Cinema/TV, Dracula, Film Notes

Film review – the Donald F. Glut Countess Dracula/Mummy’s Kiss series (2001-2008)

My notes on The Erotic Rites of Countess Dracula (2001), The Mummy’s Kiss (2002), Countess Dracula’s Orgy of Blood (2004), The Mummy’s Kiss 2nd Dynasty (2006) and Blood Scarab (2008)

The Erotic Rites of Countess Dracula (2001)

Donald F. Glut not only shot his own amateur monster movies (The Teenage Frankenstein Meets the Teenage Werewolf, 1959, etc) as a teenager, but also got them listed in reference books — not least his own pioneering and invaluable efforts (The Dracula Book, The Frankenstein Catalog, etc).  A fringe movie brat, he was the subject of John Milius’s film school project Glut and author of the Empire Strikes Back novelisation – and helped develop the Masters of the Universe and Transformers toy lines and their spin-offs.  In the 2000s, he returned to filmmaking with Dinosaur Valley Girls, the in-joke-heavy short The Vampire Hunters Club and The Erotic Rites of Countess Dracula.  Shot in five days on digital video (with a ‘film-look’ transfer) as The Scarlet Countess, it was retitled to seem more exploitable – but also to echo Jesus Franco’s The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein.  Under any title, and like its four follow-ups, the film is torn between appealing to its natural audience (motel-room masturbators) and indulging Glut’s Famous Monsters obsessions.  Granted the sort of extras-heavy DVD package many far more significant films haven’t had, it’s one of that select group of low-budget schlock movies that’s a far more satisfying initial watch with the commentary track running.

Opening with a four-way lesbian orgy that crops up again at the climax, partly to get some skin on screen early and partly to pad the running time, the story proper begins in ‘the 1960’s’ with Scarlet (Brick Randall), a Los Angeles rock hopeful who’d like to be ‘bigger than Janis’, bitten and transformed into a vampire by a husky Count Dracula (William Smith).  In the present day, Scarlet runs a club called Scarlet Countess and is attended by a long-haired Renfield (Del Howison, who would become the linch-pin of the series).  Scarlet longs to be human again and Renfield turns up a copy of vampire grimoire the Ruthvenian – established years ago in Glut-penned pulp novels and comic book scripts – which reveals that a vampire can become human again if she bites (and has softcore sex with) three virgins in the same evening.  After the usual joke about the scarcity of virgins in Southern California, Renfield recruits a hooker on her first day in the business (Nicole Liberty), a blonde dancer at the club (Meredith Rinehart) and a vampire wannabe goth (Julia Anna Thurman).  Lengthy sex scenes set up a transformation, which has the downside of making Scarlet’s age catch up with her.  The only solution is that the girl victims come back as vampires and rebite Scarlet in the orgy reprise, whereupon she becomes a vampire again – rendering redundant the flimsy excuse for a plot — and resumes her rock career.  This enables the film to end with a music video (‘Vampire Girls’ by Koo Koo Boy) to further stretch the running time (‘we wanted to give you guys a full eighty minutes’).

Written and shot in a rush, the film manages against the odds not to be dreadful, which unfortunately means it merely achieves mediocrity – Smith is no Zandor Vorkov but also won’t go down as one of the great movie Draculas.  Most of the acting duties are shouldered by Hewison, proprietor of the Los Angeles bookstore where Renfield picks up the Ruthvenian and the goth chick, who keeps the story trundling.  The top-billed Randall is adequate but unresonant as the red-headed hippie diva vampire, and most of her victims are the usual implants cases (Thurman has the token natural breasts) who handle nudity like professionals but dialogue like amateurs.  A problem, perhaps, is that the director’s lack of interest in making an erotic film means the selling-point sex scenes are fast-forward fodder full of conventional writhing and moaning, lacking even the occasional prurient enthusiasm of EI/Seduction Cinema’s East Coast lesbian softcore horrors (The Erotic Witch Project, Gladiator Eroticvs, etc).  Needless to say, this offers no threat to Daughters of Darkness or The Blood-Spattered Bride in the erotica/horror stakes.  Unlike those films, and like most contemporary sex/vampire films, s-m elements of the vampire myth are rigorously downplayed with tactful bites as a post-script to the sex scenes rather than blood-letting as integral to lovemaking.  The finale unbends a little, with shots of Randall naked and blood-smeared if not bleeding, but it’s a long way from Delphine Seyrig cooing orgasmically over the atrocities of Elizabeth Bathory.

