In the late 20th century and early 21st, a horror movie trend – which continues to the present day – was to remake anything which retained any name recognition value. Hence new versions of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting, etc. alongside regular reboots of monster franchises and reimaginings of the pantheon of classic horror texts. There are even remakes of HG Lewis films (at least three) and oddities like The Brain That Wouldn’t Die – which rather blurs the basic joke of this community-level do-over (made in Frostburg, Maryland, by Tyler Ralston and Marc Slanger) of Al Adamson and Sam Sherman’s 1971 hodge-podge Dracula vs Frankenstein. Adamson and Sherman didn’t set out to make Dracula vs Frankenstein, which is one of their patchwork pieces – evolving as genres (hippie/biker) come into and go out of fashion, as guest stars become available and get roped in no matter whether they fit or not, with different shoots over years and under different titles, and Dracula and Frankenstein added fairly late in the day.
Giving the William Pugsley-Sam Sherman script the Gus Van Sant’s Psycho treatment makes for a bizarre indulgence. The funniest aspect is that even a film made on VHS by hobbyists feels the 1971 ending is too terrible to use, so a prologue and tag copped from The Monster Squad get tipped in. Making a film like this on purpose, reproducing the random plotting and clunky dialogue of the original with the added fillip of being enacted by amateurs of varying talents (some seem to have English as a third language) who mostly outwear their welcome, is a strange enterprise indeed, though the loopiness is almost likable. A script set in sunny Venice, California, is transferred to chilly Maryland with only a light rewrite. The ‘Slasher and Terror Museum’ now sits over a disused mine rather than the pier, with ‘slackers’ instead of hippies but there’s still a ridiculous acid trip and an encounter with white slavers between the mad science business.
The original film is, for obvious reasons, stuck with a ton of inconsistencies, which this version reuses – hero Mike (Slanger) dies just before the climax, because Anthony Eisley wasn’t available for reshoots in 1971 and got summarily dropped. A few more lapses are thrown in. Character names sound like transcribed in the dark versions of the originals (Dr Duray, Groden and Gazbo instead of Dr Duryea, Groton and Grazbo) and a young actor (J. Spank Jenkins) sticks his tongue out to imitate a mannerism elderly J. Carrol Naish had because of ill-fitting dentures. The onscreen title Bram Stoker’s Dracula vs. Frankenstein. Dracula is played (in a four-dollar cape) by long-haired ‘T. Tocs Sined’ (Denis Scott?) who isn’t asked to deliver all the terrible speeches Zandor Vorkov got lumbered with. Susan Manger, replacing ‘freak-out girl’ Regina Carroll as the heroine, gives the closest thing to a proper performance. With Paul Byrnes as Dr Frankenstein, Matthew Beale as the Karloff-look Monster, ‘Erik the Red’ as a vampire-hunting Dr Pretorius in a Spanish don outfit (reproducing Jack Gwillim’s Van Helsing from The Monster Squad), and John Cornmesser digitally bisected as a carnival barker modelled after Johnny Eck in Freaks.
It’s clumsy but straight-faced, which makes it less of an ordeal than many a jokey low-budget skit – but I suspect that the appeal of this will be limited to Al Adamson cultists, Famous Monster completists, and residents of Frostburg, Md.