Friday, July 08, 2016

Young Dracula (1975) – review

Director: Lucio Fulci

Release date: 1975

Contains spoilers

To avoid confusion with the cracking children’s series of the same name I suppose I should have used the Italian title Il cav. Costante Nicosia demoniaco, ovvero: Dracula in Brianza.

This was a 1975 comedy vehicle directed by Fulci and there isn’t a shred of horror to it. More this is a bedroom farce (with very little bedroom) meets a political satire that is as hamfisted as anything you’d see and throw in some overt homophobia disguised as jokes. I should state that the film is hard to come by and the version I watched was an awful VHS rip, badly dubbed into English (which probably didn’t help) and with hard-coded Greek subtitles. Beggars, however, cannot be choosers.

basketball match
The film begins at a basketball game where two Italian Industrialists are presidents of opposing teams. Unfortunately the team owned by Costante Nicosia (Lando Buzzanca), the protagonist of our little tale, are losing. By the second half the hunchback Peppino (Antonio Allocca) has arrived late, allowing Costante to rub his hump for luck – honestly this is the level of the thing. The luck doesn’t happen and his team are annihilated. As he drives his wife, Mariù (Sylva Koscina, Uncle was a Vampire), home a black cat crosses the path of the car and he tries to find an alternate route home.

driving home
At home she denies him the sex he wants, as the day is auspicious for conception – she doesn’t want a baby. He breaks a mirror and, to remove the bad luck, tries to get the maid, Anastasia, to pee on it as he believes the old woman to be a virgin – she takes it as a (welcomed) sexual come on. He is obsessed with things that rhyme with “u”, refuses to walk on cracks between paving stones and is, in short, superstitious. As he arrives at the factory he owns, he is attacked by the guard dog Gestapo – and this is a daily occasion but the dog only ever attacks him. In the factory the film is quick to point out the worker who is communist – because its political, of course.

meeting the Count
He has to have dinner with his sister and his family that night and his Aunt Maria (Grazia Spadaro) tries to con him into hiring two family members – he refuses and she casts the evil eye at him. Then he heads off to a business trip to Romania. On the plane (where he salts the cockpit to purify it) he meets the Count Dragulescu (John Steiner), who invites him to his castle. At the hotel his meeting has been put back two days and, after discovering that Romania has nothing to offer, he goes to the Count’s castle. The electricity is out when he arrives but the servant shows him portraits of the Counts, through the years, by candlelight. He is open about them being vampires.

portrait in castle
The Count arrives with three women and a bloke. The women all kiss (and pull the ear of) Costante – he stops the guy from kissing him. He gets dressed for dinner to find that everyone else is nude, has his clothes ripped off, drinks, frolics and eventually passes out. He awakes in bed with the Count and, having caressed him when he thought he was a woman, freaks out. Later he’ll find the bite marks on his neck. Following this the film nose-dives from unfunny to offensive as the joke becomes him thinking he has turned gay, and boy it labours the point. This goes on until he tastes blood and finds a new passion.

a vampire baby
After this he is on a quest – one that kind of feels like a bedroom farce but has not a lot of sex to carry it through. Looking at vampire lore, the only thing other than a thirst for blood that we see is that he can now give Gestapo a stare and the dog doesn’t attack him and – at the end of the film – he and his wife have a baby who has two teeth through in a “fang formation”. Occasionally he’ll thinks of the Count and sees him fanged. There is a whole bit about him exploiting his workers, the communist worker going on hunger strike and cutting her wrist to offer him blood and that leading to the solution (the workers give blood in return for bonuses and better terms and conditions).

the factory
There was little subtlety to this political side and it fell as flat as everything else. Now it might be that the dubbing didn’t help but I struggle to see how this could have been a good film in any format. Some of it is aging badly – the homophobic jokes, are the prime example of this. Other aspects lay flat and unfunny generally. I really didn’t get on with this one. 2 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


WatchingTheDead said...

As a bit of a Fulci fan I read this review with a lot of interest; and it does sound a bit of a stinker. I see on wiki that it's a horror comedy which as you point out it seems to fail at in equal measure. Maybe an off day? A small budget and contract just to see out? Still, thanks for watching / enduring it for the rest of us!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Its a dirty job, as they say, but it is a difficult one to recommend certainly, even to a fan