Aged and ailing, vampiric Count Dracula (Udo Kier) travels to Italy on the advice of his manservant (Arno Juerging) to find a virgin whose blood will sustain him. Soliciting a noble family of depleted fortune as a potential suitor, the Count soon finds himself in an unfortunate situation. Among the aristocratic daughters, only the homely eldest and underage youngest are virgins; their libertine middle sisters routinely copulate with the family's churlish Marxist handyman (Joe Dallesandro) and each other.
Largely improvised, this was shot in part on leftover funds from the budget of Flesh for Frankenstein, Morrissey's far more contentious preceding feature. Always a delight, Kier plays the iconic monster with extravagant comic vigor. Droll as his acolyte, Juerging's sleek, loud, wry turn is reminiscent of a popular West German character that Mike Myers developed decades later. In direct contrast, Dallesandro is oafish, as wooden as a plank and bereft of presence, relying as usual on his gorgeous physique and the support of his famed benefactor, which was waning at this juncture - this was the last movie of either Morrissey's or Dallesandro's to which Warhol issued his imprimatur. The supreme incongruity of Little Joe's obnoxious Brooklyn accent might have been exploited for more hilarity if he'd any wit at all. Watching Dallesandro here, one recognizes that Lou Reed's every pointed barb in critique of his career and scant intellect was accurate. As the diminished estate's progeny, Milena Vukotic, Dominique Darel, Stefania Casini and Silvia Dionisio are photogenic but bland. However, Vittorio De Sica's performance as their charismatic, ineffectual patriarch is absolutely charming, proof that the accomplished actor-director could still illuminate the screen in his final year. Wearing the same faux mustache as he did in the Frankenstein flick, Roman Polanski appears in another amusing extended cameo.
What could have been a fun throwaway feature is squandered on too much heavy-handed class analysis and bad performances. Morrissey would have been best served by marginalizing or recasting Dallesandro's character...an admitted waste of a near-perfect posterior that would nevertheless have been a wise decision. Contradistinctions of Kier's sickly aristocracy to Dallesandro's virile peasantry are driven to the very core of the planet, yet both loathsome figures merely represent the degeneracy and inhumanity of their respective societal positions. Always the Catholic conservative, Morrissey's skewering of both peerage and Communism is an admirable, if clumsily delivered thrust. However, the historical exactitude of his script leaves much to be desired; Three Weeks is mentioned as a novel of recent publication written by "an American lady," and the Russian revolution in the past tense, yet Elinor Glyn was British, and her famed erotic text was published a decade prior to the Tsar's deposition. Sans numerous gauche exchanges and so much passionless sex, this picture might run a lean, entertaining hour. One thrilling, gory denouement augmented by Carlo Rambaldi's excellent special effects only suggests how much fun the previous ninety-five minutes should have been. Some novel stylistic devices indicate that Morrissey still had a few tricks up his sleeve, but this is clever B-trash, not avant-garde cinema. Claudio Gizzi's predominantly neo-romantic score is charming, though not well utilized.
A more talented screenwriter would have hastened this movie's pace, reduced its social commentary to a subtext and emphasized its black humor. While Morrissey was a man of unique vision and admirable ambition, the limits of his talent are especially obvious here. He once said, "Films are about personality: the better the personality, the better the film." True enough, and Dallesandro's sank this one.
What did you think of this review?
Fun to Read
About the reviewer
Robert Buchanan (rbuchanan)
I'm a bibliophile, ailurophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow and anastrophizing syntax addict. My personality type is that of superlative INTJ.
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.