Written & Directed by: Paul Morrissey
Starring: Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro, and Arno Juerging
Reviewed by: Brett G.
"You should lose that... uh... virginity of yours before he gets to you."
Andy Warhol was a notoriously eccentric artist and known by many for his various works of pop art during the 60s and 70s. However, when he wasn't replicating cans of Campbell's soup, Warhol also dabbled in filmmaking. In fact, "dabbling" might be selling it short, as he was responsible for over 60 films in about a 5 year span. By the early 70s, Warhol had grown tired of directing films himself, but he had amassed quite a following among fellow artists. Among these was Warhol protégé Paul Morrissey, who was initially tapped to write and direct Flesh for Frankenstein. After that project wrapped more quickly than expected, the cast and crew improvised a film that has been called obscene, sleazy, offensive, and shocking in its time; however, it also happens to be one of the most unique and well made vampire films of all time: Blood for Dracula.
Count Dracula (Udo Kier) is extremely sick and on the verge of death. Having exhausted all of his resources in his local Transylvania, he and his assistant, Anton, set off for Italy in search of the blood of virgins. In Italy, the devilish duo manage to befriend Marchese di Fiori (portrayed by Italian film legend Vittorio De Sica), a landowner on the verge of ruin. Eager to marry off one of his four daughters, the aristocrat allows Dracula to stay at his home and have his choice among the four. However, one of the daughters is too young, another too old, and the other two too slutty, having very much enjoyed the services of the estate servant (Joe Dallesandro). This leaves the Count in quite a predicament, to say the least.
Obviously, Blood for Dracula is one of the quirkiest films ever created (despite being far more mainstream than any of Warhol's own directorial efforts). As far as Dracula efforts go, it's easily the most bizarre take on the popular legend. No longer a cool, calculating, or even seductive vampire like Lugosi or Lee, Kier's Dracula is instead a loathsome, pathetic creature who is nothing more than a sickly aristocrat. Instead of being creepy like a traditional vampire, this Dracula is akin to a dirty old man preying on young virgins (or "wirgins," as pronounced by Kier's heavy Eastern European accent). Thus, despite the wild, outlandish premise, the tone of the film is usually anything but, as there's an air of somber finality about the film. This is evident from the melancholy opening credits that feature the aging, sickly Dracula preparing himself with no reflection in his mirror.
Still, this is not to say that the film isn't outrageous because it very much is, and the film is no doubt notorious because of it. Filled to the brim with grue and sex, Blood for Dracula is as delightfully sleazy as any Eurotrash classic. When Dracula's consumption of bread soaked in virgin's blood ranks low on the totem pole of outlandishness, you know you're in for a treat. Along the way, you'll be treated to everything from blood regurgitation to dismemberments as the film leads up to an ultra gory climax that features one of the most disgusting and unforgettable moments in vampire history. Even though it's 35 years old, this one still manages to deliver quite a few shocks.
Adding to the sleazy charm is Dallesandro's servant character, who manages to be the most outrageous of the bunch (even more so than the title character himself!). When he's not trying to sex the family daughters (either consensually or via rape), he spouts Marxist theory that adds an interesting, if not heavy-handed, dimension to the film. This further demythologizes the Dracula character by reducing the story as an allegory for class struggle. Dracula, the aging aristocrat, symbolizes the preying of the rich on the weak--that is, unless Dallesandro has something to say about it. It's an interesting little turn that separates this film from other Dracula films, but I'm still pretty sure it's ostensibly about Dracula and a bunch of whores above all, with Dallesandro there to save the day. At any rate, you've got to respect a guy who can casually tell some broads that he'd "sure like to rape the hell" out of their 14 year old sister. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen!
Despite its reputation for sleaze, there's still something very artistic about Blood for Dracula. Morrissey's direction is quite good as it's very reserved and calculated. In fact, the film has even earned a Criterion Collection level of respect. Given the impromptu nature of the production, one might expect a rushed, hurried quality, but it doesn't show. In fact, the film is arguably better than its Frankenstein counterpart, as the photography is well done, and the acting is just solid enough. The script is a bit heavy-handed with the aforementioned Marxist slant, but it's undeniably clever, which is something that can be said of the film as a whole. This is one film with both style and substance, both schlock and artistic merit.
The film has been released twice on DVD. However, you'll want to avoid the non-anamorphic Criterion release like the plague unless you're one of those types that just has to have everything in their collection. The Image disc is far superior, as it sports both an anamorphic transfer and a much lighter price tag. The transfer itself is well done, as is the audio, which is crisp and clear. The disc also features an audio commentary by Kier and Morrissey, some audio recollections from the director, a screen test, and a still gallery. Quite a package for this sleazy little gem, which should be snatched up faster than Dracula can devour a pint of virgin blood. Buy it!
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