Old Dracula Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome
Directed by Clive Donner
Written by Jeremy Lloyd
1974, 89 minutes, Rated PG
Released on July 28th, 2020
David Niven as Count Dracula
Teresa Graves as Countess Vampira
Jennie Linden as Angela
Nicky Henson as Marc
Peter Bayliss as Maltravers
Linda Hayden as Helga
Veronica Carlson as Ritva
For fifty years, Dracula has searched for a rare blood type with the power to revive his beloved Vampira. Determined to locate the elusive donor, he goes to great lenghts to take blood samples from potential victims without drawing unwanted attention. In the 1970s, his castle has been turned into a tawdry tourist attraction hosting vampire-themed dinner parties and other activities. Playboy magazine is running a piece on the “Most Bitable Playmate” and sends a busload of Bunnies to Transylvania for a photo shoot. With his trusted manservant Maltravers, Dracula obtains new samples from the ladies and is elated when he finds a match. Vampira receives a transfusion, but to everyone’s dismay, except Vampira’s, her complexion darkens significantly and she is now a strikingly beautiful black woman!
Desperate to restore her Caucasian appearance, Dracula is convinced there was a mix up in the blood samples. He embarks on a new mission that takes him, Vampira and Maltravers to London’s West End in search of the Bunnies .All of Vampira’s pop culture familiarity dates back to her time in the 1920s before her coma, and the hip new world of 1974 is an eye-opening experience. The Count uses his powers of mind control on a Playboy male model named Marc Williams to orchestrate private meetings with the lovely ladies where he can secure fresh blood samples.
Old Dracula (aka Vampira) is a bizarre comedy/horror/Blaxploitation mixture that takes little interest in political correctness. The premise is interesting but uncomfortable, as Dracula is unwilling to accept that the special donor he has been seeking for fifty years could somehow be a woman of color. This fish-out-of-water story runs with the idea of generational culture clash with the Count’s familiar old ways in direct contrast with a world that has moved on. This Dracula is the straight man for a lot of the jokes and is wonderfully portrayed by the late, great David Niven (The Pink Panther). Niven brings a touch of class to the low-brow material and his comic timing and delivery keep things tight. Unfortunately, whenever he is not on screen the picture falters.
Teresa Graves (Get Christie Love!) co-stars as Vampira, and while beautiful and talented, her performance is uneven and occasionally cringe-worthy. Blame most likely lies with poor direction, as most of the supporting cast members are also merely serviceable. Nicky Henson (Witchfinder General) fares better as Marc, and Peter Bayliss (From Russia with Love) holds his own as Maltravers, but the ladies all come up short. There are a few familiar faces from the popular Hammer Films stable of actors, including Linda Hayden (Taste the Blood of Dracula) as the doomed Helga, Veronica Carlson (Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) as a model named Ritva and Jennie Linden (Nightmare) receiving the most screen time as Playboy publicist Angela.
Director Clive Donner (What’s New Pussycat?) found success working with Peter Sellers and Woody Allen, but fails to connect here. Part of the blame lies with screenwriter Jeremy Lloyd (Are You Being Served?), who stretches the high-concept idea as far as he can but quickly runs out of steam. The film has a great visual style thanks to cinematographer Anthony Richmond (Candyman). Originally filmed as Vampira, the picture was retitled for its American release to ride on the success of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, but audiences did not turn out in the same numbers. Old Dracula is a silly movie that despite its shortcomings manages to present several entertaining moments thanks to its charismatic leading man.
Video and Audio:
The original camera negative has received a 2K scan and restoration and is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Image quality is impressive as this new transfer pops with well-saturated colors and fine detail. Black levels are deep and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
The original mono recordings arrive in a lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 track that has also been cleaned up and is free from distortion. Dialogue levels are always distinct and optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
A Shot in the Dark (2020, 9 minutes) is an interview with cinematographer Tony Richmond conducted virtually due to the ongoing pandemic. This is a great segment that could easily be twice as long since the man has a storied career. He reflects on his time working for Hammer Films and continues briefly with his time on this picture. He also gives shout outs to Ravenous and Legally Blonde before moving on to his thoughts on how the film industry has changed over the years. He concludes with talk of his current position as faculty chair of the New York Film Academy in Burbank.
A still gallery slide show (1 minute) presents a collection of black-and-white publicity shots.
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