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I usually don't comment on material like this, but come ON. This has to
be the worst holiday special ever, and I've seen "A Louie Anderson
Christmas" which at least had a couple of subtle laughs in it. This one
has nothing to offer except a twisted study of, yes, Liberal Hollywood
pet issues on display masquerading as entertainment. And no, I don't
listen to Rush Limbaugh, reached these conclusions on my own, and am
appalled by how utterly vapid this is as a family entertainment. Pardon
me if I take it seriously, but kids aren't stupid and deserve better
First off, Christmas is gone, which is odd considering that Frosty is supposed to be a children's Christmas character. They even took his pipe away since we all know that smoking snowmen will be a bad influence on kids. Instead of a holiday, the focus of the retards in this special's town is a non-denominational "Winter Carnival" that is featured so prominently in the dialog that you get the feeling at the screenplay stage somebody literally crossed out the word "Christmas" whenever it was used and wrote "Winter Carnival" over it instead in an effort to make the cartoon more audience-inclusive for those who don't celebrate Christmas. Gee. Also, the whole "miracle" of Frosty's creation is utterly ignored (which makes sense, since we're working any kind of spiritual angle out of this to make way for more consumerism), making the choice of Frosty as the focal character arbitrary & meaningless. Why didn't they just create their own non-denominational Winter Carnival character? The answer is to cash in on the public's fondness for the popular Rankin/Bass cartoons that came before. It's just crass commercialism.
Next, the bad guy in the plot is a mean wicked Capitalist who drives around in a stretch limousine polluting the environment with aerosol spray can chemicals that eliminate snow, with his flunky brainwashed nature backstabbing rabbit doing the dirty work. It's not magic spray or anything either, just chemistry, and the mean rich Capitalist threatens to disrupt the non-denominational Winter Carnival by making the snow disappear without even asking for anyone's permission first. He just goes ahead and does it to impose his own will upon nature, just like certain pinheads would have you believe that the world's industry does in a deliberate effort to ruin the planet. Even more telling is that the meanie Capitalist isn't even allowed to learn or grow or be changed by the events, he's simply a two dimensional bastard for everyone to hate and go right on hating even after the show is over.
Which brings us to the issue of environmentalism, clumsily imposed on the story in the cartoon's big moment of revelation where the mean Capitalist is exposed as the threat to everyone's communal happiness as he is lectured to by an 8 year old girl about how snow is as important as sunlight and rain and, yes, clean air for everyone to breathe. This isn't holiday entertainment, it's a subtle form of indoctrination aimed at school kids. And I'd like to invite whomever came up with the idea about grumpy fun-wrecking adults not enjoying shoveling to come to Syracuse and deal with my sidewalk after a healthy dose of lake effect snow. Just once.
That leaves us with the songs, which are execrable. Why didn't they bother to get Joan Baez or someone with some actual talent to work these political messages into some songs worth listening to? The answer is because it didn't matter, and that the whole special is a contrivance. I'm one of those people who think that entertainment for children should be even more meaningful and worthwhile than entertainment for adults and something about this special doesn't pass the smell test. It comes across as a filmed deal with a bunch of celebrities providing the voices because their agents thought it would be a good career move to be involved with a non- denominational seasonal family special that has an environmental message to it.
2/10: Skip it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm a delightfully reformed proto-Goth who used to take great solace on
barren nights back in my college days by securing a healthy dose of
alcohol, couple of smokes, a bag of Andy Capp cheddar fries and then
off to the cemetery with my Tom Waits tape at about 2:30 AM. If you
listened carefully you could hear me singing drunkenly about being in
the cold, cold ground ... There was something quietly reassuring about
being there, knowing that you weren't exactly alone and if you minded
your P's and Q's the dead might actually enjoy the company, and a
Eventually I grew out of the phase but if there is one thing that I did know during that time it was to NEVER bring a date to the cemetery. I know for a fact that the world is populated by gormless Goth chicks who get into the whole death trip & have a macabre side to them that might make it conducive to try scoring with them amid the tombs (and will probably love this movie). But see, the cemetery was a place for peaceful solitary reflection, and at the time was relatively safe since nobody in their right minds would walk out into a cemetery at 2 in the morning to look for someone to mess with.
