Drácula contra Frankenstein (1972)
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Of course, Dr. Frankenstein is really just Dr. Orloff under a different name; the ubiquitous amoral ubermensch is this time seeking to enslave humanity by reviving Dracula and the Frankenstein monster in order to create an army of the undead subject to his superior will. A sick and possibly drunk Dennis Price fails to make much of an impression as the good Doctor, but Howard Vernon gives an interesting performance as Dracula, playing him like Morpho from The Awful Dr. Orloff, slack jawed, bug eyed, and mute. The great Britt Nichols is also on hand as a very fetching Vampire Girl.
As I stated previously, this is lesser Franco, but like most Franco films, good and bad, it contains interesting, original elements that simply cannot be found elsewhere. Dracula contra Frankenstein is a film made by a man who loves the movies for people who love the movies. It shows. Sure, I drank most of a bottle of wine while I was watching it, which may have colored my judgment, but when I tried the same thing with Poseidon I fell asleep.
Ok, there is lots of memorable material in this movie. Blood is drained from a captured woman and poured onto a live bat that actually drinks the blood (juice?). Dracula's eyes are always open, even when he sleeps. Very creepy and accented by the red eyeliner. In my favorite scene the Wolfman is called by a Gypsy curse and returns from "beyond the grave". A bloody Wrestlemania ensues with the Frankenstein Monster.
Recommended if you like twists on the old tales.
Sadly, this is the least involving and most badly-paced of these three movies. Franco's trademark OTT camera pans and zooms feature prominently, and the editing is even sloppier and choppier than usual.
Dr Frankenstein (played by an ageing and ill-looking Dennis Price) arrives in a Transylvanian village in thrall to Dracula. The vampire Count (Franco regular Howard Vernon, in a sadly dialogue-free role) has been dispatched with the regulation stake through the heart by Dr Seward (Alberto D'Albes), but the deranged Doc revives him with the intention of using the Count as his mind-controlled slave. Also along for the ride are a Boris Karloff-like Frankenstein Monster (Fernando Bibao), a sexy vampire bride (the sultry Britt Nichols), a gypsy witch who befriends Dr Seward, and a rotten-looking Wolfman who turns up in the last reel to battle the Monster. Remerkably, given this free-for-all of horror elements, the film still manages to move at a leaden pace thanks to Franco's stolid direction and listless setups.
Not the greatest monster team-up movie (that remains "Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein") or even the best Jess Franco movie (for my money, that's "A Virgin Anmong the Living Dead"), but worth a watch on a Friday night with a few cans of ale - if only for such bizarre elements as a vampire victim (the ever-lovely Anne Libert) being staked through the EYE (?!!?), and some hilariously overblown dialogue: Dennis Price managing to over-act and chew the scenery even with the handicap of atrocious dubbing.
This is the kind of film that should be on the shelf of every Jess Franco enthusiast or every lover of classic suspense films. It can be watched over and over again, each time discovering new layers of meaning. It is the first film in Franco's trilogy of monster movies, and definitely one of the best. I watched the original Spanish version without any subtitles, but luckily Franco used minimal dialog this time, which made the cinematographic experience even greater as it felt like TOTAL CINEMA!!! This is one of the best films I have ever seen. Highly recommended!!!
It was a good idea to present the latter (played by Dennis Price) as a deluded megalomaniac, but the dire physical condition of the actor makes this something of a lost cause. Howard Vernon's Dracula, then, is underused and saddled throughout with a silly fixed expression! Alberto Dalbes plays Dr. Seward Vampire Hunter(!), Luis Barboo gives a hammy performance as Frankenstein's mute hunchback assistant, while Fernando Bilbao gets as little screen-time playing the Frankenstein Monster as his counterpart in the latterday Universal monster flicks themselves!!
With respect to the female members of the cast, at least, we get two lovely presences in Josiane Gibert (as a tawdry chanteuse turned into unwitting sacrifice in the re-animation of Dracula the scene where the bat is bathed in blood is actually nice and grisly) and Britt Nichols (a vampire lady with her own agenda and whose coffin is stupidly never noticed by either Frankenstein or his assistant!). Also on hand are Anne Libert (who's killed off immediately), Genevieve Deloir (as Vernon's new bride) and Mary Francis (as a gypsy girl).
The film is capped by what is the most hilarious monster mash I've ever seen with a werewolf who comes out of nowhere, only to get beaten to a pulp by the Frankenstein monster! Just as amusing, though, is the fact that Frankenstein (and his prisoner Dracula) use a hearse as their method of transportation! Incidentally, the way such great locations as Franco had at his disposal are squandered makes this that much more of a missed opportunity not that the visuals are helped by the dismal print utilized for this transfer (featuring washed-out colors and the wrong aspect ratio to boot)! By the way, a sure sign of the film's rushed production is its recycled score comprising the instantly recognizable main theme from MARQUIS DE SADE'S JUSTINE (1968) and, possibly, even cues from COUNT Dracula (1969)!
