Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969)

Poster for Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) by #AlAdamson

w/#JohnCarradine #PaulaRaymond #AlexanderDArcy #RobertDix

“HORROR BEYOND BELIEF LIES WAITING FOR ALL WHO DARE ENTER THE VAMPIRE’S DUNGEON!”

“…YOU’LL NEVER GET OUT!”

#Horror
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

By now it should be fairly obvious that I’m a fan of Al Adamson. As one of my Twitter buddies once said, “You’re either a fan, or you’re not.” And I think it’s fair to say that there are plenty of people in this world who are not. They may want to avoid Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) like the plague. Even I, as a fan of Al Adamson, have my doubts about whether this one is all that great. Al intended it to be a comedy, and as people like L.A. Morse have observed, (and I paraphrase greatly here):

“Bad movies can be hilarious and fun – but bad comedies are just bad.”

Indeed. If a comedy is funny, how can it be bad? So the term “bad comedy”, pretty much implies unfunny movie. “Bad horror film,” on the other hand, can mean get ready to laugh your ass off. At least that’s what it seemed to mean to my friends and me when we were teenagers. As an adult, I seem to have developed a way of enjoying bad movies without laughing –  but that’s another story…

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve watched Blood of Dracula’s Castle at least four times in my life. LIke all of Al Adamson’s work, it has it’s rewards. I just don’t think it’s his best work. 

One of the things that always surprises me about Blood of Dracula’s Castle, is the fact that John Carradine is in it but he doesn’t play Dracula. You’d think I’d remember that after seeing the film multiple times, but John Carradine is such a natural choice to play Dracula  – in fact, he did that twice before this (House of Dracula (1945), and House of Frankenstein (1944)) – that I always just assume that he did it for Al Adamson, too. But alas, no…

Alexander D’Arcy plays the famous vampire in this movie, and he’s kind of a charming, likeable version of the count. His wife, the Countess, is played by Paula Raymond, who has about 90 credits as an actress – including appearances on many famous TV shows. Carradine plays George, their Butler.

Blood of Dracula’s Castle is a pretty silly movie. It’s not much of a comedy, although it does provide a few laughs here and there (I’m not sure how intentional they were). It features attractive women chained to the wall in the dungeon, but it manages to be fairly light on the sleaze. It’s also pretty tame in the violence department. In spite of this, there was an alternate TV version of the movie created with new footage directed by . Not sure why they couldn’t just air the original version. It may simply be that they needed to stretch out the running time a bit. There’s really nothing too offensive in it (which may be one reason that it’s less fun that many of Al’s other movies).

Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) is most definitely #NotQuiteClassicCinema. If I’d seen it as a kid, on Not Quite Classic Theatre, I’m sure I would have thought it was the worst movie I’d ever seen. Many of the films they showed back then were really quite good. This one is not. But still, there’s a certain charm to it. And I’d like to think that it would have inspired me, the way so many of those movies did back then, by making me think “Hey, I could do better than this…”. Perhaps I would have scribbled down a bunch of ideas for my own weird, modern day Dracula story. Who knows?

As it is, it’s always seemed like a perfect second or third feature in an all night bad movie marathon. It’s unlikely to be the highlight of the night, but it just might provide some welcome relief between the edgier, more intense entries in your next #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Curse of the Undead (1959)

Poster for Curse of the Undead (1959)Curse of the Undead (1959) by #EdwardDein

w/ #EricFleming #MichaelPate #KathleenCrowley #JohnHoyt

“The countryside terrorized! The young and beautiful drained of life! Even the strongest man, destroyed by the unholy…”

“HIS BODY IS AN EMPTY SHELL THAT HOSTS A LUSTFUL FIEND!”

#Horror #Western
#NotQuiteClassicCinema
#FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn

I had never heard of Curse of the Undead (1959) before. It’s yet another strange Western (I seem to be watching quite a few of those lately). It’s really a cross between a pretty straight ahead Western (unscrupulous cattle baron tries to force farmers off of their land) and a pretty straight ahead early Vampire story (young females are developing a life-threatening illness which leaves two strange looking puncture wounds on their neck). 

For the most part, these two ideas are kept fairly separate from each other. Curse of the Undead opens with a scene that feels like it could be right out of Dracula (1931), as family members (and other townspeople) gather around the bed of a young woman and try to figure out what on Earth could be wrong with her. It’s clearly a period piece, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that you were in the Wild West. 

The next scene is so typical of any number of Westerns from the 1940s or ’50s, that if you tuned in at precisely that moment, you would never suspect that you were watching a Horror film with vampires in it.