So right away in Jean Rollin's NIGHT IN THE CEMETERY (which is a much better title than ROSE OF IRON) the guy blows it when he picks a dalliance in a local overgrown run down French cemetery as the place to bring a young lady he meets at a wedding party. Not exactly the brightest bulb in the lighthouse mind you, but she's a fetching lass and he gets to score with her down in a crypt that just happens to be unlocked. Later, they realize it's gotten dark outside and they find themselves lost within a cemetery that actually looks like several bone yards that have been combined into one using clever cross cutting.
This is actually where the film gets interesting, because there literally is no end to the place. It's also wonderfully overgrown with rusted iron fencing, crumbling monuments and statues. But it's also about here that they start going a bit batty, the girl in particular. She starts to imagine herself as being at one with the dead and preferring their quiet, peaceful non- existence to the hustle & bustle of modern day life. Which is exactly the point of hanging out in the cemetery in the first place, though you'd think they would have brought plenty of extra booze and some Tom Waits.
Eventually she goes completely to pieces and decides that death is more favorable than life itself. The two find themselves back in the tomb which becomes suddenly airless and capped off by an old woman's vase of flowers. The whole movie is like a weird, perverse nightmare complete with a scene where the pair copulate on a pile of bones in an open mass grave. Others are right on the money when they comment that not much happens in the film and I for one actually wish that even less happened. There is a languid, poetic nature to the proceedings that are wonderfully lyrical in their juxtaposition of death & decay next to young fleshy breasts.
How come people can't make movies like this anymore? The one thing I kept thinking of was how you simply couldn't make a movie like this in 2008 no matter how you tried. There would need to be a subplot about gangsters or a love rival, maybe a car chase and a couple of big special effects sequences where the ghosts rise up to dance with the young lady as she frolics amidst the headstones. Jean Rollin is not my favorite of directors and this isn't quite my favorite of his films -- try FRISSONS LES VAMPIRES for some real fireworks -- but it's got something going on that's quite unique even amongst his catalog of work. He knew what he was after here and got it, pure and simple. There's something to be admired in that.
Let's see, MARK OF THE DEVIL PART 2, gee whiz. I've had a difficult
time trying to think of exactly what to say about this movie since I
managed to see it last spring. To call it unpleasant would be kind.
It's perhaps the sleaziest, scummiest example of the early 1970s Euro
Horror exploitation movie fad that I can think of, a film that appears
to be genuinely ineptly made from the ground up, with only some amusing
costuming and bizarre interior location choices to really recommend it
to casual viewers just looking for cheap thrills.
The notoriety of the film is partly based on it's current unavailability. The only way to see it these days is to find one of the gray market unlicensed home video transfers floating around sourced from overseas prints with gibberish subtitles burnt into the picture. Usually I would say that's a shame but in the case of MARK OF THE DEVIL PART 2 it's pretty much what the movie deserves; this is among the few genuine horror movies which come to mind had to be cut even to qualify for an "X" rating, which is saying a lot. Having it restored to it's original full length is not really a pressing issue for humanity right now, though sadly it would probably be a brisk seller. People love this kind of crap.
For those who aren't in the know, the MARK OF THE DEVIL films were part of a brief flurry of "Witchfinder General" torture show movies inspired by Michael Reeves' controversial period thriller CONQUEROR WORM, a wildly popular artistic statement about man's inhumanity to his fellow man that was exactly the movie the world had coming to it in 1968. The idea was to explore the possibilities of inflicting suffering on the supporting cast by evoking the pre-Reformation era of Puritanical Inquisitional hysteria, with an omnipotent, otherwise untouchable torture artist going from town to town condemning people as witches for kicks. In addition to the original MARK OF THE DEVIL and MARK PART 2, both courtesy of Mr. Adrian Hoven, there's Ken Russell's timeless favorite THE DEVILS, Jess Franco's THE BLOODY JUDGE with Christopher Lee, Bernardo Arias' nauseating THE INQUSITOR, and Jacinto Molina's INQUSICION as an eroticized Spanish twist on the theme. My but they are delightful movies.
