Dracula Vs Frankenstein (1971)
Directed by Al Adamson
Starring J. Carrol Naish, Lon Chaney Jr., Regina Carrol
Director Al Adamson is amongst those considered the worst of all time. His father was also a filmmaker and Adamson formed his own company Independent-International Pictures with producer Sam Sherman in the mid-sixties. Their output consisted mainly of el-cheapo horror and biker flicks like “Blood of Ghastly Horror”, “Satan’s Sadists” and “I Spit On Your Corpse”. He frequently cast his wife Regina Carol in his movies. In 1995 Adamson was reported missing, the police uncovered his body buried under the concrete of the spa-bath in his newly renovated bathroom. The contractor for the job was found in Florida posing as Adamson, wearing his clothes and using his credit cards. He was sentenced 25 years to life in prison.
“Dracula Vs Frankenstein” originally wasn’t to be a monster movie at all, it was an attempt to create a sequel to the successful biker film “Satan’s Sadists” starring Russ Tamblyn. Tamblyn was once hailed as a great musical entertainer and had appeared in films like “West Side Story” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”. An Oscar nominee, one wonders how just ten years later he wound up in “Dracula Vs. Frankenstein”, a film that could easily rival “Plan 9 From Outer Space” as the king of “So bad it’s good” movies.
At some point during the making of the sequel it was decided that it should become a horror movie rather than a biker flick. Many of the scenes with Tamblyn were cut and his character really has little to do with the plot of the movie at all. The movie then became a Mad Scientist picture called “Blood Freaks” and then later “Blood Seekers”. Finally the characters of Frankenstein and Dracula were added making it the disjointed movie we now know as “Dracula Vs Frankenstein”.
Two horror veterans appear in this movie Lon Chaney Jr and J Carrol Naish. Chaney was the son of legendary silent film actor Lon Chaney, known as” the man with the thousand faces”. Junior was cast in many of the Universal Monster classics such as the title roles in both “The Wolfman” and “Son Of Dracula”. Naish was a veteran actor appearing in hundreds of films including “House Of Frankenstein” and “The Monster Maker”. He was most often cast in ethnic roles such as Arabs and Indians. This would be the final film appearance for both actors.
The movie centers around Regina Carol’s character Judith Fontaine. Early in the film Judith is introduced as a Las Vegas entertainer performing a rather awful song and dance number to an audience of about four people (although we are lead to believe the club is packed by the audience applause). After her performance we learn she is troubled by the disappearance of her sister. The police have been no help so she decides to do a little detective work of her own.
Meanwhile somebody is killing teenagers with an axe near a seaside amusement park at Venice Beach. That somebody is an imbecile named Groton played by a rather bloated and incredibly ill looking Chaney Jr. Groton is a puppy-dog cuddling simpleton and assistant to Dr Duryea, a wheel bound scientist who runs a theme park attraction called “The Creature Emporium”. But when Druyea injects Groton with a special serum he becomes an axe-wielding lunatic who carves up the local hippies so that the doctor can use them in his scientific experiments. A third Emporium employee is Grazbo the dwarf played by Angelo Rossitto, who appears in many old school horror flicks including Todd Browning’s “Freaks”.
Dracula (who kinda looks like Frank Zappa in black-metal make-up sporting a jewfro and goatee) has been out digging up graveyards and has uncovered the corpse of the Frankenstein monster. He approaches Dr Druyea (who is really Dr Frankenstein hiding out at the shore) and convinces him to use his knowledge of science to resurrect the beast. Oh, it should be noted that not only does Dracula have a goatee but also a magic ring that shoots cartoon lightning bolts and a voice so layered with audio effects that he constantly sounds like he is talking through a megaphone. Nice touch.
Judith’s investigations lead her to Venice Beach where she is drugged by biker Rico (Tamblyn), has a wild LSD trip (hilarious!), falls in love with a counter-culture type named Mike and eventually discovers her dear sister was not only one of Groton’s victims but also is now a living corpse in the Creature Emporium.
Not only that! The Frankenstein monster is now loose killing people on the highway including Forrest J Ackerman (the editor of Famous Monsters magazine, creator of the comic-book Vampirella and world’s biggest fan-boy). Dracula is attempting to create an army of the undead to takeover the world and has picked Judith as his bride. Dr Druyea also wants to perform some kinky experiments on our heroine. And it seems the monster has fallen for Judith’s charms as well. It’s tough being so popular with this many freaks and weirdoes but they are prepared to battle to the death to win her affection.
A strange, strange movie to say the very least. Inept in its execution, with a plot that is extremely unfocused, yet this is what makes it so great. It has everything. A monster who’s head resembles a boiled cabbage, dodgy special effects including a comet that looks like Pac-Man, bikers, surfers, hippies, dwarves, hallucinogenic drugs, murder, romance and awfully atrocious day-for-night lighting techniques. Did I mention unintentional comedy?