Thursday, March 01, 2012

La Dinastía de Dracula – review

Director: Alfredo B. Crevenna

Release date: 1980

Contains spoilers

Despite being a Mexican film, this carries all the hallmarks and feel of Euro-horror and is absolutely great because of it.

It has inherent problems – we’ll talk about a funky establishing shot later – but the problems are ultimately forgivable due to a nice atmosphere and some unusual moments.

the dog form
The film begins with a coach thundering along the road, a crap bat flits around and then scenes of a dog in a caged wagon. We are in Mexico and, though this section doesn’t tell us the year, we later discover it is January 1595. The dog is taken to the Sycamores Covent by conquistadores working for the inquisition, a woman follows in a smock with a flame design on it. The dog snarls and worries at the bars of its cage.

The Count staked
The inquisition sprinkles the dog with holy water and it becomes a man, the Count Antonio de Orloff, and the woman stares dreamily at him. They drag the Count to a block, tie him down and then stake him through the heart. His body is then to be buried in the place of the damned. Apparently unseen, the woman transforms into a dog and then vanishes off. After the Count is buried she scares the soldiers away and lies upon the grave – promising that he will live again in three hundred years.

Madame Kostoff
Why three hundred? Who knows but then we get the funky establishing shot. We are in modern day and a ship arrives in dock… but wait 300 years would not be modern day, but the end of the nineteenth century. Indeed we see later that it is 1895 but the establishing shot with the ship has very modern liners and a modern truck visible at the dockside! Anyway, a woman called Madame Kostoff (yes, she is the same woman from 1595) has arrived and has a crate with her. As her Mexican contact takes her to the Hacienda Sycamores we hear growly noises from the crate.

Baron Van Helsing
En route they stop for dinner at an inn or restaurant. A child runs outside to play, smoke curls from the crate and he is attacked by a fanged man. Later the mother finds the child dead. Madame Kostoff has travelled from Europe to buy the Hacienda (where her love , the Count, is buried) and has arranged to rent it for three months. However the owners – the Solazarno family – seem unlikely to want to sell. She has told a tale of the Baron Van Helsing (Fabián Aranza) who is due to arrive soon, of course he is the one in the crate. Name-wise we discover later that it is an assumed name (and one that gives the game away for the vampires’ primary nemesis). IMDb have him credited as Dracula but in film he says nothing more than being of the Dracula dynasty.

Ramiro and Beatriz
The primary vampire hunter is Ramiro. The fiancé of Beatriz Solazarno. He is a young doctor and a man of science with a fascination with the supernatural. It is he who early on establishes that the spate of dead locals (as the Baron is a greedy old vampire) are vampire victims. He tries to convince the parish priest, Father Juan, of the truth of vampirism and I liked the turnaround of the man of science believing and the man of faith being sceptical.

bite marks
As for the rules of vampirism, this seemed lifted straight from Stoker, ish. The sunlight rule is confused, the Baron only appears at night and is ‘indisposed’ during the day but Madame Kostoff has ghosted around for three hundred years and can go out in the sun. We also never see her feed or, indeed, reveal fangs. We do see her transform into a dog. As well as dogs, bats and smoke, we hear that the vampires can turn into thin air, wolves and tigers. As in Stoker they are said to be able to pass through any crack.

step 2, stuff mouth with garlic
Turning is a deliberate act and might have a familial aspect. None of the victims rise again, except for the mother of the Solazarno family and she is directly related to Count de Orloff (hence the family owning the hacienda). When she is killed by the vampire hunters we get an excellent moment as the staked vampire has her mouth stuffed with garlic – something not often shown. Holy items can ward and burn the vampires and they sleep in coffins/tombs.

what big teeth you have...
The film isn’t perfect; as well as the establishing shot mentioned, there are repeated landscape moments, the crap bats are particularly flat and we do not get important information – such as why didn't the count just turn from dog form to smoke and drift out of his cage or why the Baron is there and what his relationship to the Count and Madame Kostoff is. To be fair it seems that it will take a couple of vampires to help resurrect their staked comrade and this might be the only reason the Baron is in Mexico but the film is frustratingly silent on the issue.

The said it has a great atmosphere, some really nice moments and feels more like a Euro-horror than some Euro-horrors! Worth tracking down. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Alex said...

Sounds interesting. Does it have a Hammer-type feel to it?

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Alex, not to so much Hammer but more Continental Euro-horror - the film can be found subtitled on YouTube at the moment