I don't even really remember the exact premise behind MARK PART 2, something about a traveling family of nobelpersons who run afoul of a local magistrate using religious frenzy as an excuse to shackle up anybody who displeases him and torture the living *beep* out of the poor sods. Reggie Nalder -- whom "Star Trek" fans may recognize as the blue Andorian ambassador from the original series episode "Journey To Babel" -- is a perfect embodiment of evil as the ghoulish, power crazed maniac who's official torture experts go to work on Erika Blanc and anybody else whom they can justify throwing onto the rack.
Watching the film was a difficult experience, not only because of how unpleasant the proceedings are but due to the nature of the home video version I found myself in possession of, which appears to have been made from a bunch of 3 minute long MPEG clips of the film that were smuggled out of Scandanavia on a pile of 1.4mb floppy discs and joined together by someone on crack using a freeware editing tool. And yet quite frankly that's probably about what the movie deserves, it enhanced the forbidden, sleazy, scumbag nature of the whole affair.
My favorite segment was what I call The Shoes Of Fire Ordeal, which admittedly is one of the most ingenious torture gimmicks ever cooked up. Euro Horror favorite Anton Diffring (in the film's Oliver Reed role) is first beaten senseless, nearly drowned in freezing water, and when he still won't confess to being in league with the devil, Nalder's henchmen fill a pair of over-sized iron clogs with burning coals and shove the guy's bare feet into them. Ouch.
We also get a bit of Nunsploitation fare as the fetching young Sinead O'Connor lookalike baldie nun finds herself being whipped, groped, raped, singed, pierced, and ultimately kindled up on the ole' witch burning stake by assorted lesbians and disgusting fat slob jailers who take great joy in her suffering. I didn't, but then again this movie was not made for me. I am not sure exactly who the target audience was but they are out there somewhere, waiting for this movie to be restored to DVD from the original pre-cut elements. I wish them luck.
Not sure what else to say about the movie. I've heard it described as "hilarious" by others and there were indeed plenty of bad laugh moments during the proceedings, especially if you watch it while consuming alcohol which is probably the only recommended way to approach the material. The whole concept of the movie is ridiculous, with whatever statement they were trying to make about the hypocrisy of organized religion being lost in the shuffle of vomit, bile, mucous, and blood. The movie was also ineptly made on a nonexistent budget, which is par for the course, yet there is a sort of bizarre, clammy, claustrophobic atmosphere achieved based on the unique Northern European locations used for the filming, and the crypto Dutch Quaker costumes are quite funny.
That's about the only positive thing I can say about it, though. I certainly didn't enjoy the movie's over-hyped sadism very much, but having it under my belt means that for the rest of my life I can concentrate on watching things that are perhaps more rewarding. I can also now use this movie as a sort of barometer by which to judge other films -- "It didn't suck as bad as MARK OF THE DEVIL PART 2", or maybe "It actually managed to suck even more than MARK OF THE DEVIL PART 2". Can't wait to use that line.
I am not sure how I ended up witnessing this movie, most of it wasn't
memorable, some drivel about Bob Hope wanting to get a divorce from
Jane Wyman while at the same time imparting a conservative
family-values mindset on his son (or was it his daughter?) who was
betrothed to Jackie Gleason's daughter (or was it his son?). There's
some sort of nonsense about a traveling psychedelic swami show coming
to town and Hope impersonating the swami to try and lecture his young
son on the importance of a proper marriage ... odd movie.
The centerpiece of the film is howlingly funny, however, as Jackie Gleason suckers Bob Hope into playing a game of golf against Mildred the Chimp for a wager. It's a sucker bet too, and Gleason doesn't even have to rig the game: Gladys humiliates Hope with a display of golf prowess that would have made Jack Nicklaus blush. For some reason I found it hyperventilatingly funny, having trouble breathing as Hope & Gleason decked out in polyester golf outfits find themselves upstaged by a monkey. Only in America.