Though the sleeve states ‘this feature is presented in its original TV frame’, it is actually letter-boxed.  As expected, the image quality is variable – some of the club and sex scenes are well enough lit and shot to pass at least as a Playboy Channel original film, while the verite on-the-streets stuff is considerably rougher.  As with the stereo soundmix, which highlights ordinary goth rock from the bands Doppelganger and Shadow Light, the technical qualities of the transfer are probably as fine as they could be, given the original materials.  The most pleasing aspect of the disc is a chatty commentary track by Glut (establishing that his name is pronounced to rhyme with ‘boot’ not ‘but’), producer Kevin Glover and editor Dean McKendrick.  They talk interestingly (and revealingly) about the circumstances of the production: pointing out a cameo by s-f expert Bill Warren (admitting that the shot is misframed to cut off his head), noting the tiny crossover references to Glut’s earlier works, mentioning that the B-camera sex scene footage shot by an investor (!) turned out to be useless and identifying various Glut personal items (a peace symbol, a guitar, books) used as props.

First published in slightly different form in Video Watchdog

The Mummy’s Kiss (2002)

Following The Erotic Rites of Countess Dracula, writer-director Donald F. Glut cranked out his take on the mummy movie as a minimal frame for more softcore gropings.  Reminiscent of, but sadly not even as good as, the Nina Hartley hardcore Mummy Dearest, The Mummy’s Kiss (just Mummy’s Kiss on poster and cover art) has almost nothing going for it beyond enthusiasm for the tattier end of the bandage-trailing sub-genre.

Set on the campus of Whemple University, this variant on the old, old story kicks off with student Ana Harwa (Ava Niche) and her Egyptologist fiance Carter Moore (George Thomas) open the stored mummy case that contains the remains of sorceress Hor-Shep-Sut, who was punished in Ancient Egypt for heavy petting with the Princess Hat-Em-Akhet by having a Maschera del Demonio-spiked Osiris mask stuck to her face.  The mummy revives and sucks the kas out of a couple of security guards, transforming into voluptuous Ramsay Amun (Sasha Peralta) and fixating on Ana, in whom she sees her ancient girlfriend reborn.  Holing up with familiar props in a dark theatre, the sorceress invokes Osiris (Arthur Roberts) and Isis (a topless Katie Lohmann) and juices herself up for the reincarnation-possession ritual by taking on additional kas from a pair of Moore’s sexpot students and reclaiming her heart from a canoptic jar in the office of Ana’s uncle, Professor Willis Harwa (‘name’ presence Richard Lynch).  In flashback and screen present, the ancient and modern incarnations of the female leads get together in extensive nude scenes that play more like extended mild foreplay than lovemaking.

A sex film with no evident interest in its sex scenes and a horror movie only in the most ramshackle sense, this plodding little picture has extremely awkward performances, amateurish story development and minimal production values.  Even the in-jokes (the end credits thank ‘the Stephen A. Banning Estate’) are below-par.  If you’re a completist and must watch it, our advice is to view it with the commentary track from Glut and producer Kevin M. Glover activated.  As on Erotic Rites of Countess Dracula, their unscripted chat has better jokes (‘here’s another one of your dolly shots’ says Glover of a scene in which the hero is pursued by a trio of coeds, prompting Glut to deadpan ‘there’s actually three dollies in this shot’), a generally engaging and sympathetic tone (you get the impression that these people enjoy the filmmaking process) and more interesting material than anything on the screen.  The chat covers such side-issues as the difficulty of getting actresses signed to appear in these movies actually to show up on set (‘she’s the replacement for the replacement’) and identifying a TV mummy movie clip as from Glut’s amateur movie The Adventures Of The Spirit (1963).

