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The fear will fully energize the molecular structure of your blood!
--Count Dracula

You would have expected that Universal would have released a movie called Dracula vs Frankenstein, since they paired the famous monsters on more than one occasion. They didn't. As though to establish some cosmic balance for the oversight, the early 1970s saw three films by this title.

They suck more than a trio of undead Transylvanian brides.

1

The definitive Dracula vs Frankenstein is Al Adamson's drive-in shlockfest, which manages to be the last horror film for aging veterans J. Carroll Naish and Lon Chaney, Jr., and features a cameo by Famous Monsters of Filmland publisher Forrest J. Ackerman.

It's a truly terrible movie, one tier above the Ed Wood oeuvre, and yet, peculiarly enjoyable.

Adamson originally hired aging veterans Chaney and Naish for a very different exploitation flick, one dealing with hippies and bikers. Most of the filming was complete before they realized it wasn't working, and so they revised the script to include Dracula and Frankenstein, and took a lot of new footage, much of it more than a year after the initial shoot. The resulting movie plays about as coherently as one might expect. Like Frankenstein's Monster, the film is choppily stitched-together and poorly lit.

A mad scientist—actually the last descendant of Dr. Frankenstein-- and his deranged, puppy-loving assistant, Groton, run sinister experiments out of the House of Horrors on an old-time California amusement pier. A Vegas singer comes in search of her missing sister, one of the hippies abducted for experimentation purposes. She teams up with some her sister's friends, one of whom is on the run from Nazi-apparel-wearing bikers leftover from the original movie premise. The bikers sporadically appear and disappear, no longer connected meaningfully to the plot. Meanwhile, Count Dracula turns up because he has located the body of Frankenstein's Monster and he requires Dr. Dure's help. The titular monsters finally have two brief confrontations at the end, reshot with different (and more effective) make-up for the Count and a different actor as the Monster. This footage comes from a third shoot, prompted by the filmmakers' realization that a movie entitled Dracula vs Frankenstein should feature, at some point, an actual fight between Dracula and Frankenstein.

It's almost impossible to find one "Low Point" for a film this bad. From a historic/fannish standpoint, it's the utter waste of Lon Chaney in his last role. He also plays with a puppy, recalling rather inappropriately his first screen triumph in Of Mice and Men. Given Chaney's outspoken criticism, at the end of his life, of current trends in cheap, exploitative horror, his appearance here is quite sad.

On a less depressing note, Dracula's make-up, when seen in the light of day before his dissolution at sunrise, makes him look like a reject member of Kiss, while his actual dissolution features the closest thing to decent effects and make-up in the entire film.

Otherwise, the effects are old-time serial bad. The monsters have been made up to recall Universal's versions, though not nearly so much as the poster suggests. Frankenstein's creation looks like a cross between Boris Karloff and a slab of raw meat. Dracula recalls the second runner-up in the costume competition at last year's Halloween party. His voice is dubbed with reverb, so he sounds as ridiculous as he looks. His Dracula ring shoots cartoon lightning, a gimmick stolen from Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein.

The plot best recalls something a demented child would have acted out with the contemporaneous Aurora Monster Scenes models. You could even pull of Frankenstein's snap-together arms, just as Dracula does in the film.

Acting is all over the place, and mostly bad. Some of the extras—including future Dallas star Jim Davis-- do a reasonable job on their parts. Others embarrass themselves, in that way that has audiences asking, "couldn't they find anyone better than that?" One feels sorry for Chaney and Naish, cast into terrible roles in their final horror movie. Chaney's character is mute and Naish's is in a wheelchair, almost certainly due to the veteran actors' failing health.

While any early-70s attempt to spoof horror movies would end up looking a little like this movie, it's difficult to believe that Richard O'Brien, a huge fan of b-movie horror, who was writing The Rocky Horror Show while this made the rounds, wasn't directly influenced. Dr. Scott, in particular, recalls Dure/Frankenstein.

Dracula vs Frankenstein received mad play at the drive-ins and, for the next decade, on late-night television. Shoddy script, poor production values, and dubious acting notwithstanding, it's a piece of horror history. The dialogue, meanwhile, provides many laughs. It's one of those films that is bad enough to be-- sporadically-- entertaining.

