Thursday, 28 January 2010

Tiempos duros para Drácula

Having turned up at the hospital in desperate need of a blood transfusion, a man claiming to be Count Dracula is referred to an analyst and proceeds to recount the sorry story of his life.

His troubles begin with having to live up to his family's daunting legacy and with having to bring in money to pay the mortgage on the family castle and the electricity bill, to which end he has turned it into a tourist trap.

Dracula greets visitors to his castle - Christopher Lee meets Howard Vernon

Unfortunately the number of visitors has declined and so the electricity company pulls the plug, forcing Dracula to pawn his cape...

Having got it back and wearing his top hat, he is mistaken for a chimney sweep and then berated for putting on airs and graces and failing to show the appropriate solidarity with his fellow worker...

He gets a job advertising a toothpaste – whether coincidentally or otherwise Fulci's Dracula in the Provinces featured a vampire who operates a toothpaste factory – but is then thrown out the studio when it is decided he looks too much like a famous politician...

Teeth / fangs


Women to be penetrated...


This is followed by playing Dracula in a kung-fu / horror / sexploitation film, in which he loses a fang in a fight scene. The dentist proposes a gold replacement which Dracula cannot afford, refuses to glue the apparently decayed tooth back in place, and throws him out of the surgery.

Surmising that the episode pretty much destroyed Dracula's self-prestige, the analyst suggests that a relationship with a good woman might help, only for Dracula to then recount another tale of woe as he marries Sonia, who proves only interested in him because he provided her with information for her book about vampires (?!) and divorces him soon thereafter, citing mental cruelty. If this wasn't enough, he also proves to be impotent...

So it continues for the rest of its 73 minute running time, with scene after scene piling on the embarrassments and failures – the picking up of a transvestite in a disco, being mistaken for a spy's contact, and so on.

The relative lack of a narrative drive doesn't particularly prove an issue through a combination of the film's brevity; the fact that enough of the scenes are entertaining and amusing; various incidentals and just the simple fact that it's put together nicely with everyone's contributions working together to produce something greater than the sum of the individual parts. First among equals here is writer director Jorge Darnell. Lifante, best known as Martin in Jorge Grau's Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue, is endearingly pathetic, whilst Adolfo Waitzman's piano, synth and concrete score manages to be both oppressive and quirky at the same time as it plays variations on Chopin's funeral march.

Fans of Spanish pop cinema will likely appreciate the spy scene as a riff on the street of spies in Lucky the Inscrutable, the seeming coincidence becoming an intentional reference when we also consider the presence of Jess Franco's regulars Luis Barboo and Antonio Mayans in the cast; the overt quotation of the director's 1970 Dracula as the film within the film, and the distinctive visual similarity between Jose Lifante's look and that of Howard Vernon in the same director's Dracula vs Frankenstein.

Another Franco trope - the Disney T-shirt?

Christopher Lee as a very different Dracula

Psychoanalytically minded types can play the game of identifying and explaining the phallic symbolism in advance of their on-screen counterpart does. Those beyond this may meanwhile care to consider the prevalence of mirrors within the mise en scene and what these say, in Lacanian terms, about this Dracula in relation to his imagined / idealised ancestor. They might also consider all this in relation to the film's nature as an Argentinian-Spanish co-production, given the enormous popularity psychoanalysis in general enjoys in the former country [cf.]

Perhaps the only people who may be disappointed are those seeking a bit more sex and violence, who would probably be better served by George A. Romero's Martin or Paul Morrissey and Antonio Margheriti's Blood for Dracula. Again, however, the incidental details of the film's nudity – or relative caution thereof – are of significance when we consider it as a 1976 film that pre-dated Francisco Franco's death and thus the destape – i.e. undressing – period that followed it.

In sum, a good film to show to the Eurocult naysayer.

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