Blood for Dracula (1974)
By: Julian on May 14, 2010  | 
Beyond | All Regions, PAL | 1.85:1 (Non-anamorphic) | English DD 1.0 | 103 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Paul Morrissey
Starring: Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro, Arno Juerging, Vittorio de Sica, Silvia Dionisio
Screenplay: Paul Morrissey
Country: Italy
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The original Italian-language title of this Italo-French co-production can be directly translated to Dracula Looks for Virgin Blood... he's Dying of Thirst!, and that will give you a pretty good idea of what you can expect from Blood for Dracula. Andy Warhol's film prodigy Paul Morrissey's follow-up and companion piece to the utterly deranged video nasty Flesh for Frankenstein (this began production after the wrap-up lunch for Flesh) is similarly offbeat and grotesque, punctuated by reasonably effective humour and some neat little gore effects. This is a really tremendous exploitation film, made so chiefly by its narrative and lead characters' sleaze.

Udo Kier and Joe Dallesandro return from Flesh, along with director, crew and sets, as Blood for Dracula's leads. Cult favourite Kier (Exposé, Suspiria, Cigarette Burns) plays Count Dracula, a pale bloke from the hills of Transylvania whose preferred cuisine is the blood of virgins. Fleeing famine, Dracula and his assistant Anton (Arno Juerging, who played Baron von Frankenstein's assistant Otto in Flesh) head to Italy because – and this is one of the most stunningly politically incorrect premises I've ever witnessed in a film – Italian families are more religious, ergo their daughters are more likely to be virgins.

Armed with this logic, Anton and the Count wind up at the ailing estate of the financially crippled Marquis di Fiore (Vittorio de Sica). The estate houses the Marquis, his wife, and their four daughters, of whom only the eldest and the youngest haven't been deflowered by the smooth young Marxist groundskeeper Mario (Dallesandro). It doesn't take long for the savvy socialist to get to the bottom of the Count's plan, but Dracula isn't wasting any time either, winning over the Marquis with the cashed-up promise to marry one of his pure daughters.

Blood for Dracula is less violent than Flesh for Frankenstein but it's the superior entry of the two, with Factory worker Morrissey creating a high camp, super-high sleaze masterpiece. It's Kier who makes the film though, especially in those moments in which he convulses in the agony of virgin blood withdrawals and later throws up violently after feasting on one of the impure sisters while moaning "the blood of these whores is killing me!" Kier's pronunciation also provides some chuckles; creating some sort of drinking game around every time the Count drawls "were-gins" is sure to separate the men from the boys.

It's a unique touch to have Dracula written as a mewling, petulant freak whose power is only physically manifested by his iniquitous servant. There's also no discernible protagonist – the Marquis and his wife are insolvent bourgeoisie whose desperation to marry their daughters into wealth renders them blind to the Count's clearly solely sexual motives. The duplicitous Mario is unlikeable and grating and the daughters themselves (one of whom was played by Ruggero Deodato's then-wife Silvia Dionisio) are vapid and delight in the Count's advances. But it's this villainy that makes Blood for Dracula so inherently diabolical and so much fun – Morrissey, too, seems to delight in writing and filming entirely unsympathetic characters, and his film is better for it.

There is some debate among Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula fans as to how long Italian exploitation director Antonio Margheriti, an assistant and second unit director in both films and special effects artist in Flesh, actually sat in the director's chair. Italian and French releases credit Margheriti's Anglicised pseudonym, Anthony M Dawson, as having directed both films, whereas English-language releases credit Morrissey. Aesthetically, there's a lot here that indicates Margheriti was heavily influential – not least the final, graphically violent sequences that are a foreword to Cannibal Apocalypse. But the politics and sex bear Morrissey's indelible mark, particularly when viewed in the context of his earlier Warhol-produced films. Warhol's contribution, though, is universally regarded as being virtually in name only. Eagle-eyed viewers will spot the Roman Polanski cameo; the director was shooting Che? nearby.

Regardless of which man did the greater volume of work, Morrissey's erotic proclivities paired with Margheriti's thirst for bloodshed makes Blood for Dracula a genre favourite. Blood wasn't subjected to the same sort of censorship as Flesh was, probably because it was more geared toward the Factory not the Grindhouses. I certainly don't mean that pejoratively; the subject matter is stronger, the story is more cogent and the film itself flows well. A top exploitation movie.
Bad: plenty of artefacts and not a vibrant colour in sight severely diminishes the 1.85:1 transfer. Seeing Blood for Dracula in remastered form would be terrific – Morrissey, in cahoots with DP Luigi Kuveillier (fresh off Flesh, Kuveillier would later work on Argento's best film, Deep Red) present the di Fiori estate beautifully, evoking Italian Gothic horror cinema; some critics have commented this is Margheriti's influence at work.
The only track is presented in English Dolby Digital mono. It's pretty poor, with the dialogue frequently muffled. Claudio Gizzi wrote the film's score and it fits Blood's brooding atmosphere well.
Extra Features
None. The R1 is the way to go: Image's release of Blood for Dracula ports the commentary with Morrissey, Kier and film historian Maurice Yacowar from the out-of-print Criterion release, and includes screen tests and a photo gallery, both with commentaries by Morrissey.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
From the Count to Mario, Anton to the Marquis, the world in which Blood for Dracula is set is peopled by some of the most morally bereft human beings on the planet, who are subject to one of the most hysterically exploitative scenarios in genre cinema. This is absolutely brilliant, I can't recommend it enough.

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