Blood Of Dracula Review
Just look at that cover. Look at it! Go on, take a good look. Scary, isn't it? It's not a cover you would feel comfortable about sleeping in the same room with, is it? Not unless you're some kind of degenerate and if you are that sort of degenerate, then 'Blood Of Dracula' should be right up your street.
If you're expecting 'Blood', though, or indeed, 'Dracula' you might be slightly disappointed with their complete and utter absence from the film. If, on the other hand, you are expecting wooden acting, rock 'n' roll teens, a creaking plot and a monster as cheesy as cheddar then you'll be very happy indeed for a whole 71 minutes. There's even a completely incongruous rock 'n' roll song and dance routine shoved half way through by an over enthusiastic editor. It's impossible to dislike this film.
The plot concerns poor young Nancy, a classic unwanted teen, who is dumped in a very peculiar boarding school for slightly suspiciously old looking teens by her new wicked step mum and her dad. The luckless Nancy is soon under the spell of the sinister Miss Branding, a frustrated scientist who has some sort of plan to erase the world of war, which is, of course, all the fault of men. The plan involves hypnosis and a cheap looking antique which leads to all sorts of low budget mayhem taking place. The 'strange sights you will witness' include a treasure hunt in a cemetery, a constitutional right-dodging lie detector test, a foul murder in a basement and an ending that is as abrupt as it is nonsensical.
There is a lot going on in this film. Any student of American paranoia in the 1950's will do well to take a look. Nancy is a classic individualist, alone in her quest for identity in a Fordist, conformist society. That this sense of individuality might lead to self destruction is evident in the opening, where Nancy is seen being driven against her will to the school and she attempts to crash the car by grabbing the wheel. She is constantly shown acting against the wishes of the group, and refuses to join in with the custom of dating the one available man on campus, the hunky and hip Eddie.
Of course, this sense of self, which Nancy alone seems to possess, is what leads the evil Miss Branding to practice her diabolical deeds upon, and her transformation to monster becomes inevitable. Miss Branding's motivation for controlling Nancy lies in her belief that the hidden power in ordinary people is more horrifying than any weapon of war. Nancy is little more than a pawn in sciences' quest for progress, her life subsumed in an ambitious plan for the greater good in which her personality and personal life is expendable. So you've got fears of conformity, the hidden monstrosity of people, fear of the scientist and the feminine together with more allusions to nuclear war than you can shake a stick at, all wrapped up nicely in a camp and cheesy drive-in flick. Wonderful stuff.
These things were churned out in the 1950's, and Samual Z Arfoff is something of a legend in the field. This really isn't the best example, though, as it's not quite bad enough to be truly hilarious. The script is quite good, and has some very clever lines, and it's often funny in a way that's intentional rather than unintentional, which makes it something of a rarity. Though there are often many unintentional laughs to be had, there's nothing that can really to be regarded as a high point in the genre. The direction, too, is often more than adequate, and there's some fairly good cinematography, given the limitations. There are quite a few scenes that have been echoed down the years, such as the empty student chair to signify the dead/missing student, the swinging light after the murder, and the moonlight drive through the deserted forest during a storm. It would be absurd to suggest that this was the first time these tropes were used, but they are used quite effectively and work very well here.
It's a fairly odd one, this, it seems strange not to recommend a film due to its quality, but if you are looking for a drive-in film from the 50's to enjoy post-pub, there are far better ones to choose from. Blood For Dracula is interesting, funny and camp, but just not outrageous enough to be recommended fully. It falls just between the two stools of high camp and serious 50's horror and you will have a lot of fun watching it, but might not return to it that often.
The picture quality is not the best you will ever see. There seems to be quite a lot of compression going on and there is a fair amount of print damage. Though neither will detract from your viewing pleasure too much, as, well, it's just not that sort of film in which you will be concerned. If you feel you will be, just don't bother with the film at all. You'll just end up feeling cheated over the special effect when it comes. Sound is in glorious mono.
As for extras, well, there's not a lot, but what there is is very good indeed. Nine Trailers. And what glorious trailers they are as well, just feast your eyes on those titles. It has to be said that these sort of trailers are often better than the films themselves and you will enjoy each and every one of these little gems. The Spider and The Day The World Ended are especially good. Full of hyperbole and empty promises of terror, they are little lessons in film marketing.
Even more fun is the Q&A session with Samual Z Arkoff himself, conducted by the BFI in 1991, and here courtesy of The Guardian. Audio only, it's accompanied by static photographs and the warm wit of the man himself. He can certainly tell a good tale and this is 50 minutes of fantastic anecdotes from a golden age of low buck filmmaking. Full of belly laughs, it's funnier than many a comedy. If you have any interest in the subject matter at all, this, together with the trailers, is probably worth the price of the disc itself. None of the extras are subtitled.
As if that wasn't enough, you also get a lovely set of nine postcards which are sure to brighten up the walls of any hovel or mad scientists lab and there's an chapter insert as well. Direct Video are certainly no cheapskates and more money was probably spent on this package than the entire budget of the feature presentation.