Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Dracula in Vegas – review

Director: Nick Millard

Release date 1999

Contains spoilers

Nick Millard’s career is a pathway of creating both porn and horror films and we have looked at one of his films before, in the form of the gruesomely entertaining Satan’s Black Wedding. Dracula in Vegas is not even close to the former film in terms of quality and B grade entertainment – which is unfortunate. But let us look at why not.

first attack
The film starts in Eastern Transylvania (or in a car somewhere, we don’t get anything resembling establishing shots and main character Max (Maximillian Grabinger) consistently says he is from (East) Germany in dialogue). The cut into the scene is abrupt. Max sits in the car with his girlfriend. Max is going to America and wants her not to forget him, but she is so pretty he decides to give her something to remember him by. He produces fangs.

fangs out
Now every time a vampire has fangs out in this there are two things we note. Firstly, they are cheap plastic fangs that look entirely unreal and ill-fitting. They are the sort of fangs that Romero would use when he would have Martin taunt stereotypical vampire beliefs in the eponymous film and Nicholas Cage’s character would buy as a cheap alternative in Vampire’s Kiss. In other words they were already a joke – now similar were used in Satan’s Black Wedding but somehow were less awful 24 years before. The second thing is that the vampire has blood around the mouth, dribbling from the corner, from the moment the fang’s appear. The girlfriend screams and fights at first but her reaction changes to one of ecstasy.

Sam Gartner as father
Max enters his home and goes to see his father (Sam Gartner). Max has been accepted into Yale, Harvard and the University of Nevada. He is torn between the first two but his father is insistent he should go to the latter; after all it is Las Vegas, there are dancers and whores to bite, and it is a city of nightlife. He speaks to his mother before he leaves. His mother is played by Frances Millard, credited as Flora Myers, and she was Millard’s producer and mother. In an interview with Millard (which I had linked to, but the link has died) he is asked about a film, Mother of the Vampire, she claims she was in. Millard denied he made the film and I suspect she was referring to this one.

Frances Millard as mother
Anyway his mother warns him about the girls in America, who are all promiscuous and all probably have Aids. She further suggests that he ensure he stick to girls under 14 to ensure their purity. As mother and father go to America (as he quickly falls in love and isn’t biting enough women) her view on this is repeated over and over – indeed she states that his girlfriend Christine (April Leigh) has Aids because she can ‘smell it’ – and this inherent 'slut shaming' in the film is both bizarre and disturbing, as is the suggestion of underage relations. It also feels ill-fitting both due to the encouragement to bite dancers and whores and the fact that his mother would quickly jump the bones of his roommate (Richard Measer). Frances Millard would later star in hardcore porn under the nom de plume Gigi.

Shelly bitten
Be that as it may, Max arrives in Vegas and, having one go on a fruit machine and telling the person who stops him that he might look 18 but he is 300-years old, goes to university, does well academically, gets Christine as a girlfriend and a job polishing coffins. He also – urged by his father – starts biting women, starting with a cocktail waitress and moving on to girl’s on campus. Now the fact that they all hate it for a moment (for obvious reasons) and then love it, makes the security alerts on campus of someone biting girls counter-intuitive. Indeed a feminist, Shelly, comes back for more, becomes a vampire, abandons feminism, and suggests a friend visits Max.

vampire hunter attacks
The family name is Dracula, by the way, hence the film’s title. Max’s brother Igor (also Maximillian Grabinger) also fell in love, didn’t bite enough people, was killed by a vampire hunter and is now in Hell. His spirit visits Max to warn him off his path. We see a flashback of the hunter with cross and stake, equally just a moment in a church is disturbing for Max. There is a sunlight moment towards the end but that is out with the main film when Max is about during the day, visiting cemeteries and having picnics (ok, in shade, but they had to walk under the desert sun to get there). Max’s uncle (Sam Gartner) makes ‘art’ films, that is an excuse for a brief moment of one of Millard’s other types of film edited into this – but the scene is fairly tame.

Max and Christine
The acting is absolutely bottom of the barrel throughout. That said Maximillian Grabinger has an earnestness about him that is endearing. There really was little effort put into this, it is hardly gory – with just the red round the vampire’s mouth and a tad down the tops of victims – and the fangs are awful as mentioned. There is nothing really in terms of story, no real peril and no real point. The photography is all done on VHS and is bleached and overly bright, the sound poor and drops out occasionally. It is clear that this was a money grab – I get that but it leaves us with a mess of a film. 1 out of 10 with the point for the lead’s earnest, if poor, performance.

The imdb page is here.

On DVD @ Amazon US

On DVD @ Amazon UK

No comments: