Directed by: Paul Morrissey
Starring: Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro, Arno Juerging, Maxime McKendry, Milena Vukotic
Is Paul Morrissey’s Blood for Dracula (1974) a gory horror film? Is it a socio-political commentary? Is it a commentary on socio-political commentaries? Is it an absurdist spoof of horror movies? Is it soft-core pornography? The answer to all is simply, yes. Those who are easily offended should be mindful, especially of that last, because I’m not kidding—and neither was the MPAA when they slapped an X rating on the film. In fact, Blood for Dracula is a little bit more than just the aforementioned things, since the movie has a strange aura of sadness hovering about it, despite all its deliberate attempts to outrage the viewer’s sensibilities on nearly every level. For the Thursday Horror Picture Show, it also works as counter programming to this week’s release of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
The film is set in the 1920s, and thanks to modern morality, virgins are hard to come by even in the wilds of Transylvania where the “woods used to be full of them”—and Dracula (Udo Kier) needs a virgin in the worst way. You see, in this film’s take on the vampire myth, the blood of a virgin (or “wirgin” as it’s often pronounced here) is the staff of life for a vampire. In fact, any blood that doesn’t come from a virgin produces a violent response of the sort generally associated with chugging a bottle of cabernet commode-hugger (something the film lovingly portrays twice). This may not be standard vampire stuff, but, hey, if vampires sparkle in the sunlight in Twilight movies, I’m certainly prepared to accept this addition to folklore.
After a good deal of bickering with his oily servant, Anton (Arno Juerging), Dracula agrees to go to Italy where Anton assures him there are virgins aplenty, seeing as how “the Italian church needs them for their marriage rituals.” The Count doesn’t really understand why Anton can’t just bring him a virgin, but the forcefulness of Anton’s assertion that no decent family would entrust a daughter to him wins out (face it, no family in its right mind would even entrust a chicken to this man). So with coffin (and a wheelchair for the infirm vampire) strapped to the roof of the car, the pair set out for sunny (another point of annoyance) Italy for the promised cornucopia of virginity.
Anton manages to set the Count up with the Di Fiore family, whom one of the locals has assured him must be religious because “they have a very nice house.” In truth, the Marchese Di Fiore (the great Italian director Vittorio De Sica) is a wool-gathering crackpot; the Marchesa (Maxime McKendry) is a pretentious snob; the house is falling down; and at least two of the family’s four daughters have been reading Elinor Glyn and know the score. In fact, they spend most of their time having a threesome with the only servant, the Brooklyn-accented, Marx-spouting handyman Mario (Joe Dallesandro). Things do not go according to plan.
For all its silly blood-letting, outbursts of sex, social satire and deliberately goofy dialogue, this is also a beautifully photographed film with an inescapable undercurrent of great sadness over the passing of an era. This is mostly expressed through Dracula and his relationship with the eldest daughter, Esmeralda (Milen Vukotic, who recently popped up in Letters to Juliet), two characters who belong to a dying world. But it’s something that’s also simply inherent in the material—and is there from the very beginning with the slightly pathetic image of the frail vampire painting (there’s really no other word for it).
The film was made as a companion piece to Morrissey’s 3-D Flesh for Frankenstein (1974), which had just finished shooting the day before this film commenced. Both films originally played under titles that stressed their relationship to Andy Warhol: Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein and Andy Warhol’s Dracula. While Warhol’s participation was between minimal and nonexistent, there’s some justification for this, since both Morrissey and Joe Dallesandro were Warhol alumni, and for that matter, former fashion model Maxime McKendry was a friend of Warhol.
Technically, the films are much slicker than any other cinematic efforts with Warhol’s name on them—and a good deal more coherent, even if the somewhere between amateurish and stilted acting (not to mention the casting of Dallesandro and his accent) was pure Warhol Factory. At least Morrissey used a script this time. OK, so he wrote it on a day-to-day basis on his way to the studio; it was still more controlled than usual. The results have the honor of being unlike anything else in the realm of horror.
The film starts at 8 p.m., but starting at 7:40 p.m. there will be pre-show entertainment featuring “The Edge of the Pit,” chapter eight of the Bela Lugoso serial The Return of Chandu, and the 1930 Betty Boop cartoon Mysterious Mose, so come early.
The Thursday Horror Picture Show will screen Blood for Dracula Thursday, July 1, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of the Carolina Asheville. Hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.