Hammer's surprisingly austere THE VAMPIRE LOVERS is a film I've had a
love-hate relationship with. It's easily one of their more impressive
latter-era efforts, an exquisitely well made movie that was right on
time as far as anticipating (or precipitating, depending on how you
look at it) the "Sexy Horror" boom years of the early to mid 1970s.
Mixing fleshy eroticism with impeccably staged vampire horror movie
hi-jinx, the film is a culmination of sorts of their Gothic horror
classics, putting the boobs & blood they had always hinted at on ample
display. Nearly every European made horror film that came after it
pretty much required the same approach as audiences began to demand
more & more explicit visions of erotic horror tinged with a Gothic
All that said it's a film that for me has parts that work brilliantly and some that don't. I will let others outline the plot, which was more or less adapted faithfully from Sheridan le Fanu's "Carmilla", with it's famed bisexual vampiress of the same name embodied almost perfectly by Ingrid Pitt and her 32 DD chest. The film rightfully propelled her into international stardom, and played host to one of Peter Cushing's most understated performances as an aristocrat who's pretty niece falls under Pitt's sway. And it is a testimony to Cushing's professionalism as an actor that he is still able to impart his trademark dire urgency & concern on the affairs even when the girls are snuggling each other's boobies. That man was a rock.
One interesting angle to the film is how the Brits portray Carmilla's sexual invasion of the staid, mannered lifestyle of the patriarchal power structure of the film as a threat to stability more than a malignant vampiric force of evil. The male actors who lead the cast are far more worried about why their pretty daughters suddenly aren't eating enough or interested in the local strapping young menfolk at hand then seeming to be frightened by some curse from beyond the grave. Even as Pitt's voluptuous vampiress insinuates herself into their households they still ring their dinner gongs at six and offer proper selections of wine: Her threat is to their pattern of existence, with the alternative sexuality of lesbianism proving to be the greater concern. The only way to rid themselves of her is of course to bare her cleavage, stake her with an amusingly phallic tree branch, and then gorily lop off her head. The sexploitation is the foreplay but the payoff moneyshot is the butchering of the infestation of buxom bloodsucking homewreckers. It's so important to the film that they manage to show it being done three times. One never tires of a good decapitation, and Peter Cushing even gets to swing the blade.
Believe it or not it's the sexploitation angle that always sort of annoys me since by the nature of British cinema circa 1970 they couldn't go all the way. THE VAMPIRE LOVERS succeeds when concentrating on being a twisted, spooky little ghost story about a young woman cursed to an eternity of vampirism, and Ms. Pitt does a fine job of conveying the inner torment Carmilla feels while feeding off her beloved victims. It works best for me as a sort of tragedy with misty castles & waif like figures swirling in the blue-lit gloom, while the much vaunted fleshy eroticisms have a kind of awkwardness to them, no doubt due in part to Hammer's long running problems with British censors who found some of the more ripe material objectionable (there are allegedly some omissions to even the most current releases of the film that have proved troublesome to restore after the original elements were lost). They sort of had to pull a few punches, where more overtly sexualized material inspired by it goes straight for the heaving jugular: Jacinto Molina's DRACULA'S GREAT LOVE and Jess Franco's EROTIKLL (FEMALE VAMPIRE) being perhaps the two most vivid examples of what I am getting at.
It's important to keep in mind however that it's not really Hammer's fault, they were doing what they could with the material within the constrains of British decency, and the spooky Gothic ghost story stuff works wonders. The movie is worth sitting through just to see their Karnstein Castle set, which is a marvel of atmospherics that nobody else has quite been able to equal in the 38 years that have passed since the film was made. Jack Molina came close, but there is a picture postcard "Adult Fairy Tale" quality to Hammer's production that always manages to be respectable even when the lead actress is going down on one of her victims. Leave it to Hammer to make a classy sexploitation potboiler that never relies on overtly graphic imagery to make it's case; It's more sort of suggestive and dreamy, hypnotically watchable, and a simple enough story to work in spite of how ridiculous it all is if you make the mistake of actually thinking about it too much.
