Friday, June 10, 2011
Franco Friday #20: Daughter of Dracula
Franco Friday #20
Twenty weeks ago I started something that seemed ridiculous and now I know that it is just that. Ridiculous. And I love it. Originally, the plan was to watch seven Franco movies and post a review a day for seven days. Then I foolishly decided to dedicate myself to this fucking lunatic for a year. This director has already taken this blog, my movie queue, and my poor stupefied brain places they were never meant to go. I was never meant to see this many Jess Franco movies. None of this was supposed to happen and yet, everything is my fault. Hey, hey, hey! Only 32 more to go!
Daughter of Dracula
AKA La Fille de Dracula
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Britt Nichols, Anne Libert, Alberto Dalbes, Howard Vernon, Daniel White, Jess Franco, Fernando Bilbao
Luisa Karlstein (played by Britt Nichols) returns to the Karlstein estate just in time to hear her mother’s dying request. Her croakin’ mom wants her to take a key, go to the family crypt, and have a look (there were no other instructions) at their undead ancestor, Count Karlstein AKA Dracula (Howard Vernon). Next thing you know someone is drinking the blood of local sexy ladies. Inspector Ptuschko (Alberto Dables) is trying to solve the murders and he enlists the help of Charlie the reporter (Fernando Bilbao) to do some extra snooping around the Karlstein place. Meanwhile, Luisa is behaving very strangely and starts up a relationship with her hot cousin Karine (Anne Libert). There is also a subplot. Maybe two. I don’t know.
This is probably the closest thing to a parody of a Jess Franco film I’ve seen so far although I’m not sure Franco knew he was parodying himself. First, the plot mirrors his only moderately interesting (that might be too kind) 1962 gothic flick, The Sadistic Baron von Klaus. Second, the cast is either misdirected, miserable, or underused but I’ll get to that later. Third, the film is pathetically staged and choppily edited (which I like). And finally, The Daughter of Dracula feels like a half-hearted attempt at making a giallo. There are several scenes where the imagery on display feels very reminiscent of the Italian whodunits so popular at the time. I wish the film had gone more for the gothic feel or the giallo bit because it doesn’t do both very well at all.
Let’s talk about the cast. I feel bad about Howard Vernon* even being in this movie but he does have the easiest job. He’s all done up in the Dracula makeup and he sits up, flashes the fangs, and then lays down again. He does this two or three times in the film, gets a stake in the head (very original) and that’s it. Britt Nichols kind of does the same thing except she gets to walk around. While she pulls some awesome faces and delivers one of the most ludicrous bitch-slaps I’ve ever seen, Nichols is still pretty out of it in this movie and just really dull.
Alberto Dalbes plays the inspector character very well, getting surly, sarcastic, and generally fed up with all the losers he has to put up with. Fernando Bilbao is rather annoying as Charlie, the goofy journalist. Oddly enough, Jess Franco is pretty decent in this as Cyril Jefferson, a side character that is actually pretty interesting. He is a well-read and tortured individual who believes wholeheartedly in the occult. He makes a potentially bland cameo into something memorable and interesting.
Of course, there is a show stealer in the bunch. Anne Libert! This chick friggin’ rules The Daughter of Dracula. I’m not sure how to put it into words exactly. There is just something special about this actress. She is adorable and one of the only members of the cast who seems to be having a good time. There, I put it into words. Her character is the sad victim in all of this craziness and it is impossible not to pity her cruel fate.
While it fails on almost every level, I have to say that Daughter of Dracula was not a waste of my time at all. The melodrama and the inept silliness go together perfectly. The gothic overtones, creaky library music, cryptic dialog, and the beautiful locations also help save the day. My biggest complaint is about the overlong sex scenes. I know I complain about these all the time in Franco films but the awkward lovin’ between Nichols and Libert are especially bad and they spend a lot of time going nowhere. It’s not about my prudishness (for a change), there is just no chemistry between these two ladies. But like I was saying, I still enjoyed Daughter of Dracula, it is completely accidentally entertaining because Franco was just so unbelievably off his game. File under moderately interesting/unessential. Ugh, I'm going to stop saying "File under..." from now on. Whose schtick is that anyway?
*Duh, I just remembered that Howard Vernon was as still as a freakin' statue in Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein. I guess that is method acting or something.