I have a rather soft spot for the works of Al Adamson, and ‘Dracula Vs Frankenstein’ is one of those films that, despite its MASSIVE flaws (and it is VERY much riddled with flaws) Theres something tonally about it that just really won me over.
For a starters, the titles TOTALLY misleading. The implication from a promotional standpoint that this films going to BE ‘Dracula Vs Frankenstein’ but in reality that doesnt really happen until the VERY end of the movie and Dracula and Frankenstein arnt even really IN the movie for about 2/3rds of the runtime.
The film opens with Dracula recovering the body of the original Frankensteins monster from a graveyard before we cutaway to what is the ACTUAL plot of the film, as we’re introduced to a young stage performer by the name of Judith who’s sister Joanie has gone missing. After a chat to the police, Judith decides to head out to Joanies last known whereabouts, where she’s almost immediatley ‘spiked’ by a gang who think shes an undercover cop.
Just before this happens though we’re introduced to a couple of hippies who decide to hit a pier based fairground and stumble on an attraction known as ‘The Creature Emporium’ fronted by a carnival barking dwarf and supplied by the last in line to the ‘Frankenstein’ namesake, whos operating under a pseudonym to avoid drawing attention.
It turns out that Dr. Frankenstein, with the help of his mute and largely child like man servent Gorton has been running experiments on random women who happen to go under the pier at night. The Dr. sends out Gorton to decapitate them, then he brings the remains to the dr who sows them back together and reanimates them.
Naturally as you can imagine, it doesnt take long for Dracula to become involved and when he tells the Dr that he has his great grandfathers original creation in his possession. Well, as these stories go you better believe he gets ressurected and that both Dracula and Frankenstein then pretty much dissapear till the final 10 minutes.
Thats one of the biggest problems this film has really, it introduces the titual characters in the first 15-30 minutes, then has them pretty much dissapear (barring the occasional VERY quick cutaway) till the end! What a rip!
What is here though is fine enough fair, though it REEKS of ‘poverty row cinema’ this really wouldnt have felt out of place in the 40s as far as scripting goes. it’s a super basic 3 act structure, the pacings SUPER messy with plot points starting and stopping at random, theres no care to craft these elements together its just ‘Scene start, scene end, next scene.’ from beginning to end.
To that end, the ending itself is also a little underwhelming, I wont spoil it here, but it just kind of left me shrugging and asking if that was it.
Honestly? this whole things a bit of a runaround, but at least its a runaround that TRIES to have a bit of action thrown into the mix, even if it isnt the greatest or goriest in the world, this very much feels like a throwback to an age of cinema where you could getaway with cheap effects, low gore and women in peril as the main selling point. and in that sense I kind of found it a little endearing from a tonal perspective.
Direction is flat, lifeless and largely by the numbers. This is the kind of film that thinks having a coloured light in the shot suddenly makes it ‘Sophisticated’ Adamson was never known for particularly stunning visuals, he made films the same way Chef Boyardee makes gourmet Italian food. But I think that kind of works to his favour here as, given the cheap and cheerful nature of the script, the direction being basic and a bit all over the place only kind of enhances that feeling.
Same goes for the cine as well, which is also fairly flat, fairly lifeless and just…Bizarre for 1971, it’s a bit like when they did ‘The Munsters’ revival in the 90s. how this thing looks and feels visually feels SO out of time with the era it’s ACTUALLY being shot in. I find it quite mesmorising honestly.
As for the performances? This was the last on screen appearence of both Lon Cheney Jr. and J. Carrol Naish. Watching them both here, I was reminded of The scene in ‘Ed Wood’ where Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi laments the fact he turned down ‘Frankenstein’ before it became the next big thing. Its terrifically sad to think that THE Lon Cheney Jr. ended his career playing a mute psycho maniac who gurns his way through 70 minutes of the 90 minute runtime…But here we are.
The rest of the cast, by low budget 70’s cinema standards, do fine enough, they’re unremarkable though, nothing we wouldnt have seen from the low/no budget dregs of this era. they’re a little low on animation and they dont really use the set spaces as much as they could, but i’ve seen WAY worse in my time.
And as for the soundtrack? it’s a mixture of the most GENERIC late 60’s/early 70’s rock I’ve EVER heard in a movie before, almost comically so, combined with some of the original scores to the Universal monster movies (The Creature from the black lagoon was one I clearly picked out, but their are apparently more from other monster movies) it only really helps cement the rough and ready nature of this throwback flick.
All in all, this things a total mess, the script promises one thing and delivers another, and even then! the thing it does deliver is messy, quite incoherent, poorly plotted and paced with no real actual purpose or point established for the majority of the runtime.
The directions flat and lifeless as is the cine and the cast are a bit bland. and yet…I still kind of dug this one on tone and gaul alone. It absolutely ISNT a good movie by any stretch, but if your looking for a bizarre piece of cinema that seemed to be made with noone in mind but the director. This will more than tick the boxes. I’d say if your into ‘Poverty row’ cinema, or are into the kind of releases ‘Something Weird’ have put out over the years. you may actually kind of get on with this one. If you dont have the patience for that kind of nonsense waffle however, i’d say give this a miss.