Monday, October 11, 2010

Dracula Week: Doctor Dracula

Al Adamson is a name that hasn't been mentioned much about here.  Sorry- there are just so many bad, low-budget filmmakers out there!  Throughout the '60s and '70s, Adamson was responsible for a slew of bad films.  For example, he made the Blood Island series and Dracula vs. Frankenstein.  One of his most interesting tricks was the art of re-packing and re-selling films that didn't originally get bought.  For example, Hell's Bloody Devils is a spy-caper that didn't sell, so he added some footage of bikers and a hit was born.  More freakishly, Blood of Ghastly Horror was a jewelry heist film that didn't sell, so he added a horror element- it still didn't sell.  More footage was shot to include aliens and that film sold.  You can kind of see where this is going right?  Lucifer's Women was a film about an evil, Satanic cult that didn't sell.  Naturally, Adamson brought in a new actor and shot some ancillary footage with Dracula, got the guy to do two scenes with one of his leads and this film was born.  Considering I rented it on DVD, it obviously got released!  This was more than just an edit job though, since he also clearly re-dubbed dialog to express a different plot.  If I tell you now, it will spoil all the fun, so just wait.  Get out your book on soul possession for my review of...
The film begins with a woman getting ready for bed.  Of course, since this is from the early '70s, that means a full nightgown that covers more than most normal dresses that people wear today.  A vampire kills her, which is interesting until you realize that it barely amounts to anything.  Oh yeah, say 'good-bye' to Dracula for the next thirty minutes or so after his next appearance.  We are now awkwardly at an event being held by a man who claims to be the reincarnation of Svengali.  He does some odd illusion act that fools everyone save for his manager, the Dracula guy and John Carradine.  An obscure, low-budget horror film with John Carradine- who's surprised?!?  The guy talks to fans after the event and explains that this is all an attempt to sell a book.  Dracula comes by, says that he's not impressed and then leaves.  See you at the half-way point, Count.  An upset woman approaches 'Svengali' and begs him to help her.  He blows her off though, leaving her distraught.  We eventually learn about what's bothering her.  Her mother died 'abruptly'- see the intro - but she's convinced that she's still around.  Obviously, the guy who can supposedly channel spirits is a person she's seek out.  He has problems of his own, however, as his manager threatens him with something.  What is it though?
There is a weird plot going on here- and then there's the film's plot!  Basically, 'Svengali' is part of a group of people who are vessels for powerful spirits that have passed on.  The manager is the leader of the cult- which also happens to include Carradine- so he pulls the strings.  He orders the man/vessel to lure a new woman to the cult in order to allow them to 'harness her psychic energy.'  No, really.  The problem is that the more the people use their powers, the more it strains them.  As a result, their hold on their new bodies gets weaker.  This leads to some awkward-looking romance scenes between 'Svengali' and the woman.  Not only she is actually kind of cute, but they have nothing in common.  He's a 6' foot scarecrow scientist, while she's a dancer in an exotic night club, isn't a science major.  I get his interest- aside from his orders- but what is her's?  Of course, as a counterpoint, Paulina Porizkova.  Anyhow, Dracula randomly shows up and kills someone in a field.  Wow, that added nothing.  In the film's other plot, the woman from before finally gets some help- from Dracula.  He makes a point about refusing to help her during the day- too subtle!- but eventually agrees to treat her at night.  Naturally, his first session involves showing her vampire mother to her. In the main plot, 'Svengali' momentarily loses control, leading to something weird...
Finally, the original film and the Dracula footage link up in a meaningful way.  We learn that there is a conflict between the cult and Dracula.  Basically, he's a jerk and acts like he doesn't need them- which he doesn't.  Why was he put into the group again?  It's not like he's the reincarnation of Dracula or anything- is he?  After another pointless Dracula kill, we see some more tension between 'Svengali' and his handlers.  He's developed feelings for the woman, which does not bode well for things.  She is kind of a human sacrifice, after all.  Dracula continues to work with the woman, but nothing much comes from this plot.  If it makes you feel important to have this plot in it, more power to you, movie.  'Svengali' tries to get the girl away from the group in a moment of weakness- is it strength?- but it doesn't add up to anything.  She still ends up being sent to the group for sacrifice, only to get captured by Dracula.  When they try to do the ceremony at the appointed, she's dead.  Dracula gloats to the group before leaving them to die.  He drives off with the woman he's been working with, bragging about how he's going to turn her.  She responds by setting a bomb off in the car, seemingly-killing both of them.  The End.
This movie sucks.  For starters, it's a film that was re-edited to make this result.  You know, if you're going to do this, how about you make a better one?  A plot involving a cult of re-incarnated people trying to harness a woman for her psychic energy?  Is that really the best plot you could come up with, Al?  You're making me feel embarrassed about my first name!  The biggest thing is this: it's not a Dracula film.  It has more of him in it than the last Dracula film I reviewed, but that's not saying much!  The whole point of this exercise was to sell the film based on the popularity of the Dracula character, but not actually make a Dracula film.  I mean, it's very shameless.  The DVD actually features the trailer to Lucifer's Women, which actually sounds...decent.  Maybe if you hadn't cut up the film and shoe-horned in the Dracula stuff, you could have made a decent film.  As it is, it's only recommended for fans of cult cinema or an Al Adamson completist.  That's a real thing, right?  I think Carradine himself can express my feelings appropriately...
Next up, I cover another Jesus Franco film- this time with Dracula.  What better way to celebrate my brother's birthday with something this nonsensical?  Stay tuned..

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