In conclusion, this one emerges as easily the least of Franco's 'classic monster' films. For the record, its viewing was promptly followed by THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN (1972) by way of the version the director himself preferred. His most respectable efforts in the genre remain COUNT Dracula (not really connected to the others, as it was a Harry Alan Towers rather than Robert De Nesle production) and DRACULA'S DAUGHTER (1972; a contemporaneous release with, again, much the same cast and crew but which is altogether more satisfying mainly in view of its novel giallo elements).
I was actually quite surprised how much I was loving this movie at first. I liked the movie for not really having a story in it, since it made the movie all about its atmosphere and there were no distractions from any bad actors, or horribly written lines, since the movie featured hardly any dialog in it at all. The movie felt like a good old fashioned horror production, that focused more on atmosphere than anything else really. It's a real shame that toward its end the movie suddenly decides to still focus on its story, which is just not all that very well written.
To be frank, I often had absolutely no idea what was going on with its story. This is a problem I have with basically all of Jesus Franco's movies and something that rapidly gets worse and more annoying in this movie, as it headed closer toward its ending. It will make you loose interest real fast and it makes you wish for this movie to end. Unfortunately it all goes on for far too long, which makes the movie feel overlong, even while its only 88 minutes short.
It isn't an all that interesting or original monster mash-up movie. It has Dracula, the Frankenstein monster and even the wolf-man in it but really, the movie does nothing good, with any of it. I know it sounds like every classic horror fan's dream but trust me, you are better off skipping this movie.
I really liked the first hour or this movie for its atmosphere and overall approach but this got mostly ruined by a weak story, which was just too prominently present in the movie its second half. I guess that the most positive thing I can say about this movie is that's truly far from the worst thing, I have seen, done by Jesus Franco.
During the first few moments of Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein, I was having trouble believing that this was a Franco film. The opening shots of the castle with Bruno Nicolai's score are well done and, for the lack of anything better, un-Franco-like. But this impression only lasted a few moments as Franco quickly shifts from the imposing and foreboding castle to a shot of a random dog on a random staircase. That's Franco for you.
Compared with some of the other Franco films I've seen, Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein isn't too bad. Don't misunderstand, it's not very good, but if you've seen something like Franco's Oasis of the Zombies, this movie is a winner. You get a lot of what you expect from Franco suspect acting, poor make-up effects, and shaky camera work. One thing that really bothered me, though, is that Franco can't seem to decide what time period his film is set. While some characters drive cars, Dr. Seward gets around in a horse and buggy. And even though Dr. Frankenstein has a large collection of machines that require electricity, there's not a light bulb to be found anywhere. Things like this just bug me. . In the end, I can't in good conscious recommend Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein to anyone other than the most die-hard of Franco completists.
In this, Doctor Seward (Alberto Dalbes) is so incensed by Dracula (a wide-eyed and impressive Howard Vernon) and his killings that he travels to the Count's castle, opens his coffin and taps a twig-like stake into the old boy's heart, reverting him to a dead bat. Quite why this simple act hadn't been carried out earlier in Dracula's reign of terror is a mystery.
The first dialogue in this film is 15 minutes in, when a gaggle of gypsies notice the arrival of Doctor Frankenstein as he heads towards Dracula's castle. Dennis Price plays the doctor, and we first see him struggling to get out of his shiny black car as Morpho (Luis Barboo) brings into the castle a suspiciously large crate. In 1948, Price had been voted tenth most popular actor by the UK box office; by this stage of his life, 'excessive living and inadequate gambling' had left him alcoholic, bankrupt and ill. Unlike this film's sequel, 'The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein' (in which Frankenstein spends much of the running time bed-bound), Franco's direction here makes no secret of Price's difficulty walking, and as such, Frankenstein is a frail, somewhat bloated figure. An excellent actor, Price's very few lines were dubbed for this.
Our first glimpse of Fernando Bilbao's Monster, after a series of mis-matched jump-shots, is in unforgiving close-up. Permanent marker seems to have provided the drawn-on scars, which seriously lets down the otherwise impressive performance Fernando gives. Franco's camera chases after the actors often failing to keep track of the intended action. Unlike many of his films, there is little in the way of location or the usual sumptuous scenery, and the drab and tatty sets here help to create an enclosed, poverty-stricken environment.
The lines that are spoken are usually given in voice-over, an artistic decision probably to ease the process of dubbing for any overseas sales. This approach, and the disembodied voices give the whole production a ghostly effect.