And the movie continues on like that, bouncing back and forth between gothic Vampire tale and gunslinging Western melodrama. You could almost spilt it into two different movies – almost, but not quite. Fortunately for me, I happen to enjoy both Westerns and Vampire movies. I can imagine that some people might prefer it if it stuck to one genre or the other. And with a name like Curse of the Undead, I suppose it should probably be vampires…

I’m okay with the weird mash-up, but I do wonder if there might have been a way to integrate the two genres a little bit more seamlessly – so that you always know that you are watching a Vampire Western (as opposed to bouncing back and forth). But on the other hand, the strange cinematic whiplash was half the fun.

I’d like to spend more time musing about this unusual movie, but like a vampire on the open prairie as dawn is about to break, I have to cut this journey short. Suffice it to say that Curse of the Undead (1959) is #NotQuiteClassicCinema that I will have to explore more thoroughly the next time it rises from the grave on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: The Caretaker (2012)

Dvd cover for The Caretaker (2012)The Caretaker (2012) by #TomConyers
w/ #AnnaBurgess #ClintDowdell #LeeMason

As a wave of vampirism sweeps the world, a small but discordant group make a deal with a vampire and holes up in a country mansion in Victoria, Australia.
#Horror #Vampires

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday
…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror – or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection…

The Caretaker (2012) is a low budget indie movie from Down Under. It has a few fresh ideas about vampires, and their relationship to humans. It also borrows a few ideas from older, better movies. The characters are, for the most part, not particularly likeable – but they’re not the kind of raging assholes that one finds in many modern horror films. You feel sympathy for some of them. And one or two manage to go on a personal journey that earns them more sympathy by the end. 

So what’s the verdict?

The Caretaker is a mild Terror. It has moments of genuine suspense, and some fairly creepy scenes. It lacks something that would make it a truly great movie, but it’s an acceptable time passer. it’s not particularly Trashy. It doesn’t contain much nudity, sex, or gore. It takes itself a little bit too seriously for that, and as a consequence, is never really much fun.

It’s a bit like watching a play at a respectable theatre. Lot’s of dialogue in a fairly claustrophobic setting. Good performances, but nothing too exciting ever happens. This one, however, happens to be about vampires  – which makes it more interesting than many of the mediocre plays I’ve sat through in the past 20 years (before the pandemic finished off the art form that was already pretty much in its death throes). 

Having watched The Caretaker (2012) twice in the past 10 years or so, I’m doubtful that I will ever feel pumped about doing it again. It’s not quite good enough for that. But those with an appreciation for ultra low budget horror could find it worth their while to check it out at least once.

Trash Or Terror Tuesday: The Forsaken (2001)

It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday

…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror

– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.

And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…

DVD cover for The Forsaken (2001)

The Forsaken (2001) by #JSCardone

w/ #KerrSmith #BrendanFehr #IzabellaMiko #JohnathonSchaech #PhinaOruche #CarrieSnodgress
 
A young man hired to drive a car cross-country picks up a hitchhiker who turns out to be a vampire hunter.
 
“The night… has an appetite.”
 
#Horror #Vampires
#TrashOrTerrorTuesday

 

Somewhere along the way I picked up a DVD copy of The Forsaken (2001), knowing nothing about it. I recall being pleasantly surprised by it, so I added it to my personal library. Fast forward a few years, and I couldn’t remember anything about it. So, I figured I might as well put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.

Once again, I was pleasantly surprised by it. The review on the front of the box compares it to The Lost Boys (1987), and that’s not a completely ridiculous thing to say, as it involves a gang of vampires and a relatively cool soundtrack. It even features a couple of songs by Nickelback before they took the world by storm (I know that some will say this is a minus, not a plus, but I will make no such judgment).

The cast features Brendan Fehr, who is from Winnipeg (my home town), where he appeared is a movie called Hand (1998). I should probably be featuring that one on #TrashOrTerrorTuesday, as it is undeniably trash (and not the good kind) – but unfortunately (I mean very, very fortunately) I do not own a copy. But seriously, if I did own a copy (and I might actually buy it for a decent price – what’s wrong with me?) I would probably have to feature it on #MadeInManitobaMonday. But I digress…

The Forsaken is a much better movie than Hand. It’s not as good as The Lost Boys, but who would expect it to be? The cast is solid – and that includes former Winnipegger Brendan Fehr. I should mention that Fehr has appeared in other movies I like, including Disturbing Behavior (1998), Christina’s House (2000), and Silent Night (2012). Most would probably know him from Final Destination (2000) and Roswell (1999-2002).

