Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Vamp Watch: Daughter of Dracula (1972)

Watched:  09/04/2023
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jess Franco

If the 1970's brought us anything in cinema, it was sexy vampires.  I mean, there's no shortage before.  Ask me about Brides of Dracula.  But by the time we got to the 1970's, we had moved into a weird twilight zone of art film/ exploitation film/ horror film where nudity was rampant and sex was not just implied in knowing cut-aways.

As far as I know, of the Jess Franco movies, I'd only ever seen Vampyros Lesbos.  And, somewhat (in)famously, Franco was one of the foremost purveyors of cheap, wandering "horror" films that bordered on a Cinemax late-night entry and what cable would play on weekends in the 1980's while also absolutely existing as in-no-way-scary horror films.

The movie is one of five directed by Franco in 1972 alone.  Whatever the market was, it was quantity over quality, and I suspect few scenes were actually scripted or anyone really did much to prep for the movies after getting a set of fangs, a Dracula cape and a location.  The movie uses a lot of 1970's film language, from racking focus into a scene (usually onto some natural object) and lots of lingering shots of people walking and not saying much.

The basic set-up here is that Luisa Karlstein (Britt Nichols - aka: Carmen Yazalde) returns home to see her dying mother, who tells her where the key is to a family tomb, says there's an unspeakable horror there, and then immediately keels over.  Apparently ready for unspeakable horror as long as you look fantastic, Luisa heads into the tomb where she is immediately made into a vampire by Dracula, who has been locked down there for some time.

Townswomen begin getting killed, a detective who really wants to be the love child of Columbo and Maigret, shows up and "Jefferson" (Franco looking like a dopey hipster) keeps telling everyone its vampires, and no one will buy it.  

In between, there's lots of stuff like people playing pianos, a half-assed investigation, and Luisa making it with her friend, Karine (Anne Libert).  

The movie wants to borrow from the novel Carmilla, but is clearly someone jotting down some ideas they liked in Hammer movies, not least of which was The Vampire Lovers and, even less like Lust For a Vampire, seeing what they could get away with not worrying about British certificates.  

Like a lot of these movies, they use long takes to fill time and a wandering, semi-incoherent plot and suggest "it's dreamlike!" and maybe it is.  Maybe more like a real wandering, semi-incoherent dream than what we think of as "dreamlike" in most films.  

Anyway, I won't go too far down the rabbit hole of these movies, but I figured being a little conversant in them couldn't hurt, and I picked this one as it seemed to want to be Carmilla, so I'd have a basic structure to compare it to.  But it really isn't that.  

BTW:  their Dracula is just a guy who never does more than sit up in a coffin and eventually have a nude woman tossed on top of him.  Some days on a film set are just odd.

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