This is a slow maze of a film smothered with Franco's trademark zooming camera, punctuated with a handful of screaming young women (Anne Libert, who is killed off immediately, makes a bigger impression in 'Rites', and Britt Nichols as a female vampire who, despite making no attempt to hide herself, no-one ever notices!), fabulously rubbery bats and for no readily apparent reason features a cameo by a curly-haired wolf man, who is brought in to fight the monster, get battered, and disappear! So, why do I enjoy this? I'm not sure, but possibly, it is because it reminds me in parts, of the work of French Director Jean Rollin, with whom Franco's work is often – and undeservedly, in my view – compared. At least here, the comparison is occasionally justified.
Well, I think this one put the nail in the coffin for my recent Franco mini-festival. As my friend described it, this is the "best" of his "worst." To the film's credit, it is well shot in places and has some nice locations. But nothing can prepare you for the level of cheapness on display like Frankenstein's monster having drawn on stitches. Vernon is a hoot as Count Dracula, with a constant snarl on his face to make sure to expose his teeth. He ends up looking like Dracula who smelled something funny. Franco apparently didn't bother with much of a script either as I think maybe there are 20 spoken lines in the film. Although the thing runs only 80 minutes, it seems to go on for days.
For about the first 50 minutes or so, not a whole lot happens in the film. No, wait,...after 50 minutes STILL nothing happens in the film....nothing. There is almost no dialog (perhaps to supposedly make it easier to dub for international release)--with very, very long stretches with nothing being said or a bit of over-dubbed speech only. The "dialog" in many places consists of heavy grunting and a hilarious scene where a woman writhes about screaming like she's passing a kidney stone--a kidney stone the size of a basketball! Towards the end, there is more dialog but actual conversations between characters are almost completely absent. In some cases, the face was filmed from the nose up--so you couldn't see the mouth moving (again, to make over-dubbing easier). The net effect of all this is appallingly dull.
The plot, when it is at all apparent, involves Dr. Frankenstein reviving Dracula to be his slave (ooh, that won't end well) as well as the evil scientist reviving his green cheese-like monster. Dracula makes some female vampires and eventually a wolf-man shows up...though I have no idea why. It was as if the lack of coherent plot and dialog could somehow be compensated for by tossing in more and more monsters. Heck, I was almost expecting the Creature from the Black Lagoon or Godzilla to eventually make an appearance!! And they might have, had director Franco thought of it! The only thing going for this terrible film are the locales. Because it was filmed in Europe, the settings can't help but look pretty good. That alone is the only reason I gave this movie a score as high as 2--otherwise, it's even more dull and stupid than an Al Adamson horror film.
In a final note, you PETA-types out there may want to skip this one. Aside from the cheap fake bats, there are a some real ones that are mistreated rather badly. One was either drowned or near-drowned in blood in a jar and another one is held by his wingtips and made to flutter wildly (as best it could). I must say it was the first film I ever saw that made me feel sorry for the poor creatures.
** (out of 4)
This Franco product, also known as Dracula CONTRA FRANKENSTEIN is perhaps one of his most seen films because with a title like this, people are going to check it out. In what was rumored to have been his attempt at a HOUSE OF Dracula remake, Dr. Frankenstein (Dennis Price) brings Dracula (Howard Vernon) back to life so that he can use him as a slave. At the same time he creates a monster and soon everyone is doing battle as a female vampire (Britt Nichols) also shows up. Oh yeah, a werewolf shows up out of nowhere as well. Those going into this expecting a pure homage to the early Universal films are probably going to be disappointed because this aspect of the film doesn't happen until the final five minutes. For the most part this film comes off as an attempt for the Spanish director to make a silent film because there's very little dialogue here. I've heard some say this was to make the film more marketable around the world but I doubt this since dubbing wouldn't have been that big of an issue. The film doesn't really work for several reasons but the biggest is that it's never quite clear what's trying to be done. As I said, the first seventy-five minutes features very little action while the final five minutes goes into overdrive in terms of camp. The final showdown between Frankenstein's monster and the werewolf is bound to get many laughs as it's extremely funny especially the sequence where the werewolf goes to jump on the monster but misses. The fake bats used here are among the worst I've ever seen and why Franco uses a real bat shown drowning to death is beyond me. The make up on the monster is pretty bad but it's unique in a strange way. Vernon looks the part of Dracula but he doesn't really do too much. Price, who would die the following year, doesn't look too good as he comes off ill and doesn't get to do that much either. Nichols is always easy on the eyes even though she actually doesn't get naked here for a change. In the end, most people are going to find the film extremely boring and I really don't blame them. I do respect what Franco was going for in regards to the silent nature of the film but in the end it just doesn't work.