The Bad Movie Report

Dracula vs. Frankenstein

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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 great.

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! In California!

Cut to Vegas, where Judi Fontaine (Regina Carroll, aka "The Freakout Girl", aka the director's Big Production Numberwife) 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.

Oh, Lon.  Lon, Lon, Lon...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 hippie ever.

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 nosh.

Damn. Almost looks exciting, dunnit?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 chalk letters.

. 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 at anything."

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, you'd think.Forry keeping his day job

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 Finally!  Drac Vs. Frank!  And a Bound Babe, to boot!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 quickens?

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!




Still, must be seen to be believed.

- December 14, 1997

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