Director: Al Adamson
Writers: William Pugsley, Samuel M. Sherman, Al Adamson
Cast
J. Carrol Naish as Dr. Dure / Dr. Frankenstein
Lon Chaney, Jr. as Groton
Zandor Vorkov (Roger Engel) as Count Dracula
John Bloom and Shelly Weiss as Frankenstein's Monster
Regina Carrol as Judith Fontaine
Anthony Eisley as Mike Howard
Jim Davis as Sheriff Brown
Russ Tamblyn as Rico
Anne Morrell as Samantha
Maria Lease as Joan
Angelo Rossitto as Grazbo the Dwarf
Forrest J. Ackerman as Dr. Beaumont

2

Its European-made counterpart doesn't fare so well.

In this Spanish/German/Italian film, a detective's investigation turns up a plot by aliens to revive and duplicate earth's most famous monsters in order to conquer the planet. As in Adamson's film, the villains work out of an entertainment venue: a circus sideshow, in this case. Originally released as Los Monstruos del Terror and under various titles in translation, it eventually came to be another Dracula vs Frankenstein, perhaps in order to cash in on the cult success of Adamson's movie. Alas, the vampire in this film isn't Count Dracula, and he doesn't fight Frankenstein's Monster, who does, however, duke it out with star werewolf, Waldemar Daninsky. Instead of Naish and Chaney, this one features Michael Rennie. Forget The Day the Earth Stood Still, however. This, surely, is the film that made the actor ill.

The plot recalls both Plan 9 From Outer Space and Monster Zero. It's better made than the former, less well-made than the latter, and not nearly as much fun as either.

In addition to the familiar horror movie monsters, the film mentions the golem and implies the presence of flying saucers, but budget limitations mean that neither appears in the film.

Dracula's make-up is fairly restrained, and his early attack on a victim has been well-framed. by contrast, he later receives one of the cheapest and most laughable vampire deaths in cinematic history.

The Frankenstein Monster is just a big guy with a forehead scar and some clips. The werewolf make-up is pretty good; the same actor played the same character in a handful of European films. The Mummy, predictably, looks like an accident victim.

Most of the acting is about on par with the local horror hosts who once peddled films like this one on late-night TV.

Los Monstruos del Terror won the 1970 Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Atrocious Editing, or would have, if such an award had existed. Its real failing, however, is that it's just not very entertaining.

Director: Tulio Demicheli, Hugo Fregonese, and Eberhard Meichsner
Writer: Paul Naschy
Cast
Michael Rennie as Dr. Odo Warnoff
Craig Hill as Inspector Tobermann
Karin Dor as Maleva Kerstein
Patty Shepard as Ilsa
Ángel del Pozo as Dr. Kerian
Paul Naschy as Waldemar Daninsky the Wolfman
Manuel de Blas as Count Janos de Mialhoff, who might be Dracula
Ferdinando Murolo as El monstruo de Farancksalan / The Frankenstein Monster
Gene Reyes as Tao-Tet the Mummy

3

The third (as of this writing) Dracula vs Frankenstein fell to Spain, and cult/exploitation director Jesús Franco.

Shot around the same time as Adamson's film, this one is also a loose sequel to Franco's Dracula, Christopher Lee's non-Hammer excursion as the vampire lord. I have been unable to find this movie, but the scenes I have seen suggest it boasts higher production values than the other Drac/Franks, and a premise closer to Stoker and Shelley.

The clips also suggest it isn't significantly better, but perhaps I'll update one day, with a more studied response.

Director: Jesús Franco
Writers: Paul D'Ales, Jesús Franco
Cast
Dennis Price as Doctor Frankenstein
Howard Vernon as Drácula
Paca Gabaldón as María
Alberto Dalbés as Doctor Jonathan Seward
Brandy Brandy as El Hombre Lobo
Fernando Bilbao as El Monstruo de Frankenstein
Britt Nichols as Chica vampira
Geneviève Robert as Amira
Anne Libert as Primera víctima de Drácula
Luis Barboo as Morpho
Josyane Gibert as Estela, la cantante de cabaret
Daniel White as Danny the Innkeeper

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