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DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN (1971)

[aka The Blood Seekers aka The Revenge Of Dracula aka Teenage Dracula aka Love Tramps]

"All those who meddle in the destinies of Frankenstein and Dracula will see an infernal bloodbath, the likes of which has not swept the earth before!”





  Director:
 
Al Adamson

  Starring: 
Regina Carrol, J. Carroll Naish, Zandor Vorkov, Anthony Eisley, Lon Chaney Jr, Angelo Rossitto, Jim Davis, Russ Tamblyn, Greydon Clark, Anne Morell, John Bloom, Forrest J. Ackerman, Maria Lease

  Screenplay: 
William Pugsley and Sam Sherman

Synopsis:  At the Oakmoor Cemetery, the night-watchman discovers a grave being opened by a tall figure wearing a cape, who rises up and sinks his fangs into the watchman’s throat.... By an amusement park on a pier in Venice Beach, a girl walks down a set of wooden stairs onto the fog-bound sands below. Even as she glances around apprehensively, a tall figure looms up out of the fog, wielding an axe.... In Las Vegas, entertainer Judith Fontain (Regina Carrol) finds a telegram waiting for her in her dressing-room. It is from the police in California, to tell her that her sister, Joanie, is still missing. Judith travels to California to meet with Sgt Martin (Jim Davis) from Missing Persons. Martin tells Judith that Joanie was living with a group of hippies near the amusement park, a known hang-out for drug pushers – and worse. He warns Judith to leave the investigation to the police. At the amusement park, a dwarf named Grazbo (Angelo Rossitto) invites visitors into Dr Durea’s Creature Emporium. A hippe, Samantha (Anne Morell), sees the leader of the local biker gang, Rico (Russ Tamblyn), nearby, and drags her boyfriend, Strange (Greydon Clark), into the Emporium. Inside, they are confronted by various tableaux of horror, and meet the wheelchair-bound Dr Durea (J. Carroll Naish), who talks to them about illusion and reality. After the two have left, Durea uses his lift to travel down into his basement laboratory, where his mute, mentally defective assistant, Groton (Lon Chaney Jr), is waiting. Under a sheet on a table is the decapitated girl – but not only has her head been reattached, she is alive, though drugged. Durea comments to Groton that, having been through such an extreme physical trauma, her blood will now contain the exact components that he needs to make his experimental serum. But this one girl, Durea adds, will not be enough: they will need others.... Groton places the unconscious girl in an upright restraint, next to another with a deep scar around her neck, and clambers onto the table. Durea injects him with a certain drug. Picking up an axe, the transformed Groton lifts a trapdoor in the laboratory floor, and climbs down onto the beach below.... As Durea wheels himself away, he is suddenly confronted by a tall man in a cape, who tells him that he knows his grim secret – that he is actually the last of the Frankensteins. Unmoved, Durea retorts that he also recognises his visitor as none other than Count Dracula (Zandor Vorkov). Dracula tells Durea that he has in his possession the original creature made by his ancestor, which was buried in Oakmoor Cemetery by one Dr Beaumont (Forrest J. Ackerman), who was not only the man who discredited Durea with the Medical Institute, but responsible for the fire in which he was crippled. Dracula tells Durea coolly that he must follow orders and, when Durea defies him, cows him into compliance by starting a fire with a bolt of power from his ring. Out on the beach, a young couple are the next to fall victim to Groton’s axe.... Meanwhile, in spite of Sgt Martin’s brusque advice to leave the search for Joanie to the police, Judith has made her way to the area near the amusement park, and into a local cafe. Ordering coffee, she shows the waiter a photograph of Joanie, and asks him if he knows someone called Rico. The waiter denies knowing either one, but immediately reports this to Rico himself, who is in the back of the room. Rico responds by handing the waiter something that he slips into Judith’s coffee – and before long, Judith is clutching her head in bewilderment and terror, as strange images begin to flash before her eyes....

Comments:  You know, it isn’t only mad scientists who can create a single living entity from the cast-off parts of many others. Al Adamson used to do it too.

Although this is the first Al Adamson film I’ve reviewed – yes, I know: shame on me – I’m sure I don’t have to introduce the either the man himself nor his unique method of film-making to any true Bad Movie aficionado out there, let alone Dracula Vs Frankenstein, perhaps his magnum opus. It is certainly the best example of Adamson’s technique of shooting until the money ran out, stopping until sufficient resources built up again, and then shooting something else. Since this approach meant that the same cast members, sets and locations were not always available, it is not surprising that Adamson’s plots tended to evolve over time, or that the film that he ended up making sometimes bore only the slightest resemblance to the one he intended to make in the first place.

 

And what do we say about showing your monsters in the opening scene??

Even so, Dracula Vs Frankenstein is something special, starting out as a biker film, an intended sequel to Adamson’s surprisingly successful Satan’s Sadists, before taking a sharp left-hand turn to become The Blood Seekers, about a mad scientist and his bizarre experiments, and then finally ending up as Dracula Vs Frankenstein, which is also about a mad scientist and his bizarre experiments, only the scientist in question just happens to be – say it with me, people! – “the last of the Frankensteins”, who enters into a partnership of sorts with none other than Count Dracula.

Coherent, it is not. Good, it absolutely is not. But entertaining? – oh, you better believe it!

The opening titles of Dracula Vs Frankenstein take the common yet puzzling option of showing “highlights” from the film to follow as the credits play. These shots are converted into a kind of animation effect and coloured red, which does nothing to disguise the fact that this film may well contain both the worst Frankenstein’s Creature and the goofiest-looking Count Dracula in the history of cinema. We are also given an actual animation shot of Dracula wielding his Ring of Power – and amusingly, when he does that in the film proper, the effect will be no less cartoonish. Meanwhile, the credits themselves reveal Dracula Vs Frankenstein as a Bad Movie smorgasbord: along with its actual stars and “guests stars”, the latter including Russ Tamblyn, Jim Davis and Angelo Rossitto, we also find both halves of The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant, John Bloom and Albert Cole, as well as Greydon Clark, Gary Graver and William Bonner. (There’s also a brief, unbilled appearance by The Man Himself, as we shall see.)

Also in the credits, we find the wince-worthy line, Electronic special effects....Ken Strickfaden, as well as one of filmdom’s great mysteries: Shelley Weiss as The Creature. No such character appears in this film, and we are left to assume that “the Creature” was a last-minute casualty of the metamorphosis of The Blood Seekers into Dracula Vs Frankenstein.

You and me both, pal.

We open at the Oakmoor Cemetery, and get a good idea of the kind of lighting that will grace the production as a whole. (And while I have no idea what “O.S.” stands for, at least they spelled “cemetery” correctly.) Someone there is opening a grave, which is found to contain a weirdly squishy-faced Creature, as we discover via a generous if ill-judged zoom shot. The grave-robber is none other than our Count Dracula du jour, played by one “Zandor Vorkov”, who not only sports both cape and fangs of undisguised plastic, but a bouffant hairdo, a thin beard, and outrageous white-face makeup: an ensemble that makes him look like a cross between Frank Zappa and Captain Howdy – at least, if The Exorcist was re-done for Saturday morning children’s TV.

As I’m sure you’ll be astonished to learn, “Zandor Vorkov” was not the real name of the gentleman in question, who was usually known by the considerably more reasonable moniker, “Robert Engel”. And as I’m sure you’ll be even more astonished to learn, acting wasn’t his day job. As Sam Sherman puts it in the DVD’s introductory material, he wanted John Carradine to play Dracula, but Al Adamson wanted his stockbroker.

Presumably his chiropractor was busy that weekend.

An elderly night-watchman, having inquired, “Who’s there?” in a bored tone of voice, stumbles into the scene of the grave-robbing and becomes this film’s first and last victim of actual vampirism. We get another zoom shot, this time of the fang marks on his neck, which are not only far too close together to have been made by this Dracula’s fangs, but are on the horizontal up under the jaw-line, a spot where you couldn’t possibly be vampirised unless one of the participants was standing on their head.

From here we take an abrupt cut to what will later prove to be Venice Beach, California, where a girl to whom we will not be formally introduced for quite some time walks down a wooden staircase onto a beach almost hidden by a thick bank of dry ice fog. She keeps shivering and glancing around nervously, which rather begs the question of why she’s there in the first place. We’re not given long to ponder this mystery, however, as – speaking of abrupt cuts – someone looms up out of the dry ice fog and swings an axe, resulting in a decapitation from the Blood Feast School of Special Effects – crude, but not ineffective.

Just the night for a nice stroll on the beach.

And the abrupt cuts just keep coming, as now we find ourselves in Las Vegas for easily the most horrifying thing about this film: Judith Fontain And The Show-Offs. (Presented by Frank Sennes. So blame him.)

It’s a strange phenomenon, the impulse to include musical and/or dance numbers in horror movies, one that stretches back at least as far as Rouben Mamoulian’s version of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde, and which takes in everything from Merle Oberon in fishnet stockings in The Lodger to The Jilla-Jalla Jellyfish to Jess Franco and his inexplicable nightclub sequences. Now, granted, I haven’t yet seen Ted V. Mikels’ The Girl In Gold Boots – it’s over on the shelf somewhere – but in spite of this hole in my knowledge, I’m prepared to go out on a limb here and dub this particular example of the trope the single worst musical interlude in the history of the genre film.

Keep in mind that this is a film with a budget so low, it can’t do a convincing office setting. Now, just try to imagine, in that context, what “a big Las Vegas production number” might look like.

First, the entire act consists of one (1) female singer-dancer, supported by two (2) male singer-dancers and four (4) suitcases. It takes place in front of an enormous yellowy-orange curtain, which makes a valiant effort to be so hideous as to actually distract our attention from the performance itself. This is supposedly taking place in a Las Vegas auditorium in front of hordes of the headlining Judith Fontain’s devoted fans, who are represented here by two tiny tables around which sit seven people in total, several of whom can’t even be bothered looking in the right direction. And most gloriously of all, at one point the camera pulls back for a long shot of the performers – revealing a completely empty theatre.

(From the long tables at right angles to the stage, I’m guessing a dinner theatre was hired for the shoot.)

Judith Fontain, who will turn out to be the film’s heroine – kind of – is played by Regina Carrol, aka Mrs Al Adamson. As an actress and singer, Ms Carrol was---well, let’s just call her a real trooper, and leave it at that.

Branson MO, maybe....

Here, as she does her song-and-dance routine, Ms Carrol sports her standard huge hair and tarantula-like false eyelashes, while wearing a sleeveless black dress that displays acres of boobage over a bra that, whoa, really does lift and separate. Her young male companions, The Show-Offs (aka Dart Anthony and Damon Loy – Where Are They Now?), do their valiant best to support Ms Carrol’s somewhat limited talents, but while one of them (Mr Anthony? Mr Loy?) succeeds in keeping a big fake smile plastered on his face all the way through, the other one (Mr Loy? Mr Anthony?) occasionally lets his real feelings show.

And then there’s Judith Fontain’s song. I won’t transcribe all of it, but here’s just a taste: 

      Well, after all a girl needs the basic essentials
      To simply get around
      [In there! Whattya got in there?]
      Well, in there I carry my telephone
      The one I tore from the wall
      [But why do you carry your telephone?]
      When I leave home
     
I’m liable to get a call
      See what I mean?

Ah, Judy, Judy, Judy....you were ahead of your time.

The show builds to its big climax, with Judith dancing off-stage with the suitcases, while The Show-Offs stand back-to-back warbling, She travels li-ii-iight!! and the, ahem, “audience” breaks into enthusiastic applause. (One of the enthusiastic applauders is Al Adamson, which is just adorable.)

Ironically, the styrofoam head ended up with a better résumé than Regina Carrol.

Backstage, after some truly unfunny joshing with her chorus boys, to show how fame and success hasn’t changed her at all, Judith is handed a telegram, wherein she learns that her kid sister, Joanie, has been listed as a missing person out in California.

(Yes, that’s right: Joanie Fontain. I’m going to give the writers the benefit of the doubt, though, and assume that consequence didn’t occur to them when they gave Judith her surname.)