While widescreen is unusually ambitious for this area of production, the filmlook videography is variable, with solid colours for some scenes but too many blurry and murky stretches.  The models are often unattractively-lit so they tend to look hard and shrewish – presumably not the intended effect.  The package of extras include B-roll footage of special effects make-up man John Carl Buechler (slipping even from his Charles Band and Roger Corman assignments) working on the briefly-seen mummy, thirty mind-numbing minutes of ‘bloopers and outtakes’ that are mostly alternate takes of scenes in the film (the shooting ratio was presumably so tight that there were no proper leftovers), topless dancing snippets with Playboy playmate Lohmann and a pair of background dancers, and the usual stack of trailers.  The menu screen plays under a Glut-penned (and performed) song called ‘The Mummy Wrap’.  The end credits promise (or threaten) ‘Watch for: The Mummy’s Kiss: 2nd Dynasty’.

First published in slightly different form in Video Watchdog

Countess Dracula’s Orgy of Blood (2004)

A title like this is a virtual guarantee of disappointment.  It’s a tame softcore vampire movie which is, if anything, even more makeshift than writer-director Donald F. Glut’s The Erotic Rites of Countess Dracula (to which it is notionally a sequel) though a notch or two more bearable than The Mummy’s Kiss.  The only cast carry-over is Del Howison, who plays a white-haired bug-eating Renfield, while the croaking William Smith is replaced in the role of Dracula by whiny nobody Tony Clay, who spends the whole film hanging around with a pole-dancing minion (Jana Thompson) and making weak gags.

The film doesn’t even the feature same Countess Dracula; last time round it was red-headed Scarlet (Brick Randall), now it’s weedier Martine (Eyana Barsky), and the plot is carried by lovelorn Lord Ruthven (Arthur Roberts) and his ‘horny sister’ Diana (the improbably breast-ridden Glori-Anne Gilbert), who a resurrected in Los Angeles a century after being defeated by Father Jacinto (Spanish horror legend Jacinto Molina, the only person in this film who can pronounce ‘Ruthven’ properly), a monk who puts a curse on the pair so His Lordship can only drink blood once it’s been passed through the veins of his sister, who is in competition with him to track down Roxanne (Kennedy Johnston), the reincarnation of their old girlfriend.

Glut, who has written authoritative books about horror history, works in elements from his own mythology (a vampire tome called the ‘Ruthvenian’) and seems to be the first filmmaker to bring Dr Polidori’s proto-Dracula vampire Lord Ruthven to the screen without changing his name (Ruthven appears as ‘Webb Fallon’ in The Vampire’s Ghost and ‘Ripley’ in The Vampyre: A Soap Opera, and gets homage characters in Byzantium and the BBC Dracula); it’s a shame the character makes his debut in such reduced circumstances, and that Roberts is so dull.  Another pole dancer (Lolana) gets passed around among the vampires, and winds up in a three-way with Roxanne and Martine after Ruthven, pestered by the superimposed and subtitled spectre of Jacinto, kills his sister and himself.  It features cramped sets, awkward line-readings, minimal-contact lesbian grope-fests which last a geologic age, rubbish goth rock on the soundtrack, Dracula blackouts which are feebler than the ‘horror host’ skit of one ‘Count Gore de Vol’ glimpsed on TV, disintegration scenes that make use of weird-looking muppets and a general sense that Naschy, some major literary vampires and a bunch of strippers aren’t being shown to much advantage here.

The Mummy’s Kiss 2nd Dynasty (2006)

In a move that is at once typical of low-rent 2000s sexploitation and the 1940s mummy movies homaged here, this sequel transplants the Ancient Egyptian flashback from The Mummy’s Kiss to pad out the running time.

The mummy (Bruce Barlow) of wicked woman Hor-Shep-Sut (Mia Zottoli) is up and about, with make-up man John Carl Buechler’s homage-to-old-time-monsters suit getting a bit more exposure this time … but the plot is driven by Dr Zita Furneaux (Kylie Wyote – say it aloud to get the joke, and apparently a pseudonym for Belinda Gavin), fortyish museum curator, who invokes the Goddess Nephthys (Andrea Smith) and begs for the secret of renewing her youth – which involves an amulet and sucking the kas out of dim bulb blondes with breast implants.  The blondes are turned into shambling minions, labelled ‘Stepford strippers’ by muckraking reporter heroine Elyse Lam (Christine Nguyen), and the deal between Zita and Nephthys keeps going South, leading to a climax in which a lot of topless women stand around in a room waiting for an optical effect to happen.

