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Sunday, October 28, 2012

31 DAYS OF HORROR 2012-Day 28: DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN (1971)

A Jew-fro coiffed Count Dracula ("Zandor Vorkov," aka stockbroker Roger Engel) goes to work.

You know your life is a shit sandwich when you're about to be sexually assaulted beneath a pier by a trio of biker scumbags, but then your would-be rapists are horribly killed by a hulking axe-murderer who then kidnaps your unconscious self for medical experiments at the hands of a 20th century  descendant of Dr. Frankenstein. Either that, or you're in an infamous cheapjack monster flick crafted by Al Adamson, the guy who graced the world with such timeless classics as SATAN'S SADISTS (1969), HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS (1970), and BLAZING STEWARDESSES (1975).

When a nightclub performer (Regina Carrol) sets off in search of her missing sister, she never imagines she'll find herself on a trail of escalating weirdness that includes a boardwalk "creature emporium" monster exhibit, an underground laboratory, questionable medical experiments, getting unwittingly drugged and tripping balls, scurvy bikers, hippies, a dismembering axe-murderer (Lon Chaney, Jr.), and none other than the latest member of the Frankenstein clan (J. Carrol Naish) and Count Dracula himself ("Zandor Vorkov," aka stockbroker Roger Engel). The modern Frankenstein seeks to revive the dormant man-made monster cobbled together by his famous ancestor and Dracula offers to help make that happen, provided the not-so-good doctor creates a serum that will make the lord of vampires completely invincible, and as the story progresses it all unfolds into a glorious mess whose proceedings quite obviously bear the mark of multiple, unsuccessfully-integrated script revisions.

Bargain basement piece of shit though it so obviously is, I can't say that I wasn't legitimately entertained by DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN. Allow me to break down my reasoning:
  • The story is fun and feels like it was written by and for an eight-year-old.
  • The film's Dracula is perfectly acceptable as a hippie-era iteration of the character who kinda looks like Doctor Strange and wields a magic ring with a lightning-emitting death ray.
  • The score mixes library music with elements shamelessly cribbed from the instantly recognizable score for THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954).
  • It has a Frankenstein monster that looks like they stuck the actor's head in a pot of oatmeal before slapping an unruly flattop wig on him.
  • A number of faces familiar to horror buffs and movie fans in general are on parade here, including J. Carrol Naish, Lon Chaney, Jr., Russ Tamblyn, Anthony Eisley, little Angelo Rossito, Jim Davis, and even FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine founder and all-around friend to sci-fi, fantasy and horror, Forrest J. Ackerman.
  • For a film that's as kid-friendly as it is, the movie has a few moments of bloody gore that are made extra-fun by not looking even the slightest bit realistic, slathered as they are with liberal doses of bright red paint straight from the local Sherwin Williams.
  • The all-time lamest Dracula-destroyed-by-sunlight sequence ever filmed. It's so bad, it's a fucking triumph.
DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN is undeniably ridiculous, but it has an unabashed DIY charm that's quite endearing. I don't recommend coming to it expecting quality or even cinematic competence, but its ninety minutes are never dull, which is more than I can say for a legion of films that were made with a hell of a lot more going on for them behind the camera than this humble effort. It's all in good (?) fun, and it's best approached with that aspect in mind.


A completely misleading original release poster.

1 comment:

Acroyear said...

I still fondly remember the night I saw this "classic" for the very first time on local horror host Sammy Terry's Nightmare Theater. I remember thinking it was rather odd when I saw it in my youth and I was shocked when Dracula killed the films potential hero with that laser death ring. A Universal or Hammer Dracula/Frankenstein movie this was not but still pretty fun in it's own weird hippy trippy sort of way.