This brief scene is one of the film’s most entertaining (which is saying something). First, not only does the telegram misspell Judith’s name as “Fontaine”, it also claims to be from the “Missings Persons Bureau”. As she reads it, Judith sits beside one of those styrofoam fake-head-with-a-face wig-holders, which in context could be a sly reference to the fate of the unfortunate Joanie, our decapitee – although for most connoisseurs of the bad movie, I imagine the object might rather act as a reminder of the opening of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s The Gruesome Twosome. As for myself, I couldn’t help pondering the rather discreet wig sitting on the fake head, which is about a quarter of the dimensions of what I can only take to be (since she sports it for the rest of the film) Judith’s real hair. She wigs down?

Next thing we know, Judith is in California meeting with Sgt Martin, the sender of the telegram. Either years as a cop or his inability to get promoted out of “Missings Persons” seem to have soured the good sergeant, as he espouses a rather dubious social philosophy, speaking darkly of the “murder, rape, beatings” that go on, as well as the “pushers and white slavery operators” that frequent the area – before opining, “You’d be surprised just how many young girls come out here just hoping to get involved in all this kind of stuff!” Uh, yeah – I would. And pardon me for mentioning it, but even if you do happen to believe that, isn’t it a rather tactless thing to say to the only living relative of a missing young girl?

How many mistakes can you spot?

(We note, by the way, that the Venice Beach PD is clearly doing a bang-up job.)

Anyway, the sergeant goes on to tell Judith that Joanie had – gasp! – “chosen to live with a bunch of hippies” down by the beach. He presumably tells her a lot of other stuff, too, since she subsequently has a great deal more success in trying to track Joanie down that the Missings Persons Bureau ever did; although all we hear is Martin telling Judith she ought to go home and do nothing. You know, like he does. “It’s a dark, dark world, Miss Fontain[e],” he concludes – and, reaching out, dramatically punctuates his peroration by switching off the lamp over his desk.

Of course, the ceiling lights are still on, but you get the idea.

Our next abrupt cut takes us to the amusement park, which in spite of Sgt Martin is about the only place in this film that doesn’t look dark and/or threadbare. One of the attractions is Dr Durea’s Creature Emporium, fronted by a spruiker of the name of Grazbo – played by Angelo Rossitto.

As the boater-hatted Grazbo waves his cane and promises passers-by, “The greatest living thing in the whole wide world!” – including a decapitation: “See his blood squirt right before your eyes!”, which amusingly if fittingly will turn out to be a blatant lie – out attention wanders to a couple of – gasp! – hippies, the male half played by future Bad Movie director Greydon Clark in a truly astonishing pair of pants.

Here the disparate parts of Dracula Vs Frankenstein really collide for the first time, as the female hippie, Samantha, looks apprehensive as she spots the leader of the local biker gang, Rico (played by Russ Tamblyn, essentially reprising his character from Satan’s Sadists), coming towards her with his lieutenants. It is also from this point onwards that this film’s stop-start production history becomes painfully clear, with scene after scene cut together from separately shot footage featuring actors who clearly weren’t on set at the same time, and (given the passage of time involved) who look markedly different between shots.

"It's a 60 watt world, Miss Fontain!"

It will turn out later that Samantha used to be a biker chick before she defected to the hippies. Now, she grabs her boyfriend, Strange, and pulls him towards the Emporium – where they stop for a chat with Grazbo, which doesn’t seem like much of a way of hiding from Rico. Grazbo takes their dollar and “swallows” it in not exactly the most convincing magic trick ever, before leading them into the exhibit.

(So who takes the money when Grazbo is inside? Fortunately or unfortunately for Dr Durea, the situation never arises.)

Now, we’ve seen what Dracula Vs Frankenstein serves up by way of a Big Las Vegas Production Number, so you can probably picture its Creature Emporium without too much effort. Still, Samantha and Strange gasp and jump when confronted by a mutant chewing on its girl victim, and then a gorilla carrying a girl (?). The final exhibit is a large person in a cheap Halloween mask, grunting and roaring in a cage.

At this point, Dr Durea himself puts in an appearance – and also at this point, we should probably mention that the film’s consensus pronunciation is “Doo-Ray”, although Regina Carrol tends to wander between “Doo-Ree-Ay” and “Doo-Ree-Uh”.

There’s plenty to laugh at in Dracula Vs Frankenstein, granted, but this was the final film for both J. Carroll Naish and Lon Chaney Jr, and there’s nothing remotely funny about watching these two veteran actors struggle valiantly with their own ill health to give one last performance in a film that hardly deserved it. For poor Lon, we can only wince in sympathy. J. Carroll comes off slightly better, as he gets to deliver a large proportion of the film’s consistently hilarious dialogue, most of it via the most blatant display of cue-card reading since Blood Feast. (Although to be fair, he never reads his lines off the palm of his hand.)

For some mysterious reason, Russ suddenly got the munchies.

Durea has the “exhibit” unmask. He is Groton, Durea’s mute, mentally retarded but gentle assistant. Durea makes a sadly philosophical speech about how society treats people based on their appearance, and another one about the nature of reality and illusion. He then treats Strange and Samantha to a decapitation by guillotine that is surprisingly bloodless (told ya so), and to a hanging girl pirate (??).

Our hippie lovers stagger out into the sunlight, shaking off the effects of their experience, and then share this exchange:

Strange:  “C’mon – let’s get ready for the big protest tonight!”
Samantha
:  “What are we protesting tonight?”
Strange:  “I don’t know – but I bet it’s fun!”

Meanwhile, Dr Durea takes himself down to his underground laboratory for some SCIENCE!! Naturally, first he has to stop and put on his lab-coat. As Durea rambles on about the aims of his experiment and checks that everything has been properly prepared, we get various cutaways to Groton, beaming cheerfully and cuddling a puppy – and yes, thirty years after the event, that is yet another call-back to Of Mice And Men. Sigh.

(Excuse me for mentioning it, but how does Durea end up sitting on the ends of his lab-coat?)

There’s barely a line uttered in this film by Durea that isn’t Komedy Gold, and for that reason you’ll find nearly a straight transcript over in Immortal Dialogue. I’ll try to give just the highlights here, although there are so many of them it’s hard to know what to leave out.

So--- Eventually, not that the script ever really spells it out, we learn that Durea’s aim is the creation of a serum made chiefly from blood, which can cure almost anything – such as Durea’s paralysis, Groton’s mental deficiencies and Grazbo’s dwarfism – and under certain circumstances, even bestow immortality (!). However, the key ingredient isn’t ordinary blood, but blood taken from someone who has suffered a profound trauma – such as, oh, I don’t know, just for instance – decapitation. The shock of the experience transforms their blood, and they begin manufacturing the “vital fluid” upon which Durea’s serum is based.

 

SCIENCE!! - in COLOUR!!

As he speaks, Durea flicks back a sheet, revealing the body of Joanie Fontain, who has a gruesome scar all around her neck, but is apparently otherwise unharmed. Which means, yes, that Dr Durea has found a way of curing decapitation....and marvellously, the film treats this as a mere throwaway detail.

Of course, if you stop and think about it, there’s a contradiction here. If it was the blood of the victim that you needed, wouldn’t you also need their “profound trauma” to be something that didn’t result in massive blood loss – i.e. NOT DECAPITATION?? Hilariously, this slight objection obviously occurred to someone else on the production side, albeit belatedly, as eventually Durea comments about how “surprisingly bloodless” decapitation actually is.

And then, like all great scientists, Dr Durea winds up his speech by explaining that everything he has done is ultimately intended for The Good Of Mankind:

Dr Durea:  “We are not butchers, Groton! We don’t have this young lady here to merely drain her body and cast her aside! No! We are scientists! – and we must have others to experiment with.”

Groton places the drugged and naked Joanie in a kind of upright storage facility – whoa! long-distance boobage! – which has bars across the front in the most strategic locations. He then clambers upon the table, as Durea prepares to inject him with a serum (presumably not “the” serum) that will transform him from Gentle Sidekick into Axe-Wielding Maniac. And if this was a better film, there’d probably be some parallel drawn between Groton’s eagerness for the needle here and the drug-fuelled activities on the pier above the laboratory. Although of course, if this was a better film, we probably wouldn’t be watching it.

It must be said that Groton’s is not amongst the most staggering of cinematic transformations: afterwards he just looks like he’s had a slightly rougher night than usual.

 

WITNESS!! - the terrible, science-induced transformation!

As Groton picks up his axe and disappears through a trapdoor in the laboratory floor, Durea wheels himself into the next room, where he is confronted by an intruder in a plastic cape. It’s our old friend from the cemetery, speaking for the first time, and revealing to us Dracula Vs Frankenstein’s Crowning Idiocy: the Count has a permanent echo-effect on his voice: “Dr Durea-ea-ea, I presume-ume-ume?

Barely blinking, Durea snaps, “What do you want? It’s late, and my exhibit is closed, and how did you get in here anyway?”

The stranger informs Durea that he knows his secret, which induces our scientist friend to invite him next door for a chat. Amusingly, he invites him “into the light”, which is a gross overestimate of the film’s production values. The stranger wastes no time, but reveals that he knows Durea to be, “The last living member of the family of Frankenstein.”

What, another one? I can only assume that the fertile Frankensteins were habitual sperm-bank visitors, so many and varied, and so widely distributed, were their progeny.

Evidently the stranger doesn’t feel he’s really made his point, though, because he wraps up his speech with a mocking, “Is it not, Dr Durea? – or should I say, Dr Frankenstein?”

But Durea is unmoved.

“I am too old, and too sick, to be interested or surprised by anything,” he replies, a line which, coming from the elderly and incapacitated J. Carroll Naish, is almost unbearably poignant.

“But when a man comes into my house, and casts no reflection on my mirror---” – which, by the way, is on the ceiling: Durea, you kinky devil, you! – “---and upon his hand wears the unholy crest of Dracula, there is no scientific answer to anything! Now, what is on your mind – Count Dracula!?”

Ooh, burn!

After they have moved "into the light".

But Dracula isn’t going down without a fight. “Dr Frankenstein, I know you were raised by the Durea family, and before your crippling accident were discredited by the members of the Medical Institute.” Oh, no – not the Medical Institute! Actually, in a delicious piece of Misdirected Answering©, the back-story provided here is far too long and convoluted (and hilarious) to get into here – yup, Immortal Dialogue – so here’s a summary: having discredited Durea because of his true family background, three scientists, most notably one Dr Beaumont, proceeded to appropriate his work (i.e. the Creature) and start the fire that crippled him. But their own work on the Creature was cut short when an epidemic broke out (what is this, the Middle Ages?), and at that time Dr Beaumont, the only one of the three left standing for some reason – epidemic? – hid the Creature by burying it in Oakmoor cemetery, hoping to come back at a later time to resume his experiments. Which he never did.

“Yes, yes,” says Durea, speaking for none of us. “Yes, it’s all clear now.”

During this speech, by the way, Zandor Vorkov gives J. Carroll Naish a run for his money in the cue-card reading department. We also get one of the film’s most fondly remembered touches, as Dracula folds his arms dramatically to reveal the vampire’s version of “collar and cuffs don’t match”.

Anyway, Dracula winds up his blather by telling Durea / Frankenstein that he will be following orders from now on, or else. “You cannot frighten me!” D / F replies defiantly. “I live beyond fear!” At this, Dracula spins around and points his ring. A cartoon bolt issues from it and – gasp! – sets some rags on fire, causing D / F to cringe in terror. And if this were a better film, it would probably be a lot clearer that after his accident, fire is the one thing D / F does fear. Although if this were a better film.... Dracula tells D / F to prepare the laboratory for the reception of the Creature.

Out on the beach, a couple is necking. Oh, that’s not good. The girl, Laura, is so totally disinterested in the proceedings that at first her traditional, “Wait-I-think-I-hear-something” just seems like an excuse. “Ooh, I love to have you in my arms like this!” breathes her oblivious boyfriend, Bob (actor / director / cinematographer / producer / editor Gary Graver), apparently turned on by her complete indifference. “I like to think of you as belonging to me!” Oh, ew. Fortunately, Groton then lumbers up and puts a stop to this nonsense – and just as Bob is giving Laura the even more traditional, “You-and-your-imagination!” lecture, too.

