Thursday, February 13, 2014

Blood for Dracula (1974)

Title: Blood for Dracula (1974)

Director: Paul Morrissey

Cast: Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro, Vittorio De Sica

During the 60’s and 70’s Andy Warhol was one of the biggest names in pop art, he was a rock start of the art scene. Warhol was a creative tour de force, one of the many offshoots of his art was film, he directed over 60 films and some 500 black and white short films. Some of the more amusing ones I can mention are Vinyl (1965), which was an early adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, and Batman Dracula (1964), a short film Warhol did without the permission of DC Comics which paid tribute to the famous comic book characters! I bet you didn’t know Warhol had done that! Warhol’s films were sexually charged, including graphic sexual acts, drug use, transgender characters, homosexuality; basically, the dude didn’t care for conservative views. He wanted to shake things up! Some of the films were really trippy and experimental stuff like for example his first film was called Sleep (1963), it consisted of six hours of a poet named John Giorno,  sleeping. He also made another film called Blow Job (1964) which consisted of 35 minutes focused on the face of someone receiving oral sex. So anyhow, sometimes he’d show these movies to the world in art exhibits, porn theaters or nightclubs because regular theaters wouldn’t dare show them. Since his films were considered “socially unacceptable” or offensive, well, theaters would get raided, and cast members even arrested!

A pic from Andy Warhol's Batman Dracula

This was a crazy period in Warhol’s life, Warhol and his pals would get together in a studio of his called ‘The Factory’ where they would have orgies, take all sorts of drugs and make films and art together. That all ended on June 3, 1968 when a lady named Valerie Solana attempted to murder Warhol by shooting him in his own studio. After that life changing event, Warhol became more reclusive and entrepreneurial, one of his many business ventures included producing commercial films, two of these Warhol produced films ended up being horror films: Flesh for Frankenstein (1973) and the film I’ll be talking about today, Blood for Dracula, also known as Young Dracula. Warhol had nothing to do with the creative side of these films, he only produced them, Paul Morrissey was the guy who directed them. Blood for Dracula is all about Dracula taking a trip to Italy in order to find a virgin he can marry. In a nutshell, Dracula needs to drink the blood of a virgin or he will die! So Count Dracula takes a trip to Italy, because according to Anton, Italians are very religious people and are more inclined to have virgins in their families! Dracula tells his servant: “If you really were clever, Anton, you would bring me a Virgin from Italy and I wouldn’t have to go!” Not a bad idea Dracula, but then we wouldn’t have a movie now would we?

I found Blood for Dracula entertaining for various reasons, number one being that it felt like a Jean Rollin film because it mixes beautiful vistas and locations with nudity and gore. This is something I love about a lot of these low budget vampire films from the 70’s they always shot in beautiful locations and real castles. In the case of Blood for Dracula, director Paul Morrissey decided to shoot in Italy. Since it was Andy Warhol, an artist, who served as producer, the filmmakers were given the freedom to go totally nuts and film whatever the hell they wanted, which was probably the reason Blood for Dracula was given an ‘X’ rating. It was cut down and edited a few times when it was first shown in theaters, but thank the film gods we can now see the complete version of the film in all its sexually charged, blood soaked glory. I recommend the Criterion edition of this film, and the version released by Image films, because they are the most complete versions you can get out there, this way you’ll get all the gory goodness you’re supposed to get with this film.

Now, what makes Blood for Dracula a keeper? Well for starters it’s got this over the top performance from Udo Kier! Both Flesh for Frankenstein (1973) and Blood for Dracula were career defining films for Kier and now I can finally see why, this Dracula looks kind of weak and flimsy, he doesn’t seem to pose much of a threat, yet slowly but surely he finds his way into these girls beds. A huge part of what makes this film entertaining is Kier, he is unintentionally funny. When he doesn’t get his blood fix, he goes into these hilarious fits, where his whole body shakes, you gotta see it to believe it. When he drinks blood from a non-virgin, well, he starts to vomit all the blood he just drank, and well, Kier plays it extremely over the top, it also makes for a cool visual. So yeah, this version of Dracula is kind of funny. You haven’t lived until you hear Udo Kier screaming at the top of his lungs: “The blood of these whores is killing me!” Funnier still is watching Dracula discuss social issues with a communist/farm boy. This film reminded me a bit of Jean Rollin’s The Living Dead Girl (1982) because it saved the best of its gory goodness for the last ten minutes, the gore is pretty impressive. But then again, Udo Kier was no stranger to gore and violence, one of the very first roles to put him on the map was an extremely violent film called Mark of the Devil (1970), that one was so gory they offered you barf bags at the door in case you suddenly wanted to vomit mid picture!

Like a Jean Rollin film, Blood for Dracula has excessive amounts of nudity and erotic scenes. The nudity is gratuitous, but since this film was produced by Andy Warhol an artist known for graphic nudity in his own films, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that Blood for Dracula has lot nudity in it, in fact, I’m sure it was expected from film goers and used as a selling point by the studio. So what we got here is a sexy, erotic version of Dracula, which makes perfect sense; eroticism has always been an element that permeates any good Dracula film. Dracula has always served as an allegory for male sexuality. He is often times played as this incredibly strong sexual presence that will melt the ladies away. With its overt sexuality and communist political views, Blood for Dracula was a film that was fighting the status quo of things, a film tailor made for members of the counter culture. Mario, the strapping young servant of the house, is one of the characters used to push communist political views, he is disgusted by rich people and pretty much does whatever he wants even though he is a servant of the house. He has sex with all the ladies in the film (sometimes two at a time), thinks that rich people are trash and that socialism is the future! Again, the dialog is hilarious, in one scene Mario is having a conversation in which one of the girls tells him that Dracula’s interested in marrying a virgin and then he asks “So what’s he doing with you two whores?” I just couldn’t help laughing at some of the bits of dialog and situations. I guess we could say this is an unintentionally funny version of Dracula, but a lot of it has to do with Udo Kier and his performance, which is very entertaining, he’s like this bitchy whiny version Dracula.  

I see these Paul Morrissey/Andy Warhol horror films as a response to the success that the Hammer horror films were enjoying back in those days. Warhol simply saw a way of making some money. I gotta say the results were pretty entertaining and highly watchable! I have no idea if these films were successful or not, my guess is they weren’t because we didn’t see more of them, but I would’ve loved to see Andy Warhol’s take on other monsters. Imagine Warhol’s take on The Wolfman? With Kier as the Wolfman and Joe Dellesandro as Ben Talbot? Or Kier as The Mummy? Kier and Dellesandro could have easily been to Warhol’s films what Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee were to Hammer Films, but alas, we only have the two horror films they produced, which is good enough for me, these films are a fun watch and bonafide cult classics, highly recommended for a night of sexy silliness, Paul Morrissey style!  

Rating: 4 out of 5


Occo said...

The blood of these whores is killing me! *HCAAAAAAACH*

Franco Macabro said...

Funniest line ever, I laughed out loud when I heard it. Basically I laughed a lot whenever Dracula was bitching and moaning.


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