Thursday, August 2, 2012

130. BLOOD OF DRACULA'S CASTLE (1969)

Before the main titles, set to introductory music that seems to promise 1940s jungle thrills, director Al Adamson treats us to four minutes and change of Vicki Volante driving somewhere in a convertible as her car radio plays Gil Bernal's "The Next Train Out," edited to run at least twice as long as it should, making the viewer want to take the next train out himself. Our music-loving heroine gets out of her car, walks into a woods for no apparent reason, where she is attacked and abducted by a hunchbacked minion named Mango (!). Then, naturally, the movie cuts to Marineland (or a reasonable facsimile), where a photographer and his model exchange banal, cutesy banter that becomes all the more witless once they reveal themselves as an engaged couple -- and, again, the static scene, set to some kind of maddening sub-Herb Alpert pop, goes on for so long that the viewer begins to involuntarily narrate the film aloud, "Meanwhile, at Castle Dracula..." in the vain hope of urging the film on track. But once we get to "Falcon Rock," as it's called, it's not that much different... or better -- a disappointment considering that the screenwriter, Rex Carlton, also gave us the exquisite THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE.
 
I was intrigued to revisit this movie, which I hadn't seen since it unfolded to general stupefaction on the screen of my local neighborhood theater in 1969, because it was recently made available on DVD for the first time in its rare, expanded television version. In this version, Robert Dix's character -- the son of Count (HORRORS OF SPIDER ISLAND's Alex D'Arcy) and Countess Dracula (Paula Raymond, whose real oral fixation appears to be cigarettes), posing as retired couple Mr. & Mrs. Charles Townsend -- is not only a sadistic killer, but a werewolf as well, thanks to the expedient deployment of a Don Post Studios whole-head mask. That doesn't make it better; during these 16mm inserts, the cinematography turns grainy and blown-out and looks nothing like the rest of the film, which was early Hollywood work by Laszlo Kovacs.

In all fairness, Robert Dix -- the son of actor Richard Dix -- is really pretty good, relishing his sadistic nonsense and throwing himself into some very physical situations during an extended prison break sequence that has him running through rivers and crawling through tunnels. But the rest is the old story of a couple inheriting the wrong castle, and sheer agony, but it's a delicious sort of agony if you're in the right mood or have the right crowd. Where else can you find John Carradine, playing a tuxedoed majordomo, suddenly accusing people halfway through his performance of being "like those fools who tried to hang me"?

Viewed on Scorpion Entertainment DVD.

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