"Why, yes: sunlight is only fatal to me if it touches my face. How did you know?"

Next stop, The Big Protest – and oh, hey, that does look like fun! Judith enters a local hang-out, which could not more obviously have been decorated by people who knew nothing whatsoever about the counterculture – which is an interesting point about Al Adamson’s films generally. It’s informative to compare Adamson’s work with the contemporary productions of Roger Corman, who was capable of treating of treating the milieu seriously, and even of dropping acid prior to making The Trip, for a little extra authenticity; and who, even when poking fun at the beatniks in A Bucket Of Blood, still handled his characters with understanding as well as amusement. In contrast, despite making exploitation films that were presumably targeted at a young audience, there’s nothing at all sympathetic about Al Adamson’s body of work, which is, rather, shot through with a distinctly conservative sense of, You darn kids! Stay off my lawn!

And so we find Judith Fontain in a hippie hang-out decorated with slogans such as LET’S GET STONED and HEAD TRIP and SOCIETY SUCKS and the brief-but-to-the-point POT. She shows the waiter (whose forehead bears a scar that suggests he got away from Groton) a ridiculously tiny snapshot of Joanie and asks after someone called “Rico”. The waiter denies all knowledge, but immediately slips into the shadows to warn Rico that someone’s looking for him. After a glance at Judith, Rico gives the waiter something to put in her coffee. So it is that, a few sips later, Judith is on a trip that consists of a mixture of white-person dancing and visions of herself in bizarre postures and costumes, which might have been shot for this film, or might just have been taken from Al and Regina’s home movies.

(This trip sequence might have been more effective if we hadn’t already witnessed Judith’s normal dancing and costumes. The distorted music is a nice touch, though.)

Judith is still tripping when Strange and Samantha show up. The waiter shows them Joanie’s picture – why? – and they guide Judith out of there. Possibly we’re to conclude that Strange and Samantha were among the hippies Joanie was living with, but if so, what was her connection to Rico? And even if there were one, why would Sgt Martin tell Judith about it?

And today's blackboard special is....

Meanwhile, back at the lab--- Ooh, look what’s on the slab! And look what’s surrounding it! – nothing less than Ken Strickfaden’s original laboratory equipment from Frankenstein which, although it fell into some sad company over the years, probably never sank any lower than this. Mr Squishy-Face is hooked up via some really pinchy-looking electrodes, and at this point a bit of heretofore unknown Frankenstein lore is revealed, namely that the Creature’s original bringing-to-life coincided with the appearance of “the Zornok Comet” (??), which is due again this very night. Sure enough, a dinky little comet putters across the sky, a storm breaks, My Favourite Martian noises fill the soundtrack, and amongst showers of sparks the Creatures awakens – as signified by a twitching of its nose and lower lip. It doesn’t have quite the same dramatic resonance as a certain twitch of the hand....

“Dr Beaumont, tonight you shall meet an old friend!” gloats Durea / Frankenstein – who, by the way, has changed knee-rugs between shots.

As he drives away the HOSPITAL (in big glowing letters) where he works, Dr Beaumont is surprised by the sudden appearance in his front seat of Count Dracula – although I’m not sure, “Who are you?” would have been my first question. Dracula orders him to keep driving, which he does via the ever-popular jerk-the-steering-wheel-from-side-to-side method, reiterating, “Who are you?”

“I am known as the Count of Darkness, the Lord of the Manor of Corpathia,” intones Dracula. Ooh, you are not, you liar! “Turn here,” he adds anticlimactically.

(“Corpathia”?)

Beaumont does turn, and the Creature looms up out of the darkness, arms outstretched in the now traditional if entirely incorrect manner. Dracula orders Beaumont to get out of the car, which he obligingly does, and the Creature obligingly kills him. And since we undoubtedly have Forry to thank for Ken Strickfaden’s equipment showing up in this sorry mess, I for one am not the least bit sorry.

 

And somewhere, James Whale weeps.

The next morning, Judith wakes up in unfamiliar surroundings, a house overlooking the beach . Now, I’m sure some of you out there think that there’s nothing more embarrassing than an ageing hippie, but I’m here to tell you there is: a middle-aged hippie; and what’s more, one who clearly took up hippie-dom as part of a mid-life crisis. Introducing Mike Howard – and yes, this is “his pad”. Obviously.

Judith is understandably wary, until Mike makes it clear he knows – knew – Joanie. (With a passing reference to how you can never really know anyone, man....) Mike leads her out onto the balcony, below which our lovebirds are frolicking on the beach. “That’s Samantha – she goes with that goofy-looking kid,” explains Mike – that is, with the one currently lying on top of her with his tongue jammed down her throat. As Mike is further explaining that he likes to make observations about people – “That’s my bag” – another hippie comes running up to announce that some poor schmuck has been found chopped up by the pier, and that his girlfriend is still missing. “Man – it’s a real bummer!” he concludes.

Despite this, Mike and Judith go for a walk on the beach, during which Mike tells what little he knew about Joanie: that she was attracted by the amusement park, and by anything “freakish” – “Two heads, an eye missing, an elongated spine--- Anything that was grotesque turned her on.” But what Joanie really wanted what to turn everything grotesque beautiful, “Using some kind of magic formula.” Sooo....Joanie got her happy ending?

Judith recoils upon hearing about the Creature Emporium, even though Mike assures her that, “Everything’s phoney, it’s strictly for the tourists. On the other hand – I suppose it depends on what you’re really looking for.”

Oh, that’s deep, Mike.

 

You astonish me.

Having rounded up Strange and Samantha, Mike and Judith take them on a double-date of sorts to the Emporium. This time we get a recording of Durea’s voice – and a few inexplicable cutaways to Dracula, lurking in the shadows. There’s a re-run of the guillotine – “Notice the extreme lack of blood!” – and then Durea himself puts in an appearance. Judith questions him about Joanie and shows her photo, but he denies knowing her in an “I’m obviously lying” kind of way.

