Though it bears a ‘based on the novel by Bram Stoker’ credit, this Dracula variant opens with Jekyll-style mad scientist Professor Tabani (Rehan) drinking a potion to gain eternal life. He appears to die, but wakes up in his coffin as a vampire. As the first vampire picture from a country (Pakistan) with no vampire tradition, Zinda Laash is free to make up its own origin myth. It dispense with Christian elements (which aren’t even given Islamic equivalents), uses some familiar undead attributes (fangs, hating sunlight, etc) and invents a few variations (hearts are stabbed with knives so they can bleed out the stolen blood).
After the set-up, it becomes a Lollywood remake of the Terence Fisher Dracula (1958). Moustachioed journalist Aquil Harker (Asad Bukhari) visits Tabani’s castle to investigate a spate of mysterious deaths and has exactly the same experiences as John Van Eyssen’s Jonathan Harker. The vampire bride (Nasreen), Tabani’s transformed assistant, attempts to fascinate Harker with several dances before she flashes fangs; Nasreen even has a hairstyle like Valerie Gaunt’s in Dracula. Drawing from the novel, Tabani (who wears a Lee-style cloak) placates the woman when he hauls her off the (short-lived) hero by handing her a baby to eat. It’s inexplicit and the baby is a stiff doll, but it’ still a shock. The Peter Cushing role is taken by Aquil’s hardhead brother (Habib), though a bearded inn-keeper does the Van Helsing bit by explaining vampire lore.
In black and white, inexplicit by Western standards, this has a contemporary setting (the final dash back to the castle is a car chase – making Tabani the first Dracula with a driving license). The odd interpolated nightclub song or dance on the beach amid a melange of borrowed music (including James Bernard, easy listening and Mozart samples) give it a peculiarly alien feel even as it reproduces familiar elements. Some sets are modelled on Hammer’s (Bernard Robinson’s trademark curly columns) so Fisher’s camera angles can be reused. It climaxes with an extensive fistfight between good guy and vampire, which strays all over the castle (including falls down stairs into the crypt) and winds up with the praying hero accidentally knocking aside a shutter so blazing sunlight falls on Tabani and turns him into a skeleton. Directed by Khwaja Sarfaraz.
Extract from Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon.