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The Criterion Collection presents

Blood for Dracula (1974)

"I'm sure they're religious, they have a very nice house."- Innkeeper (Gil Cagnie)

Stars: Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier
Other Stars: Milena Vukotic, Dominique Darel, Stefania Casini
Director: Paul Morrissey

Manufacturer: CMCA
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (explicit sex, violence, and gore)
Run Time: 01h:43m:00s
Release Date: 1998-12-15
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- B+B-B B-


DVD Review

It's the mid-1920's and Count Dracula (Udo Kier) is in trouble. To survive, he needs the blood of a virgin. Unfortunately, there are no virgins left in Romania. He travels with his assistant Anton (Arno Juerging) to Italy because the girls there are more chaste ("Their religion requires it!") Here he meets the di Fiore family, aging aristocrats hard up for new money. The lady of the house agrees to marry off one of her four young daughters. The only problem? Mario (Joe Dallesandro), the handyman. It seems that Mario's services extend far beyond carpentry and gardening, and not all of the daughters are as innocent as they say. What results is a darkly comic commentary on the breakdown of morality in society and a rather poignant dissection of the Dracula mythos.

This film, along with its immediate forebear Flesh for Frankenstein, acts as both a horror film and a morality play. The film is set in the 1920's, the period that Morrissey most closely associates with the breakdown of family morals and sexual values. The fact that Dracula is forced to leave his homeland and family only serves to illustrate this point. The decrepit moral state of the di Fiore house is telling as well. This family is supposed to be high class and dignified, yet the daughters are no better than whores and they sleep with the hired hand. As is common in other horror films, sex seems to indicate corruption.

The character of Mario adds a political introspection to the film that is quite entertaining. His theories of the aristocracies vs. the lower classes ring true, and the irony that he, the lowly peasant, is the only one smart enough to discover Dracula's true intent in Italy is interesting.

The acting in Blood for Dracula will seem unusual at first, but once you get used to it, it seems the perfect match for the tone of the film. The exaggerated performances and mixed accents fit perfectly with the social commentary in the script. Udo Kier is the standout, giving one of the best performances of Dracula that I have seen. He overplays it just enough to give Dracula the desperate, pathetic manner necessary. I also enjoyed his menacing assistant, Arno Juerging, always full of suspicion and menace. Many of the other actors were not professional, and their inexperience adds to the satirical tone of the film.

Morissey has created something beautiful to look at in Blood for Dracula. Colors are used fantastically, with contrasting color schemes for the homes of the di Fiore family and Mario. The blood during the several attack scenes is glaringly red; Dracula's bites look almost artistic. Morrissey uses several simple techniques to produce very visually provocative shots; I especially like the scene of Dracula rolling around the mansion with the camera attached to the front of his wheelchair, giving a very odd perspective.

Blood for Dracula is not a film everyone will like. It has a slow, languorous pace that would bore those expecting a more traditional vampire film. The acting, as I said, is a bit off-putting. The script, outside of the satirical genre, would seem somewhat ludicrous. Together, however, these elements form one of the most stimulating (both visually and mentally) horror films I have seen.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: While Criterion is usually recognized as the benchmark of quality for extras on DVDs of unappreciated films, their image/audio quality record is not quite as clean. Still, Blood for Dracula has an OK transfer for a low budget film from the '70s. The image is a bit soft, and colors seem to vary. Some are bright and clear, others look muted. The print shows some scratches and pops. The best part: I noticed no edge-enhancement to speak of. Yes!

Image Transfer Grade: B-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Blood for Dracula is presented in its original mono mix, and it sounds very good. Most importantly, dialogue is always clear (which is often a problem for mono soundtracks). The score is well represented, and I noticed none of the hiss that sometimes pops up on older tracks.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Paul Morrissey, star Udo Kier, and historian Maurice Yacowar
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Still gallery with excerpts from the Claudio Gizzi score
Extras Review: The only major extra provided here is a commentary with Morrissey, Kier, and film historian Maurice Yacowar. The track follows the standard Criterion format; that is to say it is heavily edited to include the most information possible, and generally it is very interesting. Kier and Morrissey discuss the actual making of the film and Yacowar talks more about its place in history and the horror genre. Also included is a still gallery of publicity photos with accompanying score from the film. Most of these shots are pretty boring (the actors in costume, the crew standing around), but the music is nice.

Extras Grade: B-

Final Comments

Blood for Dracula is one of those films that could go either way. If you buy into the absurdity of the situation and the... unusual... acting styles, you will more than likely enjoy it as a quirky entry in the horror genre. On the other hand, if you don't buy into the kitsche of the whole thing, you will hate it. And I mean a loathing kind of hate. So give it a try!

Joel Cunningham 2000-10-12