That's the Hammer touch, they have a way of turning otherwise ridiculous scenarios into sublime little works of art, and there is no way to deny that THE VAMPIRE LOVERS is one of their most sublime movies. I prefer some of their more openly silly efforts like TWINS OF EVIL or the outrageous VAMPIRE CIRCUS, but to each his own. One has to recognize greatness when presented by it, and THE VAMPIRE LOVERS is one of the great little Euro Sexy Horror movies from the early 1970s. If you follow the genre you'd better have it at your disposal, and if you haven't seen it you are missing out on a little treat. Even if it is just a tad over-rated.
6/10, as far as these things go at at least.
"Tarzan and the Valley of Gold" is one of the most bizarre and
entertaining movies I have seen in quite a while. A number of questions
come to mind, not the least of which was When exactly did Tarzan learn
how to operate a tank in battle?
The answer is rooted in the objective of the film, which was to update Tarzan to compete with James Bond. Since 007 is naturally familiar with all methods of transport and can successfully employ any firearm ever made, it should go without saying that Tarzan would be just as handy with whatever means are at his disposal. He could probably disarm a nuke and target missiles to blast each other in midair too if the plot depended on it.
Some have questioned why Tarzan would travel to Mexico dressed in a suit, and I challenge that with basic knowledge of Edgar Rice Borroughs' novels where Tarzan at one point travels to America to find Jane and then settles down with her at the Greystoke Estate in England -- do people think he went all that distance in a loincloth?
Mike Henry is great as Tarzan. In the first six minutes of the movie he shoots a guy in the face during a botched assassination attempt, then crushes another guy under a giant Coca-Cola bottle in what has to be the most clever product placement I've seen in a movie since James Bond back-flipped an opponent into a stack of empty Red Stripe Lager boxes.
The film is exceedingly violent. I would put a rough estimate of the body count at about fifty, including the innocent peasants gunned down by the evil crime syndicate's henchmen. Tarzan himself wipes out about forty guys including three goons in a helicopter he takes out in a wonderful ripoff of "From Russia With Love"'s famous helicopter duel. Instead of just shooting the pilot Tarzan rigs a bolo using a couple of grenades and hooks it around the engine block. Those jungle skills pay off in the most unusual ways.
Tarzan is of course dispatched to Mexico to get into a game of wits with an evil crime syndicate boss whose forces have kidnapped a young boy to give young boys in the audience someone to identify with -- this is a family adventure film, we remind ourselves, as Tarzan uses a Browning Automatic Rifle to machine gun down a bunch of thugs in a cave, blows up a truck full of men, and then asphyxiates the big evil goon character in the film's showdown by half-Nelsoning the guy to death.
He is the perfect Vietnam War era action hero, so de-sensitized to carnage & suffering that all he can manage to come up with to console the young boy with is "Hey, what's all this now? " when the kid starts crying out of concern that his people will be massacred by the guys in the tanks. Some of them are but nobody really seems to care about it that much, and in the concluding wrapping it all up speech the tribal leader admits that sometimes you need to resort to violence after all.
The Mike Henry Tarzan films are apparently a body of work that were so dangerous for the performers to make that Henry very understandably declined to work on the Ron Ely Tarzan television show of the same era after Dinky the Chimp bit Henry in the jaw on the set of the next adventure, requiring twenty stitches to sew up and giving Henry a case of "Chimp Fever" that took him out of the production for three weeks while he recovered. Just what Chimp Fever is I have no idea and even less interest to learn.
The issue of unsafe work conditions is even further underscored by Ron Ely's string of injuries incurred while he worked on the TV show, and looking at the hands on approach to the stunt work evident in this movie it's a miracle that nobody was killed making these films. This is one of those movies that make you wonder just what the HELL people were thinking when they cooked it up: Out of control helicopters, live ammunition, explosions going off right next to the star performers, you name it.
I will agree that Mike Henry does make a fabulous Tarzan, and to remind us of just who the hero was they even let him swing on a couple of vines, though I was disappointed that he never gave that famous Tarzan yell ... though then again since there are no elephants native to Mexico to stampede the effect would have been gratuitous.
