Geoffrey Land as Dr Gregorio, Doctor Dracula (1978).
Lucifer’s Women, directed by Paul Aratow, was finished and released in 1974: it’s about John Wainwright (Larry Hankin), a long-bearded academic who has written a book about possession/reincarnation and is now believed to be the famous Svengali (evidently a real person) reborn. He’s mixed up with a Satanic cult led by another apparently borrowed character, Sir Stephen (Norman Pierce) from The Story of O, and out to get together with exotic dancer Trilby (Jane Brunel-Cohen, who is at least sufficiently beautiful). It’s an arty softcore sex film – porn star Paul Thomas appears as a deeply sleazy character, using his real name Philip Toubus – with quite a few rambling monologues and some appealing psychedelia. It has one moment of real shock, though the camera then pulls back to reveal that Sir Stephen is pouring tea out of a teapot onto a prone woman’s hair rather than doing what we thought he was doing.
In 1978, Al Adamson and Sam Sherman showed up and shot extra scenes – to replace some of the more explicit sexual material and wrestle it closer to being something more like a regular horror movie. Deeming Svengali, from George DuMaurier’s novel, not a big enough horror name, they added a vampire angle and went with the title Doctor Dracula. It still didn’t come out till 1981, so the extra effort probably wasn’t worth it, and Lucifer’s Women plays slightly better than the rejigged version (not uncommon with Sherman-Adamson second drafts, even of their own films). Hankin came back to shoot new scenes, and Wainwright-Svengali is now pitted against Dr Gregorio (Geoffrey Lund), who is similarly the reincarnation of or possessed by Dracula. John Carradine, with horribly arthritic hands, slightly edges Sir Stephen out of the picture as Hadley Radcliff, a new big bad whose cult is out for eternal life. The film seems to include an outtake in which Carradine loses the thread of a speech in mid-tirade and breaks character. Also dropped in by Adamson is his regular star Regina Carrol, as a Dracula victim, which sadly means a lot less of Brunel-Cohen, who never made anything else but has a real screen presence.
There might have been a weird, workable idea in the notion of people possessed by competing fictional characters, but as it stands this has almost no conception of who Dracula and/or Svengali actually were. Mostly, people stand around looking glum and talking endlessly – Hankin, in a real hambone workout, even gets to argue with himself when Svengali’s spirit detaches from its host. Long, dull Satanic ceremonies with s-m drivel about some women being natural-born slaves and an appearance from a guy in a goathead mask might derive from ‘adviser’ Anton LaVey and are common to both films. A possessed or ghostly mother does a really annoying croaky voice, which counts as the scariest thing here. At the end of Lucifer’s Women, Wainwright performs a Wizard of Gore-type bisection act that’s shuffled to the opening of Doctor Dracula – then we get a sort of upbeat, hippie-ish personal growth message. At the end of Doctor Dracula, Carradine slumps over apparently dead when thwarted and Dracula is defeated by a sudden, tie-up-loose-ends stock footage explosion that just adds to the general air of bewilderment.
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