Outside, Strange is acting, well, strange when Rico & Co. turn up. As they are threatening Samantha and Strange, who should further turn up but Sgt Martin? (What it is about this rather ugly alley-way that attracts such a crowd, I’m sure I don’t know.) The bikers beat an immediate retreat, with Rico telling Samantha, “Okay, baby, you want it this way; but next time....[incredibly long pause]....well, you’ll see.”

Great exit line, tough guy.

After Martin exhibits his usual degree of professional interest and compassion with respect to the near-attack on Samantha, Judith questions him about Durea. “You trying to play detective again?” sniffs Martin. Hey, it would be nice if someone did. Judith starts talking about Joanie, but Martin cuts her short. “I’ve told you to leave that to me!” There is an interruption from the car-radio, to Martin’s obvious relief. “Now, that’ll be something important!” Like....a missing person?

Matching Rico inane exit line for inane exit line, Martin then tells Judith, “If you’ve got a fireplace, burn some wood in it! It’ll be a lot better than running around loose on the streets!” He then takes a step or two, and turns back for the big finish: “Miss Fontain! Stay away from the beach! There’s a maniac on the loose!” And God knows he’s not doing anything to stop him.

The Scooby-snacks are long gone.

Naturally, the next time we see Judith and Mike, they’re on the beach again – and yup, it’s time for a romantic montage. Yecchh! The sand, the breaking waves, the mud, the seagulls fighting for scraps.... All that’s missing is Neil Diamond ululating on the soundtrack. The two end up sitting and gazing at the ocean, with Judith telling Mike how much she likes it there, and, “Being with someone so nice.”

“Well, it’s about time you admitted it!” says Mike. After all, it’s been, what? – four hours? Anyway....clinch.

At the lab, Durea (back under his original zig-zaggy knee-rug) is draining the “vital fluid” from Laura – gloating all the while about the “adreno-molecular structure” – as Groton, in the best J&H tradition, starts to transform spontaneously. “You should not be experiencing any forms of metamorphosis! I won’t have that, Groton!” observes Durea crossly, and injects Groton with some of what was just extracted from Laura, in order to bring him back.

Meanwhile, back at the beach, having caught a man – of sorts – Judith instantly becomes less concerned about her missing sister. I guess it’s all a question of priorities. Ruminating on the situation, Judith concludes that Joanie is old enough to live by herself, and doesn’t need a big sister trying to run her life. And besides, three’s a crowd.

Mike, however, is thinking about everything that’s happened, and observes that somehow it’s all tied to the amusement park. Oh, well done, Sherlock! (Granted, that’s further than Martin ever got.) He points out that of all the amusements, the Emporium alone juts out over the beach.

“You mean the place where Joanie got her parchment?” says Judith. What’s that, street slang for decapitation?? (Some post-production tampering, methinks.) They agree that Durea is the answer, if they can only figure out the question.

Let me guess: next they're going for ice cream?

Elsewhere, another couple is necking in a car. WILL THEY NEVER LEARN?? The Creature wanders up, rips off the car door, drags out the boy and knocks him unconscious, and then tries to carry off the screaming girl. Fortunately, this trysting spot is at the side of the highway (!?), and a couple of cops show up. The Creature helpfully drops the girl, so that the cops can empty their guns into him. And this having no effect, naturally one of them then runs up close and tries to whack him on the head with the grip – giving us, for an amusing moment, John Bloom wrestling with Albert Cole.

Having disposed of the cops, the Creature picks the girl up again and wanders off. And this incident is never referenced again.

It was broad daylight when Mike got his brainwave about Durea, but of course it’s pitch dark when he and Judith go investigating. They start out at the staircase, the site of Joanie’s decapitation, and then stroll through the site of Bob’s murder. Needless to say, there is zero police presence. Under the Emporium, Mike spots a chain, which he concludes (correctly) is attached to a trapdoor. Now, if only he can figure out what to do about it! Calling the police never crosses his mind, of course – and honestly, I can’t say that I blame him.

At the same time – and, as later events prove, all of about six feet away – Samantha is alone on the beach under the pier – why?? – when Rico and his goons show up. After tormenting her for some minutes, Rico throws her down and starts to rape her – only for Groton to show up and chop the goon squad into biker-bits.

Well. I guess if the movies have taught us anything, it’s that the safest place to fall in with rapists is on the beach under a pier; because between this and Blood Beach....

Laura having fainted – and having suffered “a profound trauma” – Groton tosses her over his shoulder and pulls on the chain to open the trapdoor and lower the ladder. Somewhere nearby – very nearby – Mike and Judith are cuddling on the beach – why?? (They’re right near the stairs – where Joanie got decapitated – ewwww!!!!) Mike hears the chain and concludes that someone has just gone through the trapdoor. He goes off to investigate, telling Judith to, “Stay here!” – which has the inevitable result of her grabbing his arm two seconds later and bleating that, “I just couldn’t stay there by myself anymore!” They hurry back under the pier and stare up at the chain....too fascinated by it, apparently, to notice that they’re ankle-deep in purée de biker.

Looks like Groton picked the wrong week to quit mainlining vital fluid.

(Honestly, if anyone out there can figure out the logistics of this sequence, please drop me a line!)

Mike then looks down---no, not at three dead bodies: at a locket lying in the sand – Samantha’s. “I’m going to get in there and find her – and nothing’s going to stop me!” he announces, running off. He rushes up off the beach to the front doors of the Emporium where, not exactly surprisingly, Grazbo proves somewhat inadequate as a bouncer. Grazbo yells after him angrily about picking on the little guy, adding that he won’t always be that way....

Then Judith shows up. Grazbo has more success stopping her, but then suddenly steps back, telling her that “her friend” is waiting inside: “Grazbo knows! Grazbo sees!” As Judith runs in, Grazbo roars with laughter, and then follows her.