And yet there is something hypnotically watchable about the film, including a marvelous sequence where a jaguar sets off in search of the boy & Tarzan trots along behind with a wonderful little jazz music score twittering in the background. The makers of this movie were definitely onto something and it's too bad the franchise sort of petered out, leaving it up to the Italians to continue with their own unofficial series with names like Tarzak, Zambo, and Zan, which are no more silly, improbable, or entertaining than this movie.
And had more women. There is only one in this whole film and while she is a comely little lass Tarzan seems about as fascinated by her as he is by that Coke bottle he pushes over on the assassin in the beginning of the movie. Is he so smitten by Jane that the thought of intimately interacting with another woman never enters his mind? As the credits roll they walk off into the sunset, and something tells me he never busted a move on her. In any event it's immensely entertaining and Tarzan saves the day with just a good rope, a hunting knife, and a soft piece of leather. Sounds kinky.
My 5/10 "neutral" rating is usually reserved for movies that are sort
of difficult to assess in the forms in which they may be available.
Such is the case here with his genuinely bizarre oddity of the Euro
Horror fad from the early 1970s, a deservedly obscure ultra low budget
attempt to make a vampire movie without a vampire.
The only version I have been able to see for myself is a somewhat ragged Spanish language print that has the trappings of a genuinely interesting film: Gothic location work galore, some demented shock sequences involving chains & manacles & vaulted crypt like dungeons, girls being abused and molested by some freak in a strange half costume, and an interesting aura of gloomy, autumn countrysides crossed with dank cloistered claustrophobia. Even if I don't understand the language it's a pleasure to look at.
There's some sort of story going on about a scientist (George Rigaud, looking respectable as always) who tries to tell a wandering occult expert (spaghetti western stalwart Frank Brana) about his efforts to revive the corpse of an Egyptian mummy who never quite decomposed after being shuttled into his coffin. He succeeds and quickly comes to regret it as the mummy starts to exhibit Christopher Lee like tendencies involving hypnotizing various supporting cast members to do his evil bidding.
One of the bizarre touches the film treats us to is the lack of a mummy costume. Instead we get a sort of 12th grade talent show production's vision of what an Egyptian sorcerer might have looked like before the gauze wrappings were applied. And once revived the fiend must glut itself on the blood of pretty half-naked Euro Horror babes who have been chained up by Rigaud's hypnotized servant.
Being a Spanish production from the early 1970s there were no doubt two versions made to appease dictator Generalissimo Franco's banning of frontal nudity from his cinemas during his reign, and sadly one of the few surviving home video versions was struck from a Spanish language print that doesn't contain the sexualized horror that this sort of material usually calls for. There's some adequate scenes of sadism on the part of the mummy that leads to the expected bloodletting, but something tells me we're only seeing half of the picture in this shaky 16mm Spanish print, and as such its somewhat difficult to assess.
There is one really effective sequence when the suitor of one of the abducted Euro Horror babes tracks her abductor down to the marvelously crumbled & dank castle (or castles, since some of the interiors have a decidedly French look to them, others look familiar from Spanish outings) and has to worm his way inside like Gollum, only to find himself pitted against an evil against which there is no real defense. The hopelessness of the situation is actually kind of compelling in a way, even if in the end it doesn't amount to much.
Fans of spaghetti westerns will probably recognize some of the Spanish & French countrysides used for the exteriors, and die hard fans of vaulted, decrepit Euro Horrors will probably be delighted by the results, which have been filmed with a unique sort of eye for detail including an interesting use of dissolves & editing segues. I wish I had a better idea what was going on however, and interested readers should follow the "External Reviews" link to a more comprehensive review of the film by Euro Horror expert Robert Monel, whom it just happens that I acquired my copy of the film from. Small internet somedays.
5/10: If you find an English language version let me know ...
Under most circumstances I award films that can't be appraised honestly
a neutral 5/10 score, and there are many reasons for doing so.
