October 7th, 2015
|10:10 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: Blood of Dracula's Castle|
My philosophy with old movies is that the good ones tend to rise to the top, and the bad ones tend to disappear, but after the last couple of nights I'm considering revising my philosophy to exclude the late '60s and early '70s.
Amazon Prime Instant Video describes Blood of Dracula's Castle as follows:
A chilling, blood-curdling tale about a young couple that inherits an old castle but finds it already inhabited by a crusty butler, an obsessed killer and a couple of vampires who kidnap and sacrifice young girls.That sounds fun, right? Delightfully weird and chock full of surprises? It's not. This movie is such a mess. And not really in the fun way that I like.
The film opens in broad daylight, but the shot is so poorly lit that it takes us a moment to realize that we're watching a young, attractive woman as she drives along the highway. There is no dialogue, and we don't know where she's going, but eventually she stops the car, gets out, and stomps through the forest toward--what? We don't know. Finally, she stops and looks up into the face of a deformed monster. She screams and faints. The monster picks her up, and shambles out of view. This literally takes just shy of five extremely tedious minutes, and is a good representation of the rest of the movie.
Cut to Seaworld (or some such marine zoo), where Glen Cannon (photographer) leers pervily through his camera at Liz Arden (model). The swap single entendres for awhile, and he asks for her hand in marriage. She agrees, after which he receives a telegram informing him that he's inherited a castle from a recently deceased uncle. The castle is the only thing Glen has going for him, which suggests to me that somebody got one of the pages of the shooting script out of order, but never mind.
The quaint, medieval castle is situated somewhere in the American southwest and is currently being rented by an elderly couple. "Gosh," says Glen, "it's too bad we have to kick them out of their home of sixty years and turn them out into the desert." Glen and Liz are considerate people.
Arriving at the castle, Glen and Liz are introduced to Count and Countess Townsend, who appear to be much younger than he expected. Of course, the audience has already been informed that the Townsends are actually the Draculas, but have changed their names to keep a low profile. They live with their butler, George (John Carradine) and the hulking, mute monster from the first scene whose name is Mango. Finally, there's their son Johnny, a werewolf who has very recently escaped from jail. They Townsends keep a their basement stocked with a bevy of young, attractive women whom they are slowly exsanguinating.
Of course, Glen and Liz don't know any of this, and as far as they're concerned, the Townsends are an inconvenience. In their initial conversation, the Townsends first try to extend their lease, and ultimately end up making a lot of passive-aggressive comments which go completely unnoticed by Glen and Liz. The Townsends will need to start making plans to leave in the morning. Glen and Liz spend an uncomfortable night, and are awakened by a scream from downstairs. First George tries to convince them that it was the Townsend's pet toucan, but sooner or later they go poking around and find the girls in the basement.
There is so much wrong with this movie, starting with the way everybody carefully pronounces "toucan" (as if it's an exotic word you've never heard), and the idea that maybe no one will have heard the syllables "man" and "go" put together before. I realize that the Mango character would not debut on SNL for 28 years after the release of Blood of Dracula's Castle, but if H.P. Lovecraft (who subsisted on canned beans and ice cream) knew about mangoes in the 1920s, then you can bet the average American did by the 1969. Would a 2015 audience be able to take seriously a character named, say, Felafel? Didn't think so.
This is only the beginning, though. I can't call anything in this movie "well executed", and it works hard to reach the rating of 3.3/10, which was assigned to it by Amazon viewers.
The single most offensive part of this movie--and I regret that I have to describe it in text rather than showing you--is the death of the Townsends (this does not count as a spoiler; you knew they'd be defeated, because that's how movies work). The Townsends, as I said, are actually Count Dracula and his bride, and they succumb to sunlight, as vampires tend to do. In any other movie, this would have been a special effects sequence, but in this one it's a tight focus on the two main characters who describe what they're seeing: "They're growing old!" "Yeah, now they're turning to dust!" The cheapest visuals (i.e., Liz looks startled--cut to the Townsends made up to look elderly--cut to Liz, who screams--cut to two piles of smoking dust) would have been better for my suspension of disbelief.
And how about the Townsends/Draculas, eh? Paula Raymond makes the Countess a callous, upper-middle class twit, and that's fine because she's a new character and therefore a blank slate. Alexander D'arcy, on the other hand, plays the Count like a less-clever Gomez Addams. I don't see how this character fits into the same narrative canon as the one created by Bram Stoker.
For all of these faults, though, I can see a very good setting for Blood of Dracula's Castle: This would be a good one to see with a group who know more or less what sort of movie they're in for. If you're viewing alone, though, you'd be better off watching something else. Anyway, the whole movie is on YouTube, though it's a pretty poor print: