Image Entertainment presents
Doctor Dracula (1980)
"Blessed be the seven-horned beast, blessed be all his incarnations of evil."- Stephanie Elliott (Susan McIver)
Stars: John Carradine, Donald Barry, Larry Hankin
Other Stars: Geoffrey Land, Susan McIver, Regina Carrol, Jane Brunel-Cohen, Norman Pierce
Director: Al Adamson, Paul Aratow
Manufacturer: Ritek Digital Video
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (vampirism, mild gore, language, brief nudity in extras)
Run Time: 01h:30m:23s
Release Date: 2002-07-09
DVD ReviewOne of the time-honored traditions of El Cheapo productions in the Roger Corman mold is taking an old film, slapping on some additional footage and a new title, and releasing it to make some more money. Of course, such a process is hardly designed to produce an artistic masterpiece, and that's the case with this picture. Originally released in the exorcism film craze of the mid-1970s as Lucifer's Women, shot by Paul Aratow, director Al Adamson stuck on John Carradine and some additional material that doesn't mesh very well to create one of the most incomprehensible horror flicks on the planet.
Young Stephanie Elliott (Susan McIver) is obsessed with finding out what happened to kill her mother Valerie (Adamson regular Regina Carrol), who was drained of blood. Hadley Radcliff (John Carradine) is running a witches' coven and ranting about the Devils of Loudun. Dr. John Wainwright (Larry Hankin) is performing a stage show claiming to be the reincarnation of Svengali. His publisher, Sir Steven, demands the sacrifice of an innocent soul so that he can transmigrate to another body, and he selects Trilby (Jane Brunel-Cohen). Meanwhile, Dracula, in the guise of psychiatrist Dr. Anatol Gregorio, is drinking the blood of women who happen across his path.
If this description doesn't hold together well, that's because the movie itself doesn't. There are enough subplots here to make three movies, throwing black masses, vampirism, reincarnation, George du Maurier's Svengali and Trilby, clairvoyance, exorcism and demonic possession into a pot. Adamson makes the end product into a complete hash. Trying to make sense out of it is utterly hopeless, since it was never meant to make sense as a coherent whole in the first place.
There are really only two entertaining aspects to this picture: watching the aged Carradine chew the scenery while he collects a paycheck for his top-billing (a total of about 8 minutes of screen time), and trying to pick out what is salvaged from Lucifer's Women. That's not to say that there aren't some interesting moments here, though most of them are lifted from the earlier picture. In particular, the first Black Mass sequence is effective and creepy. Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, is credited as a technical advisor, so I expect that his hand was involved in this earlier sequence. The final Black Mass is clearly a reshoot that is missing several of the principal characters who just vanish from the story.
Larry Hankin does what he can with the Svengali role, though he's saddled with a ridiculous crepe beard that makes it very hard to take him seriously. He does, however, have the requisite hypnotic eyes for the part. Brunel-Cohen is colorless as Trilby, and Susan McIver is completely single-minded in a part that doesn't call for any range at all. Pierce as the revenant looking for a new body is intense, but he vanishes without his story thread being resolved at all. The whole pile winds up in an abrupt and utterly unsatisfying climax that is absolutely perfunctory. There's virtually no gore present in the film, nor any of the sex that's heavily implied in the trailer for the original film, so any entertainment has to be derived just from the sheer awfulness of the picture.
Rating for Style: D-
Rating for Substance: D
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||no|
Image Transfer Review: The full frame picture appears to be an open-matte presentation; I didn't observe any notable panning or scanning here. The picture is extremely grainy throughout, but there's decent color. At times, reds are grossly oversaturated and bloom badly. The source seems to be a videotape, since on occasion droupouts are present. The pciture is soft, without much clarity, and at times there is serious aliasing. There's also some scratching and frame damage, but this looks like a drive-in or grindhouse film ought to look, so it's not downgraded too badly.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono track sounds predictably terrible, with tons of prominent hiss and noise throughout. Often it equals the volume of the dialogue, making parts of the film hard to make out. The score, entirely lifted from classical repertoire library recordings of Liszt, Tchaikovsky and others, is tinny and unpleasant sounding, without much range or presence. In essence, don't expect anything better than a 1" speaker mounted on your car window at the drive-in. It was probably never meant to sound any better than that in the first place.
Audio Transfer Grade: D
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring Lucifer's Women, live horror show, Mad Doctor of Blood Island, Brides of Blood, Beast of Blood, Brain of Blood, Blood of the Vampires and The Blood Drinkers
Extras Review: The only extras present are trailers. There are none for the revised feature, though there is one for Lucifer's Women, which indicates that all of the sex-related thematic material has been chopped out for the Adamson version. It's very happily included, to help distinguish the old material from the new. There's also a generic trailer for a live spook show, as well as six of the recent Image discs of Filipino horrors, including the Blood Island trilogy. Blood of the Vampires appears here under the name Curse of the Vampires. All are presented full frame and in decent but not stellar condition.
Extras Grade: D+
Final CommentsAl Adamson does his magic, turning two bad pictures into one extremely bad picture. While the transfer is okay, the source materials are marginal at best, and there's nothing beyond trailers for extras.
Mark Zimmer 2002-10-31