Extensive cuts, abominable presentations, impenetrable dubbing,
re-editing by distributors who were too clueless to just leave the
movie alone, and content that is too oblique for traditional critical
"Dracula & Son" has all of that going wrong to begin with, and then some. Currently the film only exists -- as far as I know -- in an abominable, unfunny, disheartening 78 minute fullscreen hack-job recycled from a Columbia Pictures Home Video release from 1982. I adore Christopher Lee and have a thing for bizarre, offbeat, low budget European genre films. To say this movie sucks misses the point, however, that what we are seeing in the 78 minute English print is NOT the movie that was originally made in 1976. Until that turns up, this will have to do. Ugh.
History tells us that the film was shot in France and Yugoslavia in French with the multi- lingual Christopher Lee first speaking his lines in English on camera which he sportingly dubbed into French himself for the original 96 minute version. For whatever reason, Columbia Pictures (who picked up the movie for distribution in Britain & America) then had a voice actor re-dub Lee's voice back into English all over again when they finally got around to releasing it in the new world in 1979.
Not only that, but as seen in this English print everybody's voices have been re-dubbed by what sounds like American voice actors who liked to do tons of cocaine, thought they were unbearably funny, and got a kick out of "Young Frankenstein", with lots of dork-rod Brooklyn accents for Dracula, his nebbish son (Bernard Menez, looking confused most of the time), their fetching French love interest (sexy Marie-Hélène Breillat), and everybody else in the movie ... all of whom are obviously French, and do not look like they grew up on Flatbush Avenue. Just watching the movie for the first time is an extremely painful experience, and it's only after multiple forced screenings that some of the gags have started to become even mildly amusing.
A bit more research, however, reveals some interesting information: "Dracula & Son" is in fact Christopher Lee's final performance as Count Dracula to date. The film's basic story was apparently adapted from a novel of the same name. And this was the 2nd horror/comedy vehicle for it's co-star, Bernard Menez, for whom this was a 2nd try at mixing vampire thrills with a sex/comedy twist and starring a former Hammer Films bigwig after 1974's even more obscure "Tendre Dracula", with Peter Cushing in his only screen appearance as the Count. Which is a better film because they had less to work with, had to push themselves, and came up with more, where it seems with "Dracula & Son" they had more money, more access to locations & talents, and less disciplined results.
So I am not sure what to say about this movie. It's impossible to really judge it based upon what's left to see now after 30 years of neglect & abuse. How about this: You should probably make a point to see it for yourself, and if you find yourself not disliking it too intensely, be pleased. Hopefully someone will restore this to it's complete length, there's no way to really assess the film as it exists now. But something just tells me that even then it would still suck.
It's odd to consider that out of all the films by Hammer which have
found their way onto DVD with all of the "Making Of" featurettes and
Behind The Scenes films, nobody has bothered to re-release this nearly
definitive British television hour long special dedicated to the 40th
anniversary of Hammer From from 1987. It is absolutely essential
viewing for any horror fan weaned on Britain's finest independent film
studios, featuring priceless interview segments with not only a
grandfatherly Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee -- Hamming it up inside
of a ring of lit candles -- but many of Hammer's own best & brightest
stars from behind the camera: Jimmy Sangster, Anthony Hinds, producer
Aida Young, Michael Carreras, composer James Bernard. Even Martin
Scorcese gets a word or two in edgewise praising Hammer for many a
misspent afternoon as a youth. My own favorite segment is an outtake
from a film showing an early Hammer production in progress with good
old James Needs editing film right there on his Moviola machine. Nobody
else did it quite like Hammer, they had many imitators and influenced
many others, and this glimpse at their history will delight any fan.
Search for it on YouTube, someone's bound to have uploaded it from a bootleg tape, a copy of which I managed to acquire without even realizing it.
I usually try to avoid "defending" movies that I like. If people get it
fine, if they don't, well them's the breaks. However I too profess to
having been unsold on the charms of LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES for
ages. But now after finally having seen a restored widescreen
presentation courtesy of Anchor Bay I am convinced that one of the
reasons why the effort left me cold the first few times through was due
to the miserable, scrappy, fullscreen home video versions available
previously which excluded as much as 12 minutes of footage.
