By Breanna Whipple
CALGARY — Painting himself to conceal his sickly appearance, Count Dracula has a mere few weeks left in his parasitic life. Emaciated to the point of deprivation due to the scarce supply of local virgins, he depends entirely on the help of his servant, Anton. Incapable of feeding on sinful blood yet hesitant to leave his homeland of Romania, the Count finally succumbs to Anton’s domineering suggestions of travelling to a different country in search of uncontaminated nourishment. After a long journey which was sustained by bread soaked by the blood of a child, they find themselves in the pious country of Italy. Efforts are fruitful as they immediately become acquainted with the aristocratic Di Fiore family, who has four marriageable daughters. Formerly worried about his suspicious nature, the paleness of the Count is dismissed by his apparent special “vegetarian” diet; his adamant insistence of a virgin wife disregarded by his Romanian heritage and respectable status. Making his way gradually through the daughters, he discovers which have been mendacious about their innocence. Becoming violently ill, poisoned by the tainted blood, the Count’s own desperation increases and the desire to be hidden for what he truly is no longer of significant importance. He soon gathers that it is not only he that desires the remaining virgin daughters, but also the family’s communist servant who has already progressed significantly. Frustration grows as his time runs out. “The blood of these whores is killing me!” he cries. Yet shameful acts such as lapping the blood of a broken hymen is just the beginning of what the Count is willing to do to continue his family’s legacy.
Blood For Dracula (1974) began filming only an hour after completing its predecessor Flesh For Frankenstein (1973). Illogical as it were, both of Paul Morrisey’s films turned out to be underrated bizarre masterpieces, taking classic Hammer Horror staples and infusing them with a shock factor uncommon and unmatched within the gothic horror genre. Reuse of the cast is only noted by the familiarity of facial features, as great lengths were taken to ensure a different aesthetic to each of them. Most impressively was the transformation undertaken by Udo Kier, who was given a week to lose 20 pounds to become the sickly thin Dracula. Despite collapsing on set while filming, Kier impresses the audience and truly shines in this more serious role. Arno Juerging (whom plays the perverted lab assistant Otto in Flesh…) utterly dominates as an assistant, an interesting case of role reversal. Joe Dallesandro also returns in a similar home wrecking role, this time driven by peculiar means.
Perhaps the second largest similarity between the two films is the light humour. Not relying as heavily on it as did Flesh…, Dracula communicates very minimal yet effective comedic relief solely through the use of dialogue. The use of gore is not as significant either, however it definitely is delivered in all the appropriate places. The climax is a utopia of bodily dismemberment and arterial spray not unlike later Italian films such as Dario Argento’s Tenebre (1982). Unlike many other adaptations of Bram Stoker’s gothic tale, it possesses an animalistic, rather than seductive, aura.
Harsh, brutal and unclean, Blood for Dracula truly demonstrates the animosity of addiction and the lengths those afflicted by it are willing to go to find their fix. Undeviating sexuality flows throughout, however the reoccurring significance of innocence is favoured for its moral rather than sexual origin. The eccentric tale encapsulates a total runtime of 103 minutes, all of which are dedicated to delivering the morbid realism of insatiable hunger, finishing off with an unexpected conclusion. Be sure to discover what that conclusion is and go on the journey into depravity when it screens in Calgary courtesy of the Night Terrors Film Society.
See Blood for Dracula on Friday, July 31 at midnight at the Globe Cinema. The film costs $10 cash only at the door or you can pre-buy your tickets at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1751923AB, Alberta, Blood For Dracula, Globe Cinema, Night Terrors Film Society