Monday, August 13, 2007

Dracula vs Frankenstein – review

Directed by: Al Adamson

Release date: 1971

Contains spoilers

There are some movie concepts that just do not seem to work, and whilst there are exceptions the concept of the monster mash has a tendency to fall flat on its face (at least when it is low budget). This is especially a shame when the movie also happens to be the swan song of a movie legend – in this case Lon Chaney Jr.

The film begins with Dracula (Zandor Vorkov) in Oakmoor Cemetery digging up the buried Frankenstein’s Monster (John Bloom). A night watchman comes along and is killed by Dracula for his trouble.

Let us take a moment to look at Dracula. What were they thinking? A 1950s Satanist goatee beard, white face make-up and thick black makeup round the eyes – this is one sorry looking Dracula and no mistake. Later, when he speaks, there is some form of effect put on his voice that sounds just plain silly.

Anyway we cut to a fairground and see a woman, we later discover to be called Jodie (Maria Lease), walking through the mist. A flash of axe and she is beheaded.

Cut again to Vegas and we see Judith Fontaine (Regina Carrol) on stage and are ‘treated’ to her song and dance routine. Really, is there any need what so ever? Well we get a worse excess of music later, so in context this was bearable – though you’d not know it at the time. Off stage she is given a telegram saying that her sister, Jodie, is still missing.

She goes off to see the police and speaks to Sgt. Martin (Jim Davis) who tells her she was living with hippies and hanging around a fairground known to be haunted by pushers and white slavers (now where on earth did that one come from). We then see two of the hippies, Strange (Greydon Clark) and Samantha (Anne Morrell), go to Dr Duryea’s Creature Emporium, a freak show in the fairground, where they are spoken to by Dr Duryea (J Carrol Naish).

Having dealt with his customers, the wheelchair bound doctor and his mute assistant Groton (Lon Chaney Jr) go into Duryea’s lab. In there is Jodie, her head reattached and alive but drugged. It seems the trauma has caused changes to the blood that allows Duryea, having brought her back to life, to harvest it to make a serum – God, the crap concepts keep on coming. He needs more and so injects Groton which causes a transformation (essentially he becomes more manic) and sends him out with an axe.

With Groton gone Dracula enters. He knows that Duryea is actually the last descendent of Dr Frankenstein and has dug the creature up for him. They will raise it (on the night the comet that passed, when it was first brought to life, comes back) and use it to kill the Doctor who discredited Duryea, one Doctor Beaumont (Forrest J Ackerman). In return Dracula wants the serum to make him invincible – we hear later about the concept of an army of invincible living vampires… oh hum.

To show he’s serious he uses his ring. His ring kind of has a death ray effect and the film makers must have been so proud, they even gave a credit to the makers of the ring. The rays from the ring cause a little fire and, as Duryea lost the use of his legs in a fire, he is quick to agree to Dracula’s plan.

Meanwhile Judith is looking for her sister. She asks the whereabouts of a biker named Rico (Russ Tamblyn), though where she got his name from is a mystery. For her efforts her coffee is spiked and she starts tripping but she is rescued by Strange and Samantha and, when she comes down in the morning, meets Mike Howard (Anthony Eisley). They quickly fall for each other and he agrees to help find Jodie. Because they fall for each other we get a blooming awful pop song moment that is nauseating to say the least.

Anyhoo, they become suspicious of Duryea, Dracula ends up wanting to turn Judith having failed to kill her and there is a fight between Dracula and the Monster but we don’t really know why. Frankly, by that time we don’t care.

The only new lore is the death ray ring. You might think it strange to call it a death ray but look at the screenshot, and the effect it has on a person, seems death ray like to me. There was an intention originally to make the Monster turn into a vampire but the idea was dropped due to the fact that the fangs kept falling out – just as well really.

The acting is pants. Chaney seems to be enjoying himself, however, and kind of looks good with an axe in his hands, but this is a poor vehicle for his final film. It was also J Carrol Naish’s final film and proves a sad epitaph for both actors. The story is not only poor but the entire film is snooze worthy. Honestly, I can’t really think of a good thing to say about it, so I’ll shut up now. Chaney’s presence makes me feel I should give this 1 out of 10 rather than a big fat zero.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK


Anonymous said...

Denizens of the Darkness -

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Nice plug, love the artwork. However, not many are going to see it tagged to an obscure review - I'm putting the link in my link section

The T said...

I beg to disagree. While the rating is perfect, there's lot to admire in such an atrocious movie as this one. This is one of those "it's so bad it's good" cases.

Please... where else have none heard the worst-ever name nickname for our count? "I'm known as the Count of Darkness, Lord of the Manor of Corpathia". COrpathia, with an O, on top of that. Such a lame nickname... And his voice... and his looks... the worst Dracula ever, straight out of an LSD party with that glorious echo-voice....

I really suggest watching this movie to everybody that likes Ed Wood movies or Robot Monster... so many great quotes... It's one of the movies with the absolute best (read: impossible to be said by humans) dialogues ever....

And that stage dance in Vegas... Too much...

Taliesin_ttlg said...

The T, the problem with "so bad its good" movies is that if you watch it at the wrong moment/frame of mind they cease to be so bad its good and just ebcome bad...

I suggest this may have happened here as I detested each moment... and yet I recently watched the film Guru the mad monk (review soon) by Andy Milligan and, despite it being horrendous, found myself really loving the film... right mood, right frame of mind...

My thanks, as always, for the comment.

The T said...

I fully agree with you.

That's why even terrible movies have to be watched at least twice lol.