I came of age during the home video years and heading out every week to the various rental shops in our area to see what Hammer or Hammer related flicks we could find became a regular past time. Certain movies were relatively easy to locate but we'd always heard about this legendary kung-fu/Dracula hybrid by Hammer that was made significant by Peter Cushing's final appearance as Professor Van Helsing, the world expert on the Undead. Rumor had it that the movie involved Van Helsing tracing the elusive Count Dracula to colonial era China where he'd set up shop and acquired a taste for the local food. Hijinx awaited in the form of supernatural kung-fu battles with a band of seven specialist martial arts masters, who were of course brothers, fighting off legions of vampiric barbarians. Somehow the combination sounded like trying to mix oil with water and when I finally managed to find the meager VHS release of the film my apprehension was proved well- founded by a muddled mix of Gothic horror chills with difficult to follow chop-socky interludes. The pan-and-scan compression of the widescreen shots was dizzying, the vampire interludes were anything but the dreamy "foggy castle on a hill" variety that Hammer had become specialists in, with lots of insert shots of Peter Cushing standing around looking concerned while Julie Ege's bosoms heaved, cruelly encased in her cleavage baring tops.
It turns out however that much of this muddling and cockamamie mish-mashing was due to the confinement of Roy Ward Baker (directing the talking scenes) and Cheh Chang's (directing the martial arts scenes) marvelous widescreen 2:35:1 Techniscope photography into a claustrophobic, nappy lookin' fullscreen image. Fading of color and reduction print distortions didn't help much, and my opinion now after seeing the widescreen print is that much of the disdain aimed at the film is in fact aimed at the miserable presentations that have been available until now.
Sure, it's still a bit cobbled together. Hammer's grip on the marketplace was tenuous at best by 1974, THE EXORCIST and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD had happened and they were still banking on Gothic shenanigans to sell movie tickets. One result was the creation of these genre crossing hybrids like LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES mixing martial arts mayhem with Gothic chills, and CAPTAIN KRONOS - VAMPIRE HUNTER which effectively blended the Spaghetti Western, swashbuckling high-adventure and the Gothic nightgowns blowing in the wind. The public didn't seem to care but the result were two very charming movies that had the gall to be different, even if horror fans had moved on. Hammer was hoping to extend their life by coming up with some new series and their collaboration with Shaw Brothers productions was perhaps both ahead of its times while a year or three too late to save the company. It was a glorious failure that deserves to be seen again now that present day technology can give viewers a better estimation of the movie's intended form. It is surprisingly entertaining and compulsively watchable.
What I would recommend is that anybody who may have heard of LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES should give it a try, and anyone who had dismissed it before as a crummy home video oddity to try it again now that the original full-length widescreen version is readily available. It's still somewhat confusing if you are looking for a discreet, beginning-middle- end story progression. But when taken as it's individual moments strung together into a greater whole some of it is actually quite compelling: Slow-motion legions of the Undead riding horseback whilst slaughtering the populace & making off with all the hot chicks (the Blind Dead, anyone?), torture chambers with topless girls strapped down to a bizarre rack designed to drain their blood, the re-insertion of some amusingly clever gore shots, James Bernard's at times utterly surreal & way under-appreciated musical score recalling some of his Dracula themes while experimenting with more Eastern inspired sounds, traditional non-wire guided kung fu fights with all the bravado and forced sentiment of a classic martial arts film, and rest assured, plenty of insert shots of Peter Cushing standing there looking concerned.
Just by turning his head slightly to the side and raising an eyebrow Peter Cushing is a treat, nobody can look concerned or impart a sense of dire urgency into an audience like Peter Cushing: It may be an odd movie but it does feature some of his best work at appearing concerned and some of the urgencies that he imparts within viewers are the most dire of his career. Yeah, he was getting old and tired and probably looked upon the movie as an expense paid trip to China to help him forget the sorrow of his wife's passing. But by golly he made the movie and if he means anything to you it simply must be seen because it is his last screen turn as one of his classic Gothic horror characters. Try it again, make sure it's a widescreen version, pop plenty of popcorn, perhaps an adult beverage or two, and put down the lights. Turns out it's not a bad movie after all.
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