In The Forsaken, Fehr plays a vampire hunter who is searching for the vampire who once bit him (to stop himself from turning). He believes it might be one of the gang that he encounters with Kerr Smith’s character, Sean – who is trying to deliver an expensive car across the country and attend his sister’s wedding. Much violent action ensues…

So what’s the verdict?

The Forsaken (2001) is a moderate Terror. It has great action, some legitimate suspense, and a few moments that could be described as scary. There is fair bit of nudity – and some sexy vampire antics – as well, which perhaps adds a touch of Trash to the mix (but this is the good kind of Trash). All in all, I enjoyed The Forsaken quite a bit (for the second time), and I will be keeping the DVD in my collection.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: The Living Dead Girl aka La Morte Vivante (1982)

I first read about the films of Jean Rollin in books about unusual horror films from around the world. I don’t think I had ever seen a review of any of his films in a regular review book. And I certainly had never seen copies of his movies on VHS or Beta at my local Video Zone back in the 1980s. My impression from these books was that Jean Rollin made artistic, perhaps erotic, movies about vampires. He also made hard core adult films, presumably to pay the bills. On occasion he made other types of films, but vampires seemed to be his main obsession.

While at university, I became a regular customer of Movie Village, a video store with an amazing selection of unusual films for rent (and purchase). This is where I first put my hands on a movie directed by Jean Rollin. Oddly enough, it was not a vampire film. And according to at least one book I had read, this particular movie was one of his lesser ones. It was called Night Of The Hunted (1980), and its description was something like this:

“Stylish, futuristically surreal and a departure from director Jean Rollin’s familiar vampire territory, The Night of the Hunted features a mass of people suffering with insanity and collective amnesia. Bizarre, even by Rollin’s standards, it still displays fairy tale qualities mixed with extremes of sadism, sex and violence.”

I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t one of his vampire films, but I wanted to see a Jean Rollin film, and my annual holiday movie marathon was in a few days, so I rented it.

The annual holiday movie marathon is a tradition that I established with my friend Brian many years ago. His job requires him to get up ridiculously early in the morning, so by 8:00 PM he’s having trouble staying awake. But every year he takes a couple of weeks off in December and that’s when we make a point of getting together to watch movies. And we are always on the lookout for unusual and interesting horror films.

I brought Night Of The Hunted to his place, along with about a dozen other movies, and explained to Brian that it was probably not going to be Jean Rollin’s best work, but it was all I could put my hands on, so we should give it a try. He agreed.

Well. We both really liked the movie. A lot. “I would buy a copy of that,” Brian said as the credits were rolling, which is amazing because I was thinking the exact same thing. “This is one his lesser films?”

Since that time, I have picked up Jean Rollin’s movies on DVD or Blu-ray whenever I could put my hands on them (for a reasonable price). I’ve only seen a couple of the vampire films, but the strange thing is that (so far) my favourites have been non-vampire films: Night Of The Hunted (of course), The Grapes Of Death (1978), and now, perhaps, The Living Dead Girl (1982).

The Living Dead Girl is almost like a vampire movie in some ways. It’s about an undead woman who seems to need to drink blood. Before I watched it, I was expecting more of a zombie story of sorts. I suppose she is a zombie, technically. But she has a lot more in common with vampires than the average reanimated rotting corpse. For one thing, she looks good. For another, she is an intelligent, thinking being who eventually talks and expresses regret over the things she has done. I’m not really comfortable calling her a zombie or a vampire. I think she is her own, unique creation of Jean Rollin.

The most basic description of the plot of The Living Dead Girl goes something like this:

Two bumbling fools dump toxic waste in a crypt and accidentally revive a beautiful, dead heiress who kills them and goes on a rampage. 

This sounds like the plot of a Troma Team camp-fest (and more than a little like a play I once wrote called The Inner CIty Dead – minus the dead heiress), but it’s a much more serious affair than that. The heart of the film is the relationship between Catherine Valmont, the heiress, and her childhood friend Hélène. We see flashbacks of them as children, pledging eternal friendship. When Hélène discovers that Catherine is somehow still alive, she comes to the château to be with her. Hélène tries to keep Catherine alive, no matter what the cost. But Catherine begins to see herself as evil, and wants Hélène to help her die.

The surprising thing about The Living Dead Girl is how truly moving it is. You might come for the gore and the nudity, but you’ll stay for the emotional punch in the solar-plexus. And that’s a rare thing in exploitation filmmaking. I’m starting to suspect that’s it’s not such a rare thing for Jean Rollin, who seems to imbue his monsters with a sense of tragedy, and sadness. His movies aren’t for everyone, as they can be slow paced and challenging in many ways. But for those who are attuned to his particular style of storytelling, they can be very rewarding and cathartic experiences.

