Friday, March 07, 2008

Daughter of Dracula – review


Director: Jess Franco

Release Date: 1972

Contains spoilers

Ah, Jess Franco. There is something compelling about his films, not matter how poor they are. Something that makes it impossible to tear your eyes away from the screen. Despite his bizarre zoom habit they are very watchable.

At the head of this film it seems as though we are in for a treat. Why? Cinematic narrative. The film, unusually for a Franco vampire movie, has a story. At first…

mysterious fangsAt the head we get a script on screen about Dracula (the only time he is mentioned) and then a mention of Castle Karlstein. This is somewhat confusing as Karlstein obviously refers to Karnstein, which is the family name of Carmilla. The film proper begins with a Franco sexploitative moment, a woman getting undressed and bathing whilst someone peeps in on her. It is clear, even though we only get an eye, that the watcher is a woman. The watcher bears fangs and then the bathing woman screams.

gathering at the death bedAn old woman is dying. Around her are Count Max Karlstein (Daniel White), his secretary Cyril Jefferson (Jess Franco) and his daughter (?) Karine (Anne Libert). The woman is waiting for her daughter, Luisa (Britt Nichols) to come. She arrives and the woman tells her that she is of the Karlstein line and gives her a key to the crypt where the first Count (Howard Vernon) is buried, he was a vampire.

Daniel White as Count Max KarlsteinAt this point all pretence of story falls apart, despite the fact that it really felt, for a moment, like there was one. What we get is Louisa going to the crypt and becoming a vampire. However the film hints that she was the mysterious vampire anyway, which makes no sense. We get a love story between her and Karine, which goes nowhere and is simply an excuse for the obligatory Franco lesbian scenes. We get the mystery vampire, with Franco intent on making us think it is a man when we know otherwise. We get a police investigation of the murders with Jefferson sure there is a vampire and the police and a reporter (Fernando Bilbao) intent on blaming the present Count Karlstein.

Luisa attacksNone of this actually fits into a narrative framework properly. For example, and cutting to the end of the film, Jefferson discovers his wife has had an affair with the present Count Karlstein and so vows to kill the vampire! He goes off to the crypt (begging the question why he hadn’t been there before) and is joined by the previously sceptical reporter and inspector (Alberto Dalbés). They help him stake the Count (through the head) and burn a coffin – contents unknown but thought online to contain Luisa. It made no climactic sense as the film did not build to it.

a very languid vampireThe title is senseless as there is no real indication through the film that the Count was Dracula – he had a different name after all. Indeed the only real connection was the fact that Vernon played Dracula the same year in Franco’s Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein. At least this time the vampire was not green in colour but the role was limited mainly to lying in a coffin.

Indeed may of the same faces return in this, though not necessarily in the same roles, and one wonders if left over footage from the previous film was salvaged?

this dress is the true horror in the filmAll that said, there is a dreamlike quality to this that is compelling and is probably only marred by the attempts at dialogue based narrative that seem to fail miserably. Unfortunately it is not a patch upon some of the Jean Rollin efforts in developing that dreamscape on film. There is no real horror captured in the film, Luisa's dress being the most horrific thing you'll see. Unfortunately the erotica isn't particularly erotic either, feeling staged rather than natural.

fangs oot for t'ladsLike the film itself, the soundtrack seems misplaced, lush at times and yet inappropriate. It adds to the quality of the film in a way that is difficult to describe as it shouldn’t work at all.

Not a great film and yet compelling at the same time, the film's strength lies in the fact that it portrays Franco’s oneirism on the screen for us all to see and for that reason it also fails. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


CrabStiX said...

Jess is notorious for filming various scenes for films yet to be whilst filming other titles. Indeed, I recall a documentary about him where some of his actors complained that they were never quite sure what film they were in... then found they were in others at later dates!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

It is, then, quite possibly happened with this and the film from earlier that year

Edna Sweetlove said...

Edna hasn't seen this film (yet). Is it similar to DRAC, PRISONER OF FRANK? I remember catching that film (very) late on ITV once. The extreme ineptness (zooms, continuity errors, bad acting, terrible dialogue, bloated Dennis Price, screaming gypsy woman, etc) generated a poetic force rarely equalled by any film-viewing experience (especially when washed down with a bottle of red and some bicarb). YEEHA!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Edna, great to hear from you. Is this similar to Franco's over 'opus' that year... Ish...

The opening section of the film is confusing in that you sit and believe that there is a plot, it might hang well together and he might follow some form of story telling convention... Then it falls into all the normal Franco issues. Vernon is as pointless in both films