know one another and we suspect a blossoming of romance, as does eavesdropping Senta who wants the doctor for herself in a gold-digging kind of way.

Of course, the next day Marlow is out looking at his traps (allegedly) and Imre and Marlene cannot be found. Senta manages to step in a trap and injure herself, a wound which is treated back at the sanatorium by Marlow but his reaction to the blood on the wound is a vision of barely suppressed desire – which the girls take to be squeamishness, an odd trait for a doctor.

Elka is takenOnce in bed Elka hears her name called, investigates and is bitten by Marlene, whilst Senta uses her injury to try and seduce the doctor. Post sex and Marlow is obviously disappointed, Senta was no virgin. She also realises that he was thinking of Karen.

Karen, however, has received a visitation from Imre and it is Marlow who saves her. The death of ImeryThe fight seems desperate, rather than staged, and in the finale Marlow throws Imre from a window where he lands on spikes, neatly staked. Karen, of course, now realises that vampires are real but Marlow suggests he never realised…

I’ll leave the plot there, but will mention the ending (briefly) later. The film is sadly disappointing. The location and photography gives this a really gothic feel and the film does drip with atmosphere. Senta devouredWe get a scene later of Elka and Marlene devouring Senta and it is wonderfully erotic without being too explicit and yet the film falls flat.

The short reason is it is rather dull. This might have something to do with the atrocious dubbing but I feel it has more to do with the direction and the pacing. We see plenty of vampiric action and there are several very beautiful girls (with, for a Euro-horror of its time, very little flesh on show) and yet the film feels lethargic all the way through. You can watch the DVD with or without the Elvira interruptions but at one point she mentions that we are in a lull in the lull – a harsh description of the film, perhaps, but ultimately accurate.

It is also confusing. Dracula and Marlow are one and the same but we are never sure as to whether The CountMarlow is actually more mortal than vampire – until he fully turns after Karen submits to his charms (well you didn’t think she’d hold out did you – that isn’t the ending by the way). The vampires serve the Prince of Darkness and yet they seem unmanageable at times. It is made clear later that Karen’s blood was off the menu and yet Imre attacks her as does both the deliveryman and Senta. All three are despatched by Dracula but was this a ruse to make him more appealing or were they actually going to defy the Count? It’s never answered. We do see the vampire Elka and the deliveryman go for each other with some gusto, so I’d air on the side of out of control.

BridesThe ending is just bizarre and the actions at the end seem utterly out of character. I won’t spoil it but I really didn’t see it coming. Perhaps if there were a Spanish version of this, with English subtitles, it’d work better but I think the pacing would still be off. As it is I can only really give the film 3 out of 10. A damn shame as it drips with atmosphere but that is never really exploited.

The imdb page is here.

11 comments:

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

3 out of 10?

Oh No! I wish I found this review before I ordered it from Amazon a few hours ago. grrr. Anyways I am a fan of Naschy's Waldemar films so perhaps I'll find some merit in it.

I agree with you that it should be original language with English Subtitles though. When I watch Night of the Werewolf it is that way and I do not think I could stomach it dubbed.

I plan to systematically hunt down Naschy's old films and from his imdb bio he has some neat ones. Looking on his website he seems to be making a Lovecraft film and the location shots look interesting, but what is more interesting is that is has Waldemar in the title but I don't think the Wolf Man appears once?

Can you recommend any other Naschy films - so far I've only seen Werewolf vs Vampire Woman and its remake Night of the Werewolf?

Furthermore you've recently enabled Comment Moderation, what gives?

p.s: how many vampire movies exist were the 'victims' car/coach breakdown outside a castle? Quite a lazy plot device.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Gabriel, the short film the Vampyre by John w Polidori is worth seeing and is an extra on the diemos release of Human Beasts.

I have a review pending of the Naschy film Frankenstein's Bloody Terror and will post that soon but, as a heads up, it looks nice but is story lacking.

There have been soooo many car/bus breakdown at castle/vampire village it is untrue!

Comment moderation has been switched on for a short while as I was getting some spam comments. It happens once in a while and I find putting moderaion on for a little bit tends to stop it. I understand it is a pain but, believe me, it is an even bigger pain for me! However, better that than the spam.

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

Thanks!

I remember reading about this film somewhere on a horror website perhaps even mentioned on Naschy's page some time ago, but you say in the mention that its not available yet, and you were lucky enough to score a promo copy, lucky you!

I'll have to see what this Human Beasts is then. I assume it's subtitled on that?

Hmmm, just read the amazon page on Human Beasts, doesn't seem that that version carries the extra you mentioned but looking closer I don't think that is the demois release. Human Beasts does not look like my cup of tea though unless its a worthwhile ghost flick.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Gabriel, I was luck enough to have Antonio - the director - send me a copy. From what I can gather the diemos extra is suctitled and an interview with Antinio mentions a little more here

The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

Hey

I just finished watching this film

Oh Dear

Firstly I forgot that it was going to be dubbed and I couldn't change it to spanish language Eng subs, and then I groaned at the cliched start of "this crate is heavy let's check to see what's inside of it" plot device, though my spirits rose when one the delivery men had his head cleaved with a hatchet!

I found the middle of the film quite interesting and I love Eurovamps and locales most of all, they are so creepy and malovelent compared to the american fare, it must be their slo-mo from the fog attacks! I was impressed that the female brides have a super-leap onto rooves similar to Mick St John from Moonlight too, but was a bit perturbed that didn't translate to arm strength when wrestling with victims, even when Dracula got into a bit of a tussle with his spawn.

Even in Night of the Werewolf Countess Bathory tossed around Waldemar like leaves on a windy day.

I love the way the Brides just dropped their victim when the farmer challenged them and preceded to open a can of whoop ass!

Anyways, there was nothing in this I hadn't seen before. Dracula has to resurrect someone, true love would set him free etc, he hide his identity from his one true love - Naschy's character was almost the same as his Waldemar character in Night of the Werewolf when you think about it, the plot was almost similar.

But still I enjoyed the creepy female brides, similar to NOTW, you got to love those - I found Dracula to be a bit wanting, esp since he tossed his daughter in the canal like some trash even though that was his main quest to resurrect her at the start of the movie only to stake himself when his virgin beloved did not want to be turned, and for her to go "come back!"

WTF?

Maybe you should have thought about what he was going to do when you said no darling? If I was Dracula I would have brushed her aside like a dirty rag and got my daughter out of the river and had her feed on the intended!

Vampires going from benevolent to malevolent and back again in a heartbeat gives me a headache.

I give this 3 broken wagon wheels out of 5.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers gabriel - it did have atmosphere though, got to give it that

The T said...

I got a terrible copy of the movie. I'd love if they gave this film the same treatment they gave Naschy's Wolfman films... It was so bad I couldn't sit through the whole thing...

And it looked promising.. at least atmospheric...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

The T, atmosphere it does have aplenty... I have two copies of the film on different lables and both look awful

Giovanni Maximiliano Tavares Lanza said...

I thought that this film started well enough (ir perhaps a little slowly, but after the (obvious) reveal of who Dracula was, the film seemed to abandon it's whole plot and became a confused mess.

The general idea reminded me a little bit of the later Vampire In Venice, but I thought it was done better in that film.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

despite the mess of having four (from memory) directors, Vampire in Venice is a great film (imho) - this, not so much - as you say, very confused. cheers for stopping by :)

Giovanni Maximiliano Tavares Lanza said...

I agree that Vampire in Venice is a great film and it is in great need of being given a proper remaster and habing the DVD or Blu-Ray treatment.