Renfield (Del Howison) of Glut’s Dracula films shows up at a museum opening in search of crunchy insect snacks – and also setting up the intertwining of the two series in the next and last film in the series, Blood Scarab.  Most of the character names are riffs on the players in earlier mummy movies – the heroines of the 1932 and 1959 The Mummy were played by Zita Johann and Yvonne Furneaux – and there are characters called Professor Petra Cushing (Lynda Valliche) and Chrissy Lee (Lily Chan).


Blood Scarab (2008)

At the end of The Mummy’s Kiss 2nd Dynasty, a caption reads ‘watch for Countess Dracula and The Mummy’s Kiss’.  This is it – the Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man of writer-director Donald F. Glut’s run of softcore fan service monster mash-ups, bringing together characters, props, footage and what little plot there was from two Dracula films (The Erotic Rites of Countess Dracula, Countess Dracula’s Orgy of Blood) and two mummy movies (The Mummy’s Kiss, The Mummy’s Kiss: 2nd Dynasty).  It’s still a ‘yeah, whatever’ movie and only Del Howison, reprising his signature role as the bug-eating minion Renfield, really seems all that into it.

Dracula (Tony Clay, with a stuck-on caterpillar tache) turns to dust early on, because he gets confused by daylight savings time, and his widow Countess Bathory (Monique T. Parent) moves into his Californian castle and orders Renfield to find out how she can overcome her allergy to daylight.  Meanwhile, the mummy (a recycled prop by John T. Buechler) stumbles out of a museum where Professor Foran (Brinke Stevens) works, drops dead again, and is sold to a curio shop … and Renfield deduces that if the Countess had the mummy she could summon the goddess Hathor (Angelica Monro) to explain how that daywalker trick is managed.  It turns out that the secret is drinking the blood of three topless women (Natasha Diakova, Cindy Pucci, Christina Morris) and also sucking up their ka (cheap optical effect) – which gets the skin quotient out of the way.  Showing fairly typical vampire bitch ingratitude, the sun-tolerant Countess now thinks she doesn’t need Renfield – but he appeals to Hathor for justice and it turns out the solution is a face-off catfight between vampire queen and the moldy mummy, topped off with a very basic (especially for 2008) CGI distintegration effect that sees off the Countess.

Vague amiability doesn’t really stretch this far, and I have a feeling that Glut was happier ten years later dropping the sexploitation angle to do a straight ahead monster fan film, Tales of Frankenstein.



One thought on “Film review – the Donald F. Glut Countess Dracula/Mummy’s Kiss series (2001-2008)

  1. nothing but good will for Don ‘Gloot’, too bad these sound so sub-perfunctory – video is a harsh mistress. Vampires (and mummies) dry up in daylight, they need good lighting cameramen (like the adult entertainment actresses) … they’re all Divas. I understand Stoker connects the Vampire with wealth (maybe the sexual power of wealth), but part or most of his or her appeal is erotic – so it’s unfortunate that these films seem less powerfully erotic than earlier far less explicit but powerfully more suggestive films. Not knocking the full frontal approach, an ultimate horrible sexy vampire film could yet be made – the floor-show writhing, interspersed with stars of yesteryear appearing for lame link pieces and comedy skits has the feel of a tired revue. Night Of The Ghouls, though only a select, very special, few would consider it rocks-off material, has the benefit of being shot on film and atmospherically lit to give it a real horror vibe. I am surprised if there isn’t more porn-horror, since simply establishing a vibe before the participants get down to it could attract certain viewers. I am not suggesting gore, more entry into a macabre and fantastic world, Night Life, or Night Undead – immortal. Porn really needs, or could do with, more mythic dimensions. Why Horror is possibly the greatest genre. The archetypal story, ‘don’t stray from the path, especially after dark’, but of course, one does, and discovers the maddening mysteries of love and death, and the terrible beauty of each. There might be a chance for salvation. Even Dracula’s black love might redeem him. (Vince Price dictated the latter to me over astral channels. He added, on the matter of vampires, ‘why, they might even be a next step in our evilution. Professor, you said you wished there were something higher than man in the universe. As far as the vampire is concerned, there is’)

    Posted by wmsagittarius | March 8, 2022, 3:00 am

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