Friday, October 10, 2008

Doctor Dracula – review


Directors: Paul Aratow & Al Adamson

Release date: 1981

Contains spoilers

Al Adamson hmmm… we have looked at his work before. We have looked at the poor Blood of Dracula’s Castle and the worse Dracula vs Frankenstein. Could Doctor Dracula earn a winning score of, or even edge above, 2 out of 10? Time, my friends, will tell.

We should note, however, that Adamson performed a 'rescue operation' on the film. The original footage was shot by Paul Aratow for a movie entitled “Lucifer’s Women” back in 1975. Jump forward to 1981, add some new footage shot by Adamson, and the film was then released as we see it now.

It starts with a hand at a sliding door; someone enters the room of the sleeping Valerie (Regina Carrol). She awakens and it is clear she knows the intruder, she tells him that he should leave but then adds she can’t resist… Dracula. We see him bite her (though we do not see his face, his identity is to be a surprise for later) and she drops to the bed, quite dead.

John Carradine as RadcliffeCut forward in time and a gathering hosted by Radcliff (John Carradine) at his occult group. He is showcasing the talents of Wainwright (Larry Hankin) a bearded magician who seems to be performing the saw a lady in half trick. The audience becomes shocked as she starts screaming and blood seeps from the box and then all is revealed. He has hypnotised the audience and duped them into seeing the death but the lady is actually alright.

Larry Hankin as Wainwright/SvengaliHe is, he claims, the reincarnation of Svengali. I say reincarnation but it actually seems more like he is possessed by Svengali’s spirit. Now I know what you are going to say… but Svengali is a fictional character. True, but then so is Dracula. One man, a psychiatrist named Gregorio (Geoffrey Land), has a go at Wainwright, calling him a charlatan.

What we get are three main threads coming into play. Firstly is Gregorio who bumps into some blonde woman, who says about getting a drink and we get a line about not drinking…. Yes, Gregorio is Dracula and whilst the film does its best to hide his identity for a while it couldn’t have been more obvious if you’d stuck a neon sign on his head.

Jane Brunel-Cohen as TrilbyWainwright meets with his publisher, Sir Steven (Norman Pierce), who reveals that he too is a reincarnation (as is Radcliff). They have allowed the spirit of Svengali to come back. This is specifically because they want him to seduce a girl named Trilby (Jane Brunel-Cohen), as she has a special soul, and produce her for sacrifice. Of course Trilby was the name of the novel in which the Svengali character appears, and the heroine therein. In this, our Svengali starts to fall for her.

mother looks rather grey and nastyThen we have Stephanie (Susan McIver), who ties the threads surrounding Svengali and Dracula together. Her mother was Valerie and she is convinced her death was unnatural (as the fang marks in her neck weren’t a dead give away). She approaches Wainwright for help, who hypnotises her to be his obedient slave. Her father (Donald Barry) then takes her to Gregorio who breaks her conditioning and reunites the mother and daughter – mother being rather grey and nasty now (and presumably a vampire).

a random victimThen we have Dracula, who seems to wander around snacking on occasional women – often after stalking them. He seems to dislike Radcliff and company but we are never really told why. Having spooked around for a while he aims to wreck their Trilby sacrifice – but why he is doing so is never explained.

a blessed relief for the audienceYou see this is a problem with the film. It is boring, there is no real explanation of anything, it is all so much mumbo jumbo with zero exposition. Motivations, for most of the characters, are a thing to be ignored. Another problem is within the dialogue. Some is bad, but when the blonde from the party visits Gregorio her really bad dialogue mixed with a lack of any discernable acting skill made it painful to behold. It was a blessed relief when Dracula put her out of her misery.

open casket snoozingLore wise we have a vampire that can make a victim (or her vampire self, we assume) appear and then vanish with a click of his fingers. He also likes to sleep in a coffin during the day but, presumably, daylight has little impact as he sleeps open casket, as it were. He clearly likes to snack on the ladies and, for most of them, a bite of no more than two to five seconds duration is enough to kill.

a cushing'd crossHe is scared of the cross, as we see when one is cushing’d together out of two candles. However a swift blow, to knock them out of his assailant’s hands and he is back in control once more. Control of what? Again I say we do not know. The film doesn’t want to let us know, presumably because neither filmmaker really knew themselves.

putting the bite onThe musical score at the beginning of the film struck me, as it was orchestral and actual sounded as though it should have graced a silent movie but, nice musical moment aside, this is not a great film. I asked at the head of the review would it achieve a T_ttlg score of 2 or higher. No. I’m afraid not. 1.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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