Inside, Judith catches up with Mike, and they follow the sound of Durea’s lift to a door leading to a staircase. Mike props the door open with a brick (possibly the first and last sensible act committed by any character in this film), and he and Judith head down into the lab, where they find Joanie in her container. Durea speaks over the PA, insisting that Joanie is well, that he is no monster – and that they will be participating in an experiment – whether they like it or not.

Durea then wheels himself in and up to Samantha’s sheet-covered body. “A moment ago,” comments Durea, “you witnessed the claiming of another being for my experiment!” Uh, no, they didn’t; they should have, but they didn’t. Durea flicks back the sheet, and---whoa! up-close boobage! “Because of what she witnessed, the destruction of three young men who wished her harm, she produced a remarkable cellular transformation!”

In other words, Durea has somewhat belatedly realised that whacking off people’s heads is possibly not the best way of going about things. And to prove it, he now intends to kill Mike, thus profoundly traumatising Judith, so that he can use her blood to complete his serum.

Question: why female blood only, hmm?

"You found your own pad? Groovy!"

While Durea is pontificating, Groton and Grazbo start closing in, the latter axe in hand. Judith screams, Mike pushes her out of the way, Groton advances on him, and Grazbo starts gloating, “Yeah, wise-guy! Not so big now, are you? You’re going to get yours! Ha, ha, ha, ha---”

In his merriment, however, Grazo manages – somehow – to trip the trapdoor, which drops from beneath his feet. For a moment he clings to the ladder, the axe tumbling to the beach below. In his struggle, he manages – somehow – to knock the small cage containing Groton’s puppy through the trapdoor too; and as if to prove that he’s really not such a bad guy after all, Al Adamson takes a moment here to assure us that the puppy is just fine....and then disproves it an instant later by offing the little guy: Grazbo loses his grip on the ladder and plunges to the ground, managing – somehow – to land forehead first on the axe-blade.

Grazbo’s gruesome fate brings the fight to a temporary halt, and everyone make an eww! face, even though they couldn’t possibly see what happened from where they are.

“Groton!” cries Durea. “They have hurt our friend Grazbo! They must all die! They must all die!” What?? I thought he wanted Judith – at least – alive?

Mike yells at Judith to get out and get help, causing Durea to yell at Groton to stop her. Durea then produces a gun from a drawer and manages to wing Mike before he escapes, while Groton’s pursuit of Judith leads them out onto the roof.

While this is going on, Martin, a couple of (helmeted?) uniforms and Strange are striding towards the Emporium. Strange demands of Martin, “Look, what about Samantha?”, even though they are, apparently, looking for Samantha. “We’re going to check the Emporium! I’ve got a hunch she might be there. Don’t forget, we found those three bodies underneath it!” You mean someone noticed? Huzzah!

He who laughs last, and all that....

Inside, Mike and Durea are playing hide-and-seek around the Emporium exhibits. Durea runs out of bullets, and so starts to wheel himself away. For absolutely no reason, he slams into the side of the guillotine, yet by doing so manages – somehow – to throw himself up and out of his wheelchair and straight into the space between the blade guides, and to get stuck there. Naturally, the blade falls, and naturally, despite being part of a phony sideshow exhibit, it’s not a phony.

Outside, Groton is still chasing Judith across the roof, only now he’s doing it to the fanfare from The Creature From The Black Lagoon. Down below, while Martin is puzzling over a locked gate, Strange spots Judith. Martin looks up, sees Judith, and then sees Groton – and, despite the fact that as far as we know, he has no idea who or what Groton is – has no idea why he’s on the roof – may in fact have never so much as laid eyes on him before – Martin instantly pulls his gun and shots Groton dead. Naturally.

Indeed, the only thing more natural is that, having been shot while on a high place, Groton clutches his chest, spins around, and plunges to the ground. Groton’s puppy then wanders in and nuzzles him gently (I wonder what they put under Lon Chaney to make it do that?); a moment of intended pathos that backfires due to its unfortunate resemblance to the ending of Beast Of Yucca Flats.

Now, you might think that as a consequence of all this, Judith would be looking down over the edge of the building, but instead she’s gazing off blankly to her right. But it’s all good. Anything that keeps her from noticing that Dracula’s creeping up on her.

And just where the hell have you been for the past half-hour?

 

Let's face it: logistics are not this film's strong suit.

Dracula puts on Judith something I won’t insult Bela by calling the Lugosi-whammy, and leads her away to an even higher portion of the roof, where he proceeds to – gasp! – tie her to a railing. The fiend! Dracula then brings Judith out of her trance, informing her as she starts to struggle that, “Your fear will fully energise the molecular structure of your blood!”, which I can’t say is a line I ever expected to hear from Count Dracula.

And then the Creature shows up. WTF!?

Mike, meanwhile, is at ground-level, rummaging through someone’s car. He locates a flare (?) and rushes to Judith’s rescue.

Um....would it be unreasonable of me to inquire just where the police got to?

Dracula hears Mike coming and confronts him on the stairs. “You are responsible for the death of Dr Durea, last of the Frankensteins!” he intones. Oh, c’mon, the last of the Frankensteins are a dime a dozen! Also, I kind of think Dr Dum-Dum was responsible for his own death.

“I am Dracula!” he drones on. “The serum he perfected would have rendered me invincible! But do not worry! – it will not be long before I get all I need of that serum!”

Then what are you getting your panties in a bunch about?

“When I do, I will return with a league of living vampires---” – living vampires!? And return from where, exactly? – “---an indestructible army of the undead---” – make up your mind, will you? – “---nobody will stop me then! Nobody will stop me then!”

 

Welcome to Venice Beach - where walking on the roof is a capital offence.

The Creature is then shown staggering backwards (reverse footage of his earlier advance). Dracula points his kerblammo-ring at Mike, which....is somehow the signal for the Creature to stagger down the stairs towards him, even though he was just on a completely different part of the roof. Not to worry. Mike lights the flare and shoves it in the Creature’s face, an oldie but a goodie, and with its hands clasped over its eyes, the Creature ends up staggering towards Dracula, who shoves it back towards Mike, saying in an exasperated tone, “No, him, him!”

Good help is hard to find, isn’t it?

While the two baddies are struggling – hey, Subtle Foreshadowing! – Mike unties Judith, and the two of them make a run for it. Dracula finally manages to get a hand up before the Creatures face, and puts a calming whammy on it. He then spins around and unleashes a cartoon bolt from his ring – which hits Mike, who departs the film in a manner nothing less than spectacular.

Of all the unexpected moments in a film full of them, this is probably the most unexpected; and while with hindsight it looks like one of the nihilistic touches that were becoming increasingly common in films of this era, the true explanation is thoroughly pragmatic, and thoroughly Al Adamson.

See, Al had shot an ending for his film – finally – which he realised a little too late was, well, really lame. Basically, it was Dracula falling onto a stake while everyone went eww!! Again. Also, apart from the ten-second push-and-shove up on the roof, there was no Dracula Vs Frankenstein in a film that was (at least by this time) calledDracula Vs Frankenstein”. So Al wrote a new ending and tried to get the gang back together for a reshoot....only Anthony Eisley wasn’t available. Not to worry. Instead of Mike being the hero, he was suddenly relegated to casualty, with Al himself donning Anthony Eisley’s jacket and acting as his stand-in for The Big Moment.

 

That's what you get when you don't show up for re-shoots.

And you know what? It was quite accidental, I’m sure, but this hasty rewrite gave the film not only a better ending generally, but a much more dramatically valid one, with Judith suffering exactly the “profound trauma” that Durea threatened her with earlier, that of seeing her lover die – thus rendering her blood perfect for Dracula’s invincibility quest.

But this reshooting had other consequences for Dracula Vs Frankenstein. For one thing, it was done in upstate New York, meaning that after starting out in the grim urbanisation of the back streets of Venice, a moment later we’re suddenly in a rather attractive wooded area. The new footage was shot in 16-mm, giving the ending of the film an entirely different look from everything that had gone before; and it was shot in natural light, making it terribly hard to see what’s going on – which is occasionally effective, frequently annoying, and from the point of view of the film’s titular stars, probably for the best.

John Bloom wasn’t available for this reshoot, either, but this was of less consequence than Anthony Eisley’s no-show, as it simply meant putting some other big guy in a mask. However, between the first production wrap and this, everyone involved had somehow managed to forget what Zandor Vorkov’s makeup had looked like, giving us an abruptly different Dracula with, in place of his former, discreet fangs, a mouth inexplicably full of teeth: an arrangement that would have made it impossible for Vorkov to speak his lines, had he not been dubbed all the way through anyway.

Anyway--- Judith, confronted by the sight of her lover being flash-fried in an adorably inadequate animation effect, faints. Next thing we know, we’re in an abandoned church, which I can only suppose Dracula chose for his hideout on the grounds that it would be the last place anyone would think to look for him. The Creature puts Judith down in a chair, and then stands over her gazing down in a way that from the dawn of cinema has proclaimed Monster Love. Dracula, meanwhile, is busy turning the church into something out of a 1980s music video by lighting as many candles as, uh, inhumanly possible. We then get an ominous shot of the sun starting to come up (although actually this was shot at sunset), which suggests that Dracula might be putting his time to better use.

"What? Of course I always looked like this! No, no, you're just imagining things!"

As the Creature looks on disapprovingly, Dracula ties Judith to a chair with her hands behind her head – and the rope pressing across her boobs in an uncomfortable-looking way. Oh! – and then it turns out that Dracula isn’t just planning on draining Judith’s blood for his own invincibility: he’s going to turn her. “My coffin awaits your becoming immortal in its embrace!” he intones laboriously, as the camera pans over a coffin not a quarter so nice as the ones occupied by Doctor and Countess Lorenz. Behind his back, the Creatures tugs gently at Judith’s ropes and then strokes her hair, which finally brings her out of her Conveniently Lengthy Movie FaintTM.

As Judith screams and struggles, Dracula looms up. “Now you will join me amongst the living dead!” he announces, and bends over her neck.

But the Creature isn’t having that. First he taps Dracula on the shoulder with an hilarious, “Hold on there just one minute, bub---” gesture. Dracula looks at him indignantly for a moment, then makes a sudden dart at Judith’s throat. The Creature intervenes violently, and---YES!! It’s DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN(‘s Creature)!!!!

Dracula tries the whammy, but the Creature grabs him before he can complete the gesture; and in the struggle Dracula loses his ring – gasp! The two crash through the doors of the church and stumble out into the woods where, truth be told, it’s already a bit too light for Dracula’s comfort, you’d think.

At first Dracula tries to evade the Creature by running deeper into the woods. (Supposedly. Ignore the building in the back of the shot.) But the Creature catches up somehow, and the two grapple violently. Dracula succeeds in knocking the Creature down, and then glances up apprehensively at the sky. This gives the Creature time to regain its feet and close in again.

“Stop!” echo-chambers Dracula. “Stop, or I will destroy you piece by piece, as Dr Frankenstein created you!”

"How about you and me step outside?"

The Creature takes no notice and, sure enough---rrrrrip, left arm! Then, rrrrrip, right arm! Then, rrrrrrrrrrip, head!

[And you may insert your own Monty Python joke here.]

So in one way, Dracula is triumphant. But in another, he’s totally screwed.

The sun’s up.

Dracula staggers back towards the church, but it’s too late: sunbeams are already hitting him through the trees, and he must go out into the open to reach his sanctuary. He gets as far as the ramp before the church and then collapses, allowing for a time-lapse dissolution achieved by makeup effects that first age and then crumble him.

Meanwhile, Judith has finally managed to free herself. She finds Dracula’s ring on the floor of the church and picks it up, but when upon venturing nervously outside she finds Dracula’s dusty remains lying under his cape at the entrance to the church, she first has a series of flashbacks of everything that’s happened, and then throws the ring from her with a repulsed look and a little exclamation of, “Uck!

Not, perhaps, the greatest closing line to a motion picture ever penned, but in context, not inappropriate.

Uck.

.

Want a second opinion of Dracula Vs Frankenstein? Visit The Bad Movie Report, Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension, Braineater, and 1000 Misspent Hours – And Counting.

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15 year jumbo mortgage rates
----posted 29/05/2011