Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on October 5, 1969
Directed by Al Adamson
Written by Rex Carlton
Cast: John Carradine, Paula Raymond, Alexander D’Arcy, Robert Dix, Gene Otis Shayne, Jennifer Bishop, Vicki Volante, Ray Young, John ‘Bud’ Cardos, Ken Osborne, Ewing Miles Brown, Joyce King
You’d think a vampire movie would, by birthright alone, deliver at least one frightening moment worthy of the genre, but trust me, the most horrifying aspect of this Crown International presentation was the ridiculous amount of scratches on the print. Otherwise, this was a tame, blood-free horror offering that featured not one moment of vampirism, nudity, or gore, and at times seemed to be played strictly for laughs; this last fact was most evident when, for the second time in as many weeks, I witnessed someone in a CIP film get knocked unconscious by a short length of rope.
A young couple—he’s a photographer, she’s a model—are surprised to find they’ve inherited a castle in the Arizona desert, which is somehow walking distance to a beach, and travel there to terminate the lease of the current residents, who call themselves the Count and Countess Townsend. As it turns out, this ageless pair are actually a very proper and refined Count Dracula and his wife, who drink blood from cocktail glasses, keep young women chained in their basement as perpetual blood donors, and have no intention of giving up their rented home. After agreeing to stay the night, the young couple soon discover the true intentions of their hosts, and make plans to escape the castle and its disturbing menagerie of centuries-old occupants and bothersome manservants.
Believe me, there’s really not a whole lot here to recommend, besides its obvious draw as campy, low-budget horror fare…and even that label was a stretch at times. When the story wasn’t being inadvertently comical, it was frustratingly bland and unimaginative, and though our dapper vampires had to be the most lackluster and boring bloodsuckers in cinema history, they still supplied us with enough ham to fill fifty Monte Cristo sandwiches. There were hints of werewolf involvement as well, but those scenes were apparently cut for the US release, so character discussions of full moons and bloodlust killings went nowhere. Which is a pity, because otherwise I could’ve added this film to my site’s werewolf index.
If you’re looking for positives, I will admit that I found myself fully involved with the young couple, the likeable Glen and Liz, who made for a good-natured and devoted team, and kept their wits about them when situations at the castle became unquestionably weird. I was also impressed by an early scene shot at Marineland near Los Angeles, a continuous take atop the park’s upward-rotating sky tower, that proved to be director Al Adamson’s only noteworthy contribution to the film. And the castle’s lumbering handyman, a ‘stupid oaf’ and ‘moronic giant’ named Mango, prompted a chuckle out of me every time his name was mentioned, since my much-less-moronic cat was named Mango as well.
Thankfully, this wasn’t the most lame-brained horror film I’d ever seen, but as a vampire film it came awfully close, and if it weren’t for the many unintentional laughs scattered throughout, I might’ve found myself nodding off well before the final reel. The presence of horror legend John Carradine might prove a worthwhile draw to some, and actress Jennifer Bishop—who could easily pass as Kim Novak’s younger sister—was quite the eyeful no matter what outfit she was wearing, but beyond that you’d be better off spending your time with something from the Hammer library. Preferably, something with a bit more neck-biting and heart-staking. (2/10)