Though not free of the deadwood diversions that make many Al Adamson-Sam Sherman pictures endurance tests, this bizarre melange ranks among the most entertaining items in the Independent International catalogue.
Originally entitled The Blood Seekers or Blood Freaks, the first draft of the film was built around J. Carrol Naish and Lon Chaney Jr, cast as sideshow entrepreneur-mad scientist Dr Duryea and his minion Groton the Mad Zombie, with Satan’s Sadists veteran Russ Tamblyn as a gang-leader and ‘freak out girl’ Regina Carrol as a Vegas headliner searching for her sister among the hippies and bikers of a California beach.
The film was rethought in production by writer-producer Sam Sherman to bring on bigger horror names, revealing that Duryea is actually the last of the Frankensteins, additionally tossing in his rubberfaced monster (John Bloom) and a blue-lit, Frank Zappa-lookalike Dracula (Zandor Vorkov). This version was retitled Blood of Frankenstein but still needed tampering – in order to justify the socko D vs F title, the original ending in which Dracula zaps the monster’s heart with his magic ring and hero Anthony Eisley shoves the vampire against a protruding pipe was junked (and Eisley’s character casually killed off) to make way for a Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man-type slugfest that finds Dracula rending the monster (Shelly Weiss taking over from Bloom) limb from limb but turned to a skeleton by sunrise.
The big loser of this endless rethinking is Chaney, whose Lennie-like star turn as a puppy-loving halfwit periodically turned into an axe-wielding killer is reduced to a virtual cameo while Vorkov (hitherto a stockbroker named Roger Engel) is perhaps the screen’s worst Dracula and middle-aged hipster Eisley models a sharktooth-necklace and polo neck ensemble that enlivens otherwise dreary romantic and counterculture sleuthing angles.
There are many technical issues : out-of-focus shots, mismatched scenes from the various incarnations (note the ridiculous variations of Vorkov’s make-up), scratched-into-the-emulsion optical effects, just-plain-ugly cinematography. Throw in stock music (the Creature From the Black Lagoon theme blares over the climax), bad line readings of unspeakable dialogue, Forrest J Ackerman as a victim (Forry gave the film an award in FM: in repayment, his name is misspelled in the credits), Angelo Rossitto dropped face-first onto an axe, Carroll doing an amazingly tacky Vegas number and later sampling a drink spiked with LSD, a scene reuniting the stars of The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant, and Kenneth Strickfaden’s old lab equipment. It’s rubbish, but you wouldn’t want it any other way.
First published in DVD Delirium (FAB Press).