Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Your Daily Dracula – Dracula Sucks (1978)

Jamie Gillis, Dracula Sucks/Lust at First Bite (1978)

This relatively elaborate X-rated film exists in multiple, radically different versions.  Dracula Sucks (95 minutes) offers surprisingly intense horror, restrained (if still hardcore) sex scenes and a range of kinks including necrophilia, incest and rat-fondling.  Lust at First Bite aka The Coming of Dracula’s Bride (74 minutes) has more explicit sex, enough dubbed-in jokes to make it a comedy and a surprisingly romantic variant ending.  Dracula Sucks features old-time radio excerpts on the soundtrack, including a Suspense with Bela Lugosi, while Lust at First Bite has an eclectic selection of 1930s and ‘40s songs (Woody Guthrie, Spike Jones).  The various softcore or censored cuts released in cinemas and on video outside the US are cut-downs of Dracula Sucks.

Set in the 1930s – as signalled by good costumes and a borrowed vintage car – this uses much of the script of the 1931 Tod Browning film with jokes tipped in (just like Mel Brooks’ Dracula Dead and Loving It).  A running joke copped from MASH consists of absurd announcements (‘Attention Attention, Dr Van Helsing please return the crucifix to the chapel’) over the tannoy at Dr Seward’s Sanitarium.  It can charitably be assumed the fake bat-on-a-string is an intended comic effect and David Lee Bynum’s terrified black butler (who confuses Van Helsing with Van Heflin) is supposed to be a parody of a 1930s film stereotype.  Full-bearded and dressed as a headwaiter, with Lee-style red-lined cape, Gillis’s Dracula is played fairly straight, with the oddly effective touch of dubbing tigerish growls over his snarls of anger or lechery.  Cadaverous Reggie Nalder (minion to Dracula’s Dog, Barlow in Salem’s Lot) is a sinister Van Helsing — a rare case of a ‘name’ actor showing up in porn, albeit under an assumed monicker (Detlef Van Berg).  Like other 1979 Van Helsings, this killjoy savant is essentially useless against the vampire (‘I sure could use a cognac,’ he muses, ‘or a quaalude’).

Good supporting performances come from Annette Haven as a suitably ethereal Mina, Serena as gloomy ‘Lucy Webster’, John Leslie as a pompous Dr Seward and (especially) Richard Bulik doing a committed Dwight Frye impersonation as Renfield (in Lust at First Bite, he is billed as ‘McGoogle Schlepper’).  Notably bad is John Holmes (Sex and the Single Vampire) as rampant ‘Dr Stoker’, who has a session with a vampire – the shot of the maid (Irene Best) sinking plastic fangs into the famous Holmes member is unique to Dracula Sucks – and winds up with awkward fang-scars.  ‘Ha-ha, Big Dick is sick!’ crows an unsympathetic orderly (screenwriter William Margold).  Paul Thomas, who later directed his own vampire porno Out for Blood, is a traditionally dimwitted Jonathan Harker; his frustrations at being engaged to a virgin for three years are relieved in the back of a yellow taxi by a blonde nurse (Dietrich-look Seka).  Unusually, there’s inexplicit gay sex as Dracula forces himself on Harker before seducing Mina.  The climax is a long, piano-scored sex scene between Dracula and Mina in a cave.  In Lust at First Bite, Dracula gets the girl (‘Dracula has his new queen – she’s found eternal sexual passion with her master’); in Dracula Sucks, Van Helsing and Harker get there in time to expose him to sunlight.

Perhaps indicating something other than altitude, the end credits bill this as ‘filmed at a castle in the high California desert.’

Extract from Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon.


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