Il Cavaliere Costante Nicosia (Lando Buzzanca) just about has it all: a beautiful wife, Mariu (Sylva Koscina) and mistress, Liu (Christa Linder) and a profitable business, Italy's largest toothpaste manufactory. Mariu and the business came together – by marrying Mariu Costante inherited the factory from her father; clearly nobody thought that Mariu might venture into the world of business in her own right nor ever assume anything other than decorative and familial roles. Perhaps the risk of contamination was too great; as proof, we can look at the example of Wanda Torsello (Francesca Romana Coluzzi), the militant communist union organiser.
Costante's good fortune in turn highlights the other dominant aspect of his make up: all manner of superstitious quasi religious, pre-capitalist beliefs, ranging from having a hunchback on the company payroll so that he can rub the man's hump for luck to getting the homely looking – and thus, by the logic of the genre, assuredly still virginal – live-in maid to urinate on the pieces of broken mirror as a means of counteracting the seven years bad luck it would otherwise bring.
“Dinner in Transylvania's always in the nude,” explains Dragalescu...
The Brides of Dragalescu close in
Costante falls asleep with one of the women...
The aforementioned contamination, meanwhile, could be considered a dominant theme of the film, emerging at just the point when Costante's luck runs out as, following a business trip to Romania and a half-remembered evening with Count Dragalescu (John Steiner) that begian with the count's three vampire brides but ended with the two men waking up in bed together, Costante comes to suspect that he has be infected with homosexuality.
Then awakens besides
Back in Brianza and finding himself gazing longingly at the buttocks of the company basketball team as they shower, Costante goes to see Dr Paluzzi (Rossano Brazzi) for advice:
“As I was saying about my cousin [...] he found himself in bed with the man who was his host.”
“No doctor, it isn't natural at all. This person isn't that kind of person. Well, anyway, he drank something. As a matter of fact I don't know what, but a whole bottle. He fell asleep smashed out of his skull. He didn't know what he was doing. That's the real truth of it doctor, that is the catch! He didn't know if he...”
“If he was penetrated or not.”
“I didn't want to put it that way exactly. Anyway, from that moment he gets these funny sensations any time he sees a naked man. He's afraid of becoming, he's afraid of turning into a...”
“What do you mean no, well then exactly what is he afraid he's turning into?”
“How can you say naturally! He isn't that kind of person, you understand! The man is happily married, a very influential person, financially secure. He has a mistress.”
“After your return from Romania, have you been to bed with a woman?”
“Me? Why do you want to know? I thought we were talking about my cousin. No I don't think he's been to bed with anyone because he's feeling miserable. He's probably afraid to go to bed with anyone in case his you-know-what doesn't work any more.”
“Ah yes, that's natural. But he shouldn't worry about it. Talk to your, em, cousin and reassure him. [...] The fact is that one doesn't turn into a homosexual like that in only two hours.”
“Yes, that's what I told him too, but the jerk he wouldn't listen.”
“But you said he was having an affair on the side. That's great: he should go straight to her, do what comes naturally. I guarantee he'll feel better right away unless... unless he's unable to perform. Then we know that on that night you described in such detail he was ...”
When Liu then accidentally cuts herself and Costante sucks the blood out the wound less it result in an infection another truth thus begins to dawn: he has become a vampire.
Whether this is better or worse depends, of course, on if this condition has taken is a distinctly masculine oral-sadistic or more worryingly polymorphously perverse form.
Or, in less Freudian terms, is Costante a heterosexual vampire or not?
This 1975 comedy forms a natural companion piece to The Eroticist, a satirical fantasy-comedy one-two that showcase Lucio Fulci's versatility and the evident rapport he had with leading man Lando Buzzanca.
The main difference between the two films is perhaps that whereas The Eroticist's affinities with the rest of Fulci's work were evident at both the levels of form and content, the balance in Il Cav. Costante Nicosia demoniaco, ovvero: Dracula in Brianza / Dracula in the Provinces shifts somewhat towards the latter, with a more restrained – if still excessive - mise en scène and fewer set-pieces.
Another way of saying this might be to suggest that if The Eroticist was the film of a Surrealist-Marxist, Dracula in the Provinces is the film of a Marxist-Surrealist, premised on the notion that “Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks,” to quote Marx, albeit a Marx clearly in more poetic than scientific mood.
Given the to-and-fro of influence between Fulci and Argento, it's worth nothing that the film also features a German shepherd guard dog called Gestapo with a tendency to attack people according to its own distinctive unfathomable logic, two years before Suspiria.
Il Cav. Costante Nicosia demoniaco, ovvero: Dracula in Brianza is essential viewing for anyone working on a comparative study of political and sexual subtexts in the European horror-comedy/satire of the period (alongside Vampire Sterben Nichts, Dance of the Vampires, Hanno cambiato faccia and the Warhol/Morrisey/Margheriti Dracula and Frankenstein pair etc.) or who just enjoys something a bit more immediately thought-provoking than the usual T&A driven Italian comedies of the 1970s.