Friday, March 17, 2017
Doctor Dracula, another Al Adamson two-movie composite
Review by Doug Gibson
I mentioned "Doctor Dracula" in an earlier post. It's not much of a film and merits its very low rating on IMDB.com.
What makes the film marginally interesting is one, it's directed by schlock auteur, the late Al Adamson, two it's likely the only film in which Dracula meets Svengali, three, it has John Carradine (although what trashy '70s film doesn't) and four, it's another example of Adamson practicing film composites, in which he takes two thin films to make an even thinner film.
Adamson and his partner Sam Sherman got their hands on an unreleased film called "Lucifer's Women." They shot a vampire tale to mix with it and managed to get a few actors from the earlier film to create a plot that is deliciously nonsensical in the Adamson tradition.
The film commences with a vampire killing a woman who welcomes his bite. We then switch to an author and mystic named Wainwright (Larry Hankin) lecturing and hypnotizing an audience. He has a book about Svengali. In the audience is Carradine's character and a doctor, Gregorio, (Geoffrey Land) who is openly derisive of Wainwright.
Also in attendance is the daughter, Stephanie, of the woman slain in the opening scene. She's played by actress Susie Ewing, best known as the trucker "Hot Pants" in the film "Smokey and the Bandit."
Stephanie is desperate to find out why her mom died. She consults Wainwright but he's not helpful. She receives greater assistance from Gregorio but his help comes with a bite; more on that.
We also kick to dull scenes in a nightclub where a beautiful singer named Trilby (get it) is performing. Wainwright is falling in love with her. That's because he is turning into the reincarnation of Svengali. There's a whole cult of people, including Carradine, who worship the devil and are involved in the Svengali resurrection. Wainwright/Svengali doesn't want to kill Trilby but the devil cult has a more powerful pull on him and she eventually is readied to be sacrificed. More later.
Meanwhile, Gregorio is -- big surprise -- really Count Dracula. Occasionally he kills women including a somewhat amusing scene where he gives the bite to a tipsy floozy who loves being in a coffin, played by Adamson's wife, Regina Carroll.
In what is probably the sole scene that provides any chills, Gregorio/Dracula produces the undead mother of Stephanie. She has no human qualities left, and openly scorns her daughter.
Dracula has similar plans for Stephanie, and he begins a slow process of controlling her. She may have something to say or do about that later; more on that.
Eventually, the film leads to the sacrifice of Trilby, played by Jane Brunel-Cohen. She may be the worst actress I've seen in a film. Even as she's about to die, she's incapable of conveying emotion.
Dracula crashes the sacrifice and viewers expecting a battle royal between the bloodsucker and the Svengali cult will be disappointed. Spoiler alert: Dracula wins with barely an effort. Land, by the way, is not too bad as Dracula. He's far better than Zandor Vorkoff in "Dracula Versus Frankenstein" or Mitch Evans in "Gallery of Horrors."
There is an abrupt, mildly surprising ending involving Stephanie and Dracula that I won't give away in case you want to see the flick. I recommend it only to Adamson completists and fans of composite films, of which Adamson made several,
The history of the film is interesting. It was made in the late 1970s, in which Adamson's Independent International, and other indie schlock producers, were being moved out of the business. Bigger studios were either making their own shockers or buying better-produced low budget shockers and tidying them up for major releases.
To my knowledge, "Doctor Dracula" was only released to television, which may explain why it's very tame, with virtually no nudity. Rumor has it that it played VHS with Adamson's "Horror of the Blood Monsters" and it got a sole DVD release in 2002. The DVD has the trailer for "Lucifer's Women." A better idea would be for Sam Sherman to apply the entire Paul Aratow-directed film, Lucifer's Women," (if it still exists) as an extra to the DVD.