Thursday, May 01, 2008

Guess what Happened to Count Dracula – review


Directors: Mario d’Alcala & Laurence Merrick

Release date: 1970

Contains spoilers

So, what did happen to Count Dracula? In truth this movie does not tell us. There are folks who will tell you that he changed his name to Count Adrian (Des Roberts) and moved to the US, escaping the communist regime of Romania. They’d be wrong. The movie clearly tells us that Count Adrian is the son of Count Dracula and not the Count himself. It, in truth, never mentions Dracula again – though Alucard comes into it late on.

What it does, however, is create a hippy trippy movie that mildly succeeds despite itself. It is a bit of a mess and yet the lighting works occasionally (despite the poor transfer). The acting ranges from very poor to absolute pantomime and yet the characters are almost personable. The key is that it is self knowing, or at least appears to be, and we shall explore why that is in the review.

ritual awakeningThe movie, itself starts with images of Adrian and then a hooded man walks through a castle and opens a book. All the while, psychedelic space rock tumbles out of the TV speakers sounding remarkably like some obscure Hawkwind B side. The book opens the self-knowing aspects for us, the pages contain cast and crew listings and, despite the hokey premise, this actually works. Cut to a group of freakish looking folks chanting over the body of Count Adrian, willing him to live.

He sits up and accepts a drink, it appears to be blood but with a mad scientists smoke element. It is clear Adrian is in charge and one vampire girl, I assume Vamp (Sharon Bernadi), is very submissive and he casts her aside as she bores him. They await guests. Adrian himself looks terrible, with a Van Dyke and an awful sub-Lugosi accent to boot. He overacts terribly (in a way that eventually becomes endearingly pantomime) and dresses like a head waiter.

a date at Dracula's DungeonIn itself the style of dress works as he has converted his castle into a restaurant called Dracula’s Dungeon. Visiting the restaurant are Guy (John Landon) and his girl Angelica (Claudia Barron). She is unsure as the place creeps her out – despite complimentary drinks called zombies. Adrian tells Vamp that she, Angelica, is the one but she manages to get Guy to leave. I should mention the conveyor that serves drinks around the bar, predating Yo Sushi by some time one would think.

oh dear, comic fangsGuy and Angelica return to her apartment. He has to leave but she is nervous, no wonder – Adrian and Vamp are spying on her and Angelica can instinctively feel their presence. Vamp was an oddity, obviously jealous she really had very little role in the film, just being a focus for some fang shots really… and what terrible fangs they were, comedy fangs to the max. They not only looked awful but seemed to be held loosely twixt lip and gum, thus wobbling.

After Guy has left, Adrian appears behind Angelica causing her to faint (or so I guess, actually it looked more like she tripped over). He carries her to the bed and then makes a movement over her and enwraps her in his cloak in a way that looked so ridiculously pantomime and was all the more funny because it was done with earnest seriousness. He then bites her.

two bites, one more to goAngelica visits her doctor, Doctor Harris (Robert Branche), who says there is an unknown element in her blood and that she appears to have lost blood. He has noticed the fang marks on her neck and assumed that they were caused in an overly amorous moment. That I did not buy – obviously not a good doctor. He makes a joke about vampirism, however his joke is enough to start her on a research path. Her friends then introduce her to Count Adrian (who thankfully swaps the formal wear for a sports jacket). Bizarrely Angelica is rather quick to let this stranger hypnotise her – in a ruse employed by Adrian, involving the heroine’s headache, which would later be employed by Dracula in the 1979 film.

good lighting use in this sceneThe plot is rather simple. He wants her and goes for her. Throw in a bit of Brazilian ritual magic involving a lizard and that’s about it – bar quite a nice little expectation twist at the end. I did like aspects of this, however. When, having received a second toothsome ministration, Angelica awakens she discovers that the sunlight is painful to her. The lighting in the scene, despite the washed out transfer, managed to illustrate her pain and thus was rather well done.

eating raw steakAngelica discovers that she has a desire to eat raw stake and reacts strongly to the cross and yet she still does not realise what is happening to her – despite research. Her source material is faulty – it says that vampires cast no reflection and in this they do – but even so you’d have thought she’d have twigged. That said, she wasn’t too bright, when hearing that Adrian is from Transylvania she admits that she thought it was an invented country/region.

battle of willsVampires fight each other through a battle of wills. The concept of this was rather good but the actual on-screen translation looked awful again, with two badly fanged vampires pacing round each other and pulling silly faces until one vanished and ended up in a cage. That is the tenor of the film, I’m afraid, occasional good concepts not well portrayed on screen.

Adrian's pendantWe discover that to turn a victim the vampire must bite them three times. Adrian does not use eye mojo as much as he uses hypnosis. To achieve this he employs a pendant, clear with a bat design, which is not as gaudy as it sounds. The act of hypnosis allows trippy type film techniques to be used. Vampires only die by stake through the heart.

AlucardI said the film was self knowing. There is a scene where the Doctor has an hour to burn and the nurse (Angela Carnon) and he become suggestive with one another. One expects a gratuitous sexploitation scene, not the ensuing game of chess. Indeed, given its DVD pairing with Dracula (the dirty old man), I was astonished to discover that there is absolutely no nudity or anything vaguely sexploitative. The presence of Alucard was similarly self-aware – not being a vampire but Adrian’s pet tiger (I guess they had access to an animal trainer and threw that one in for fun).

the act of hypnosisThis isn’t a good film, despite sparks of self-aware good moments it is badly acted, has some poor effects and, worst of all, it drags… it really is quite boring in places. One can’t help but think of Deathmaster due to the trippy (and thus hippy) nature of the film. This is more psychedelic, more from the inside of the sub-culture looking out than Deathmaster, which was more a view of hippy culture from the outside looking in, but overall this is a marginally worse film.

2.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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