Blood for Dracula (1974) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Blood for Dracula (1974)

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Making an unpleasant film about an unpleasant thing has always been somewhat of a risky proposition. Film's that take this path always bring to mind Tim O'Brien's book The Things They Carried, which argued that exaggerated truth is just as acceptable as a real one if it can better convey to the audience what the actual experience was like. A falsified truth ergo is better than the real truth.

This exaggeration is often at play in a film like Blood for Dracula, and a host of others: Salo, A Serbian Film, or The Human Centipede. They're films where truth or accepted fictions are reconfigured in an intentionally crass way to provoke the audience in a way that simple truth or statements of facts cannot.

Post-World War II Italy was a ripe ground for such statements, as the nation's patriarchal structure had withstood the onset of fascism and was now struggling with the ideals of socialism that were gripping the continent. Into this fray comes director Paul Morrissey and producer Andy Warhol to create a Dracula that rightly befits the unwavering evil that the character represents but also using the creature's story to illustrate the European's unhealthy collusion of men and power.

That hammer and sickle look pretty suggestive if you ask me.

On its surface, the film's plot is essentially Pride and Prejudice with Dracula (and suck on that, Seth Grahame-Smith). Dracula in this version is constrained to only being able to feed on the blood of virgins, and thus must take a wife (or pretend to take one) who is unspoiled. He and his faithful manservant, Anton, travel to Italy and find a noble family that's fallen on hard times. Two of the daughters are ribald sexaholics, one is a fourteen year old, and the last an old maid. Their father has gambled away their fortunes, and now seeks to rekindle his money flow with a marriage to the Hungarian count.

This rather aristocratic equation is imbalanced by one man, the family's gardener, Mario. He's buff, dull, and an avowed socialist. He has a hammer and sickle over the bed that he uses to regularly engage in ménage à trois with the two sex loving daughters. He enjoys the act of fucking, they seem to be mostly indifferent-- they enjoy lording their power, but cave in whenever he gets pushy.

The idea of male domination is made abundantly clear through most of the movie, and the broader implications of the ensuing battle between Mario and Dracula becomes a clear depiction of how the poor are exchanging one kind of brutal patriarchy for another. In this war, we see Dracula violently assault two women, and Mario forcibly rape one.

And that's what it's all about: competing forms of domination, impotence, and righteousness. But beyond the metaphors here, you'll find a parade of mismatched accents and a cavalcade of deadened performances. This may be on purpose for the sake of commentary, but it's still undeniably tedious; Udo Kier's take on Dracula is the only one that seems to contain an ounce of vigor.

There's a lot of odd sister kissing abouts as well.

Framed through Morrissey's sleazy, greasy lens, Blood for Dracula has two modes: boring and difficult to watch. While it's obvious that there are solid ideas in the screenplay and interesting political undertones, the directing is laborious; for a film about exploitation, it feels like exploitation.

It should. It does. It's unpleasant. Good job.

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Posted by Danny

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