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Blood For Dracula

"The blood of these whores is killing me!"

Every now and then, I come across a DVD that forces me to spontaneously proclaim "GREATEST MOVIE EVER." When I say this, I almost never mean it. In fact, there are many instances in which the movie in question is not "good" in the traditional understanding of the word. There is always, however, a reason for my admittedly hyperbolic exclamation. The most recent movie I have disingenuously proclaimed to be the greatest ever is a 1974 vampire flick called Blood For Dracula, aka Andy Warhol's Dracula. Blood For Dracula is not one of those so-bad-it's-good movies; it's more like one of those so-bad-it's-fucking-awesome movies. Let's see what we have to work with:

Vampires? Check. Blood everywhere? Check. Lesbian sisters? Check. Horrible dialogue? Check. Worse acting? Check. Actors with impenetrable accents? Check. Udo Kier? Check. Cameo by Roman Polanski? Check. Before I get into the substance of the movie, I'll give you a little background on it. Blood For Dracula was actually shot at the same time and using largely the same cast as Flesh For Frankenstein, an absurdist distortion of the Frankenstein story that has nothing to do with the book. Flesh... finished shooting early and under-budget, so director Paul Morissey decided it would be a cool idea to do a Dracula film. The Andy Warhol tag is a little misleading; he put up the cash for it but was not involved heavily in the creative process (so no, it's not "abstract," but it is pretty damn crazy at parts).

The basic plot of the movie is simple: Udo Kier stars as Count Dracula, a vampire in ill health in his native Romania in the early 1930s. The only other surviving Dracula family member, his sister, has become so weak from a lack of blood that she lays down and dies. The Count's secretary, Anton, informs him of his plan to revitalize him: they'll take a trip to Italy so Dracula can prey on victims there. An important factoid is revealed: apparently Dracula can only gain sustenance from the blood of a virgin (pronounced "wirgin") female. But why go to Italy? According to Anton, Italy is such a religiously conservative country, that girls are universally virgins until they get married. Anton's plan is simple: the Count will find a virginal aristocratic girl and whisk her away under the pretense of marriage. But why, the Count asks, would any good Italian family randomly send their daughter off with a Romanian count? Anton says "in Italy, they will be impressed with you, because you are Romanian!" Oh, okay! With that, Anton and the Count begin their journey.

In Italy, we are introduced to the decrepit country estate belonging to the Di Fiore clan. The Di Fiores have four daughters: Esmeralda, the oldest and somewhat past her prime; Saphiria, a vain airhead; Rubinia, quite the little hellcat; and finally young Perla, an innocent child allegedly only 14 years of age (the actress playing her was 23). The girls (except Esmeralda) are out in the garden, doing nothing of any productivity when Saphiria complains of the heat and decides to take off her blouse. Rubinia follows suit and they touch each other inappropriately while Perla yells at them. Suddenly, the hired help named Mario (Joe Dallesandro) shows up and tells them to cover themselves up. It's funny because all three of the girls have these horrible Italian accents and Mario inexplicably sounds like he's from the Bronx. We will later learn (and actually see) that Mario is sleeping with both Rubinia and Saphiria, frequently at the same time (and the two girls play with each other when he's not around). It is during one of these tender love scenes that Mario reveals his communist leanings and nonchalantly remarks "I'd love to rape the hell out of her" when inquiring after Perla.

Dracula and Anton arrive in Italy and stop in at a crappy little inn where the latter discovers the existence of the Di Fiore family. When asking the innkeeper if the Di Fiore family is religious, he answers with the seeming non sequitur "well, they have a big house, so they must be." However, this sets up a political subtext for the movie: the two exemplars of European nobility are Count Dracula (a vampire in poor health) and the Di Fiores (two of whom are decadent sluts and the family overall is disconnected from reality while the house languishes in disrepair) and the point of the movie is the conflict between the old and the new (represented by Mario's incessant Marxism). Anton secures an invitation to the Di Fiore mansion by appealing to the Marchesa's hope that bringing new blood (so to speak) into the family via marriage will also bring new money and help make the Di Fiore name mean something again. Anton makes it clear to the Marchesa that in Romania, noblemen are expected to marry virgins, and she either lies or naively believes her daughters to be pure, and tells them to come around later.

When Dracula arrives, it's clear that Saphiria doesn't want anything to do with him, but she obligingly meets with him privately. Dracula attacks her and discovers that she is not a "wirgin," causing him to vomit profusely and to have what appears to be a violent epileptic seizure. She doesn't die, however; she simply becomes a mental slave to the Count. Mario makes clear his dislike of Dracula, but, in a telling criticism of his inconsistent political bitterness, fails to help the Count when he is unable to climb the stairs. A similar scene plays itself out with Rubinia, and he utters the quote at the top of the page after attacking her. Dracula and Anton prepare to leave because of the utter worthlessness of the Di Fiore family, but they discover that Perla is a virgin. Dracula meets with Esmeralda and she reveals that she is sad about the state of the Di Fiore family and wishes there was some way to save it. Mario sees the bite marks on the necks of Rubinia and Saphiria and puts the pieces together: he figures out that Dracula is a vampire and that he needs to feast on virgin blood. He then approaches Perla with this offer:

You should, uh, lose that virginity of yours before the Count gets it.

In an allegorical moment, he rapes young Perla, which represents the way Italian communist theorists sought to save the floundering nobility from itself based on an unspeakable act of violence. Dracula stands in the shadows, watching the whole affair, but clearly unable to stop it because of his weakness. The Marchesa catches her daughter and Mario in flagrante delicto and Mario shows her the bite marks on Saphiria's and Rubinia's necks. After they leave, Dracula crawls into the room and in a somewhat disgusting display, licks the blood on the floor that came from Perla's ruptured hymen. Esmeralda catches him but does nothing to stop him. Mario decides it's best to kill Dracula and so picks up an axe. Basically, Anton stabs the Marchesa, the Marchesa shoots Anton in the head, and in an (unintentionally?) hilarious scene reminiscent of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Mario cuts off Dracula's limbs during a ridiculous chase. Esmeralda (un)shockingly comes to Dracula's aid, revealing that she too has become a vampire. Mario rams a stake through Dracula's heart and Esmeralda willingly impales herself upon him, deciding that a life without Dracula is simply not worth living. Of course, this has more to do with the idea that the nobility is either in decline or outright parasitic, and Esmeralda has simply taken the final step in that progression.

For all intents and purposes, this is not what I'd call a "good" movie. The budget is nonexistent, almost all of the acting is horrible, and it's impossible to understand what some of the characters are saying in some scenes. And yet, Blood For Dracula is a fun if not ridiculously disturbing socio-political fable that features some of the most unintentionally hilarious dialogue I've ever heard (Dracula proclaims "this room is terrible!" after seeing a crucifix on the wall in the inn). I think this is actually how the movie was meant to be viewed. I enjoyed this greatly, but then again, I wasn't expecting high cinema. I'd recommend it.

For the B Movie Quest.

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