Saturday, February 02, 2008

Zoltan... Hound of Dracula – review


Author: Ken Johnson

First published: 1977

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: “When the dust of the explosion died down, the soldiers realised they had uncovered an ancient grave.

“The dreadful thing that escaped from the damaged coffin looked like a dog.

“Its search for a master took it from Central Europe to California – and an ordinary couple on a camping holiday with their children and their beautiful puppy dogs.

“There was nothing special about the couple, except that Paul’s grandmother had changed the family name to Drake from Dracula…”

The Review: First of all can I just wax lyrical about the cover, how 70s, how groovy… I like that cover. The book, itself, is the novelisation of the Film. There is a dating issue, this was published a year before the film. However the author bio clearly states that Johnson “adapted Zoltan… Hound of Dracula as a novel from the EMI film production of the same name.”

So we are definitively within the world of vampire dogs and, unfortunately, vampire puppies. I will admit that it does add a little extra to the wafer-thin plot of the film, an insight into the character minds that the film never really allowed. Do not get too excited, however, Johnson doesn’t expand that much. This is a light pulp read, fairly large font and 160 pages do not normally make for an in-depth novel in my experience.

We still have the concept of the fractional lamia, which is “someone only part vampire” and that “can function in the daytime. They can be trusted to find victims. And most important, they have no craving for blood.” This concept is the crux of the story as Smit, said fractional lamia, can only survive with a master. Nice concept, crap monster name.

The film fails to raise chills, a vampire puppy crawling out of the earth looked pathetic not horrifying. The book succeeds a little more as the visuals (and the awful soundtrack) are not killing off the concept – don’t get me wrong this isn’t scary but it works better than the movie. That said the prose are light, this is not high literature but low-level tie in material.

One of the nicest parts of the book were the quotes from various sources, Dracula, Dracula’s Guest, various reference materials and even Christopher Lee, which headed each chapter. It is worrying, however, that a quote could dominate my impression of a novel so much.

If you are a completist collector this is a necessity, but then borderline OCD works like that! If you love 70s pulp, it will sit well in a collection. If you are a casual reader looking for a vampire horror, with an interesting twist, avoid this like the plague. 3 out of 10.

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