The Living Dead Girl (1982) makes for a more thoughtful, melancholy #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn than Angels’ Brigade or American Ninja 2, but that’s the nature of the beast. There are many different kinds of #NotQuiteClassicCinema, and I like to experience them all. I’m looking forward to my next Friday night with Jean Rolllin, but it won’t be right away. I need time to let The Living Dead Girl properly sink in. And at this moment, it’s hard to imagine how he will ever top it. 

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Vamp (1986)

One of my favourite movies of the 1980s is Fright Night (1985). I saw it when it first came out and I loved the clever mix of horror, humour, and vampires. So, when I saw an ad for Vamp (1986) a few months later, I got excited. It looked like it had all of the elements that I had loved in Fright Night – plus Chris Makepeace and Grace Jones!

I was a big fan of Meatballs (1979) and had watched it on TV several times as a kid. I also saw My Bodyguard (1980) and, for some reason, had read the movie tie-in novelization repeatedly. Chris Makepeace was the teenage star of both of these movies. I was also aware that he was Canadian, which made him somewhat of an inspiration to me. 

           

I’m not sure how I first became aware of Grace Jones. I saw Conan the Destroyer (1984) and A View to a Kill (1985), but I already knew who she was before those films. Maybe it was because I saw her being interviewed on The Tonight Show, or other programmes – I’m not sure. I knew she had been a successful model and singer, particularly in Europe. My overall impression of her, at that time, was that she was a unique, tough, larger than life personality who had once slapped a talk show host and held her own opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Bond! I thought she was cool, and when a teacher asked me who my favourite actor was – in French class of all places – I answered “Grace Jones.” 

     

It should be noted that I liked to give strange answers in French class. I’m not sure why. Maybe because my classmates seemed to take everything a little too seriously. In this case, they would have been naming the most respected actors that they could think of. I had only seen Grace Jones in a couple of films at that point, but I named her as my favourite actor because I knew that it would flummox people. And it did.

However, the act of doing so somehow seemed to turn me into a Grace Jones fan. I wound up buying a couple of her records, even though I was primarily a hard rock/heavy metal guy in those days and she was more like pop/disco/funk. I rented movies like Deadly Vengeance (1981) because the box had her name and picture on the front (a dirty trick, as it turned out – but that’s another story). And when I found out that Grace Jones was starring in this new movie Vamp, it was one more reason to get excited about it.

When I saw Vamp I was not exactly disappointed in it. I actually found it to be quite enjoyable. It was funny, and entertaining, but it didn’t quite reach the heights of Fright Night for me. One of the problems was that there wasn’t quite enough of Grace Jones in it, although I loved her silent, but commanding performance. I eventually bought a copy on VHS and watched it a few more times over the years. I resisted upgrading it to DVD (although I was very tempted to). When I found a reasonably priced copy of the new Arrow Films Blu-ray, I could no longer resist. It was great to see it again (as it had been a few years) – and especially in such high quality! The amazing ’80s colours, the costumes – the entire production – has never looked better.

One interesting note: Concrete Blonde, one of my favourite bands from the 1990s, can be heard on the soundtrack of Vamp. I wouldn’t have known who they were in 1986. In fact, they weren’t even called Concrete Blonde yet. Song For Kim (She Said), is one of my favourite tracks on the very first Concrete Blonde album (Concrete Blonde released in1986), but it is credited to Dream 6 at the end of Vamp. This means that it was included in the movie before the album had been released. Four years later, Concrete Blonde unleashed Bloodletting (1990) on the world and it became their most successful album. The sort-of title track, Bloodletting (the Vampire song), was apparently inspired by the novels of Anne Rice. But now I can’t help but wonder if Vamp had helped to get the creative juices flowing. Probably not, but it’s an intriguing thought.

By the way,  Bloodletting (the Vampire song) was featured in the Canadian vampire film Blood and Donuts (1995), which I’ve always admired. Now there’s a film that could use a remastered Blu-ray with extras. But I digress…

Vamp (1986) is not a perfect movie. It is generally rated lower than #Certified ’80s vampire classics like Fright Night (1985) and The Lost Boys (1987), and I would agree that this is appropriate. Still, I somehow find Vamp irresistible, and I will always be happy to see it on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. After all, it is the imperfections that often make a movie a #NotQuiteClassicCinema classic.