6.14.2011

Blood for Dracula: A reassessment


Sickly, pale Count Dracula (Udo Kier) crawls weakly up the stairs while lusty, virile gardener Mario (Joe Dallesandro) looks on in Blood for Dracula (dir. Paul Morrissey, prod. Andy Warhol, 1974).  Set in pre-Fascist Italy, the film lays class tensions on thick--disgruntled Mario even spouts Marxist philosophy after ravishing the vapid, spoiled daughters of a bankrupt marquis.  It's possible to do a reading of the film as turning the Dracula story into an allegory about the decline of the European aristocracy (represented by the impoverished di Fiore family and the living-dead Count, who comes off looking rather sad and pathetic in this version) and the ascendancy of the working class (represented by Mario).  But doing so would take some of the fun out of this campiest of Dracula films, in which Kier chews the scenery unforgettably, Dallessandro stalks around the estate half-naked, and Morrissey keeps everything well lubricated with plenty of blood and sex.  (One of the running jokes is that Dracula comes to Italy in search of virgin blood and can't find any virgins.)  Other highlights include cameos by Vittorio de Sica and Roman Polanski; Dracula vomiting histrionically every time he accidentally ingests non-virgin blood; and a limb-hacking, blood-spurting showdown between the Count and the gardener. 

I should also add that this was my first time seeing this film in roughly sixteen years.  I originally saw it as a child, under the alternate title Andy Warhol's Dracula.  An avid horror movie fan since age six or so, I wasn't put off by the violence in the film (which is fabulously unrealistic anyway) but I was seriously freaked out by the sex and nudity, probably because I knew that I was watching something that my parents definitely would not have approved of.  In any case, the rich comedy of the film--as well as its rather benign charm--was lost on me at that age.  It now feels much funnier and much tamer than I had remembered; the production values seem vastly improved; I can much better appreciate Joe Dallessandro's chest; and after talking with a friend I have to agree that Udo Kier's eyes were some of the best in the movies (see below).




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