AKA Andy Warhol’s Blood for Dracula
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DIRECTED BY: Paul Morrissey
FEATURING: Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier, Maxime McKendry
PLOT: Count Dracula is dying for want of a virgin’s blood, and so sallies forth to Italy in an attempt to take advantage of its selection of religious-minded young women.
WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: A treatise on class struggle and it’s a softcore Eurotrash vampire gore movie? Thank you kindly, Misters Morrissey and Warhol.
COMMENTS: Among many questions raised by Blood for Dracula are: what is to be done with the idle aristocracy now that it has served its purpose? Did it serve a purpose in the first place? What is a mid-’70s New York City tough guy doing as a handyman on a decayed Italian estate? And, what year is this movie set in, anyway? Paul Morrissey has a vision, I am certain, and it was put to screen in soothing verdigris, soft yellows, and spurts of crimson. The variegated colors emphasize the manifold oddities unspooling over the delicious palette, with performances one might politely describe as “eccentric” bringing to life the director’s singular vision of the vampire myth.
The opening shot unveils the chromatic motif as the camera lingers on Count Dracula (Udo Kier), forlornly applying makeup. His vampirehood is revealed in the mirror in front of him—a mirror devoid of reflection. This ailing man is in need of virgin blood to continue on, and so his manic servant has hatched a plan of questionable merit. Dracula wishes to die, it seems, but is convinced instead to shuffle into a car and trundle off to the Italian countryside. There, he hopes to find a virgin’s blood to rejuvenate him—e’er he dies, forever.
Udo Kier’s performance as the sickly Count is a standout among a number of unlikely choices. His two long stretches of vomiting impure blood, as well as his line delivery (which I suspect stem partly from an imperfect grip on the language), lay the groundwork for Nicolas Cage‘s own nuanced performance in Vampire’s Kiss. The patriarch of the Italian estate is a jolly old soul with a love for gambling matched only by his love for language (“Dracula? Drah-cule-ah. I like it!”). The lone servant on the grounds, Mario, is perhaps the only card-carrying member of the Communist party for miles around—at least I presume he’s card-carrying; what dialogue he has that doesn’t concern the overthrow of the aristos is typically, and unsettlingly, rape-y. And if you like sister-with-sister action, you’re in luck: this “art-house” rollick has got you covered.
Yes, yes: this is a sexploitation feature alternating titillation with shlock violence (by the end, I was reminded of the infamous Black Knight), and I have no right to expect haut cinéma. But the little touches, heavy-handed though some were, are evidence that Morrissey is a dab hand at capturing compelling visuals. And even in his moments of regurgitative bombast, there is a dancer’s alacrity to Kier’s performance, showing there is a grim, lively past to this melancholy invalid. Maxime McKendry (in her sole film appearance) exudes a beautiful subtlety as an obviously English noblewoman filtered through an incongruous Italian accent. Come to this film with no demands other than for angst and spectacle, and you will not leave disappointed. If you come demanding logic and internal consistency, then you should perhaps hone your title-reading skills.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“It’s a strange film—sometimes a beautiful one—but it’s also the textbook definition of ‘not for everyone.'”–Ken Hanke, Mountain XPress