‘Compass International – a new direction,’ announces the trailer, ‘on course for the ‘80s and beyond …’ Well, maybe. With a 1979 glut of Dracula movies (the Frank Langella film, Love at First Bite, Nosferatu the Vampyre), this disco musical got lost in the mix – probably because, though literally in tune with the zeitgeist, it’s not actually any good. Armenian-born Nai Bonet had a scattering of ‘60s and ‘70s bit-parts in things like Beverly Hillbillies episodes and The Spy with the Cold Nose in her original specialty as a belly-dancer; as the ‘70s drew to a close, she was in the process of establishing herself as a disco diva and took the trouble personally to produce this (with a script based on her own story) as an all-round vehicle. Oddly enough, she never made another movie.
Dracula’s shapely granddaughter Nocturna forsakes her undead status when she falls in love with a mortal (Antony Hamilton), but the story is an excuse for letting Bonet strut in see-through shrouds, take a long nude bath, snap off a couple of comedy lines, be at the centre of loving close-ups and dance more than humanly possible. She is undoubtedly gorgeous and has a lovely smile, but somehow doesn’t project any personality. It hardly helps that Hamilton, ironically referred to as her ‘straight mate’, reads onscreen as both colourless and gay – scarcely the sort a vampiress would forsake centuries of undeath for.
Writer-director Harry Hurwitz (The Projectionist, That’s Adequate) amusingly peoples his 1970s New York vampire scene with an earnest self-help group (Blood Suckers Anonymous) and coins several jokes elaborated on in later movies and books (the ‘coming out of the coffin’ line). Future Alex Cox regular Sy Richardson plays ‘R.H. Factor’, a vampire pimp who pushes snortable blood and has a stable of bloodsucking masseuses, and we also get vampires who worry about their weight (thanks to all the hypo-glycaemia around), a vampire hit man who leaves marks folks think are down to ice-picks, etc. However, hoary old jokes about ‘a very good year’ for blood are trotted out again, and major supporting characters are all tipped in from an earlier spate of horror comedy.
John Carradine reprises his signature Dracula curtain speech from a coffin (‘If I’m alive what am I doing here? If I’m dead, why do I have to wee-wee?’) before he fits in false fangs, Brother Theodore (a macabre beat poet who was one of the killers in The ‘burbs) mutters bleakly in the background as a minion with ambitions to replace the Count, and Yvonne de Carlo riffs on Lily Munster (this Dracula is even called ‘Granpa’) as the Count’s nagging ex-girlfriend Jugula. A few bat transformations are done with cartoon effects which date back to Abbott and Costello, though there are sparkly disco lights mixed in.
A ton of lively, disposable music comes from the likes of Gloria Gaynor, Vicki Sue Robinson and Moment of Truth, while classical interludes harking back to Olde Transylvania are slightly reminiscent of the score of Blood for Dracula. With bits from big-jawed Irwin Keyes (as ‘Transylvanian Character’) and Drew Barrymore’s brother John Blythe Barrymore (as ‘Punk Vampire’). NB: Nocturna was the name of a vampire character who featured in Batman comics in the 1970s, but there doesn’t seem to be any connection beyond the obvious.