10/10/10

Son of Dracula (1974) Everybody's Talkin' (About Me 'Cause I'm a Vampire)

There are some movies, that no matter what you hear about them, you have to see it for yourself. For years, I had heard that Son of Dracula was an incoherent mess and neither the appearance of Harry Nilsson or Ringo Starr made it any better and perhaps even worse. Still, I had to see it for myself, and thanks to my friends at Cinema de Bizarre, I finally got a chance. In a way, I got just what I expected, but there is something strangely fascinating about the film. While there was a veteran film maker behind the camera, the actors could have been outclassed by an Ed Wood cast any day, but still there is something, a glimmer, a wink, a bite, if you will, which makes the film go from the incoherent mess to an interesting slice of cult cinema.

A hundred years ago Count Dracula was killed by a stake through the heart, but now his son Count Downe (Nilsson) is poised to become the King of the Netherworld. With the careful guidance of Merlin (Starr), the Count prepares for the day, but he is troubled as human needs and desires begin to infiltrate his mind. After he meets a human woman named Amber (Suzanna Leigh), he is convinced by Dr. Van Helsing (Dennis Price) to undergo a process that will end the line of Dracula and turn the Count into a human. However, strangely for a Van Helsing, the doctor doesn’t have the vampire’s best interest at heart.

Singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson might be best known now to cult movie fans for his song “Coconut” that was featured on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s film Reservoir Dogs, "Everybody's Talkin'" from Midnight Cowboy, or his power ballad “I Can‘t Live (If Living is Without You)”. While Nilsson amassed a cult of fans around his music, he never really achieved much mainstream success, and after his death in 1993, he has become an artist that is mostly forgotten outside of songwriting circles. As the story goes, Ringo Starr had an idea to make a rock and roll musical about Dracula which Nilsson thought was inspired by his album Son of Schmilsson. The ex-Beatles drummer had played on the album, and it shared a similar theme. Ringo however has stated that he never even bothered to listen to the album.

Ringo first approached David Bowie about acting in the film, and the singer turned him down (though Bowie would do his own turn as a vampire in The Hunger). Ringo then got Nilsson on board and recruited Hammer films veteran Freddie Francis for directing duties. Francis, who had directed The Skull and The Evil of Frankenstein, and Craze, probably had no idea what to make of the musicians and their horror romp, but it seems like he did the best he could with the low budget and inexperienced actors that he was handed. Nilsson’s performance could best be described as wooden, and Ringo is way better in films such as Candy and The Magic Christian, but their star power carries their weak performances.

Son of Dracula is also chock full of other rock royalty though in minor appearances as members of Count Downe’s band. The careful eye will see rockers Keith Moon of The Who, Leon Russell, Peter Frampton, and Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham lurking in the background of the film. There are also some great character actors who show up here, most notably is Freddie Jones as Dr. Frankenstein. He was a veteran actor at the time, but would go on to appear in films such as Krull, Wild At Heart, Firestarter, and Dune. Also supporting the film is a number of great songs by Nilsson. His power ballad “I Can’t Live” is featured in the film as well as the excellent theme song “Down”. However, the only song that was specifically written for the film was “Daybreak”, a song with very pertinent lyrics about the dangers of the daytime.

Son of Dracula is a film that has been a holy grail of mine for some time. As a fan of both of the musical stars as well as horror films, I just had to know. I'm not sure the film ever really knows where it's going. There's lots packed in there. Love stories, double crosses, songs, whatever Ringo was doing, and more songs abound, but the question is what to make of it. For Beatles and Nilsson fanatics and those out there who really love their obscure and strange little films, this is a must see. Son of Dracula could not rightfully be called a rock film, horror film, comedy, or spoof. I think its actually weird enough to fall into that very rare category of being a true cult film, a midnight movie of the highest order. Plus, you may think you've seen vampires do everything by now, but until you've seen Son of Dracula, you haven't seen a vamp lead a band into a full on '70's singer-songwriter jam. That's something that I am not prepared to live without. 'Cause I can't liveeeeeeeee.........

Bugg Rating

Boy, howdy, it's hard to even find a clip out there of this flick, but here's one with the John Bonham cameo

2 comments:

  1. jervaise brooke hamsterOctober 11, 2010 at 1:16 AM

    I Noticed there was a lot of British garbage involved in the making of this film which makes it rubbish by definition.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I may have to see this movie now. It does sound weirdly fascinating.

    ReplyDelete

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