Every now and then you
run across one of those movies. A movie so incredibly wrong,
so lame, so thoroughly gawdawful that it simply takes your breath away.
Good Lord, you think to yourself, how did this happen? How
was this unleashed on an unsuspecting populace? How could Orson Welles
never get the money to finish Don Quixote and yet this....this
thing got made? One of these movies is Dracula vs. Frankenstein.
Man, is this movie ever
First of all, you should
know that Dr. Freex made Super 8 movies in his youth. In one, a sign
for a graveyard was needed, so one was improvised with a piece of wood
panel and some Old English style stencils. Imagine my surprise when
DvF opens with the very same sign! (Oh, well, one very
similar.) Someone's digging up a grave in Oakmoor Cemetary, and the
unfortunate night watchman discovers it to be none other than Count
Dracula, who is digging up.... the Frankenstein Monster! In a cemetary!
Cut to Vegas, where Judi
Fontaine (Regina Carroll, aka "The Freakout Girl", aka the
director's wife) is performing
some comedic song with two men. Then she splits to Venice Beach to find
her runaway sister, Joanie (fat chance; we saw Joanie decapitated with
an axe at the beginning). Police Sgt. Martin ( a pre-Dallas Jim
Davis, who paces constantly), informs Judi that her errant sister was
seen in the presence of hippies, and that the beach is "a hangout
for pushers and white slavery operators... you'd be surprised just how
many young girls come out here just hoping to get involved in all this
kind of stuff." (Please God, let that line be improvised.) As Martin
is utterly unhelpful, Judi strikes out on her own.
Meanwhile, on a beachfront amusement
park, the last of the Frankensteins (another last of the Frankensteins),
masquerading as Dr. Duryea (an ailing, wheelchair-bound J. Caroll Naish),
runs a chamber of horrors which seems to specialize in wax figures that
can't stand still. With the aid of the axe-weilding Groton (an ailing,
mute Lon Chaney, Jr.) and an almost-sinister dwarf (an ailing, elderly
Angelo Rossito), he is doing some sort of experiment with traumatized
blood (traumatized as in having your head cut off). This is interrupted
by Dracula (Zandor Vorkov, if that really is his name), who arrives
with the dormant Monster, offering Duryea the chance to get revenge
for... something or other.
Judi, meanwhile, runs
afoul of evil biker Rico (a post-War of the Gargantuas Russ Tamblyn),
who doses her with LSD. After freaking out, she falls in with the same
hippies who knew Joanie, including Mike (Anthony Eisley), the cleanest-cut
Duryea's revenge seems
to consist of using the resurrected monster to kill horror fan icon
Forrest J. Ackermann. Then Mike storms the castle, finds out what's
going on (and I'm still not sure). Duryea and the dwarf die in horrible
blade-related ways, and Groton is shot by the suddenly-competent Sgt.
Martin and his crash-helmeted police (?), who then vanish while Drac
menaces Judi. She's rescued by Mike, but Drac doesn't take too kindly
to that, and kills the aging hippie with his lightning-bolt ring (!).
He then steals Judi away to some abandoned church for an after-ruined-plan
Drac has, however, reckoned without
the Monster's weakness for busty blonde babes, and a battle royal ensues.
At least, I think it ensues, as it is all shot in very dark day-for-night.
Dracula finally deconstructs the stitched-together monstrosity, but
the fight takes long enough for the sun to rise, and the big D crumbles
to dust (or what appears to be leaves, actually) again. The end.
Once again, we have here
a movie which possesses many benchmarks which positively identify it
as a Bad Movie:
In lieu of actual story transitions,
travelogue footage is used. A lot of DvF's sequences don't
end so much as stop, and that includes the music being chopped off mid-note,
as we are treated to drive-by scenery in Vegas or footage of surfers.
Dig that crazy scenery, daddy-o!
Judi's big production number is filmed on the apron of a large stage,
with a huge orange curtain behind her... obviously some sort of civic
auditorium. The reverse shots to the somewhat-enraptured audience shows
a small nightclub, maximum occupancy 25. Sgt. Martin's office is someone's
paneled storeroom, with no attempt to make the space seem police-like.
And let's not even talk about the coffeehouse where Judi gets dosed,
where the epitome of fashion-forward design is the word POT in large
. Nobody ever changes clothes.
Dialogue which was never meant
to be uttered by human beings. Aside from the aforementioned Sgt.
Martin howler, another favorite is one hippie to another: "Let's
go get ready for the big protest tonight!" Also J. Carroll Naish:
(delivered with some irony) "I am too old and too sick to be surprised
Those little touches that would
make Ed Wood proud. Dracula, for some reason, has a constant echoplex
on his voice. He also sports a set of vampire fangs and a cape
that belie their dime-store origin. The Monster must be resurrected
on a certain night because of some comet's reappearance. Duryea constantly
takes time out from his busy Schedule of Evil to regale his customers
with pontifications about reality and fantasy. And every show at Dr.
Duryea's chamber of horrors is different... not terribly cost-effective,
Sadder than all the events
transpiring before us in this cinematic suckfest is the depths to which
our old pros had descended; J. Carroll looks like nothing so much as
a malevolent Col. Sanders; Lon Chaney, in the last stages of throat
cancer, manages to turn out a few creepy moments, but Russ Tamblyn just
looks like he wishes they would give him his drugs, so he could leave.
Forry Ackermann's presence
in the film insured that DvF got a lot of coverage in Famous
Monsters magazine. I recall, at that youthful stage, actually looking
forward to it. I didn't get to see it until years later, when it cropped
up on TV, and oooooh boy. Glad I didn't squander my monster magazine
money on it at the Rialto. So why is it when I read in AWCM
that the Roan Group has put out a laserdisc of this film, that my pulse
Then again, it could be pointed out
that Regina Carrol's LSD episode is, in my humble opinion, one of the
better trip sequences, even beating out those in movies with actual
budgets. Go figure.
Director Al Adamson has
shown himself to be a crapmeister of the first water. We shall hear
from him again in these pages. You have been warned!