Monday, 13 April 2009

Blood for Dracula (1974)

Paul Morrissey’s Blood for Dracula (Dracula cerca sangue di vergine... e morì di sete!!!) is one of the oddest of all vampire movies, not so much for its content as for its tone, which manages to be both supremely decadent and delightfully tongue-in-cheek.

Count Dracula has been forced to leave his native Romania because of the chronic shortage of virgins. He can only drink virgin blood, and his health is failing badly. His faithful manservant assures him that there is a plentiful supply of virgins in Italy, where “they need them for their weddings.” So putting the coffin and the count’s wheelchair on top of their old car they set off for Italy. They think they’ve had a stroke of luck when they discover a decaying and penniless Italian aristocrat (played by legendary Italian film director Vittorio de Sica) with four marriageable daughters and a desperate craving for money. Sadly it turns out that his first two choices among the daughters are not virgins at all, which may have something to do with the family handyman (played by Warhol superstar Joe Dallesandro) who divides his time between reading revolutionary literature and bedding the daughters of the family.

Dracula (played with gloriously decadent sickliness by the great Udo Kier) is getting sicker by the hour, being quite unable to digest non-virgin blood. He has however gained two allies, with two of the daughters now being under his power. Unfortunately the handyman has now discovered his secret, and seeing this as another sign of the degeneracy of the aristocracy and the imminence of world revolution he is determined to destroy the count, while protecting the family’s remaining daughters be ensuring that they are no longer virgins.

There’s the usual mix of camp, humour and politics that you expect from Paul Morrissey, but allied with a very definite eurohorror aesthetic. There is some debate as to how much of the movie was actually directed by Morrissey (who certainly wrote the script) and how much by Italian director Antonio Margheriti (who knew a thing or two about gothic horror). The most surprising thing is that the combination of Morrisey’s style with eurohorror works delightfully.

There’s lots of gore, but it’s high camp gore, and there’s lots of sex and nudity. Everything in this movie is wildly excessive, and it all comes together perfectly. This is horror played for laughs, but without the crudity or the obviousness that you would expect in a modern production. There’s some effective and amusing political satire as well, but mostly it’s just insane fun. Perhaps not quite as good as its companion piece, Flesh for Frankenstein, but still essential viewing for any cult movie fan.

And did I mention that it stars Udo Kier? Which is reason enough in itself to see this one. And watch out for Roman Polanski in a minor role.

No comments: