One of half a dozen or so films and TV shows titled or retitled to get in on the action of Mel Brooks’ huge hit Young Frankenstein (1974) by offering a Young (or Old) Dracula – and eclipsed in Dracula filmographies by the BBC childrens’ sit-com. It’s also one of the half a dozen or so Spanish Dracula/vampire parodies, which began well before Young Frankenstein with Un Vampiro Para Dos (1965). It may not be the best in either bunch, but it is interesting and odd. Director-star Carlos Benpar has some ambitions beyond low comedy, even if that’s what he mostly delivers.
Unusually for a Dracula spoof, it takes cues from ‘sobres personajes y textos de Abraham Stocker’ rather than Draculaa movies, even if there is a big dog called ‘Christopher’ in the cast and Benpar occasionally wears a Lee-like cloak. This reliance on the novel means that Mr Hawkins (Juan Fernández), Dracula’s lawyer, gets unprecedented screen time and a joke – perhaps echoing the sinking lifebelt from Buster Keaton’s Steamboat Bill Jr – involves the floating anchor of the good ship Demeter. Whether Spanish popcorn audiences in 1977 were hip to that is a moot point, though it’s even harder to tell what brand of kink is pandered to in the sequence that introduces Mina (Susana Estrada) and Lucy (Verónica Miriel) in their underwear smearing chocolate con churros over each other in front of pin-ups of Doc Savage and Spider-Man. Not to mention the cameos from noted Marxists – Groucho (Jaume Massó) and Chico (Joaquin Navarro) – in the silly finale where a crowd of women pursue the eligible Count and the castle is revealed as a big charming model built to scale with toy cars. Or the hallucinatory dream sequences which edge into the straight-up weirdo horror territory of Spanish genre cinema in the age of Paul Naschy. And what’s up with the non sequitur about the lawyer’s secretary Marilo (Marina Ferri) dotting her cleavage with a Biro?
In the present day, a moustachioed Van Helsing (Mir Ferry*) runs every business in the vicinity of Castle Dracula and is plotting to turn it into a tourist attraction (a feature of almost every vampire comedy ever made). The grey-haired old Count (Benpar) explains that Stoker (or Stocker) got it wrong and he was best friends with Jonathan Harker. He makes his will and falls to a comedy death offscreen – a joke we’ve not seen the last of – so the castle goes to great-grandson Jonathan Dracula, a louche young man who doesn’t believe in vampires. At the castle, Jonathan meets minion Renfield (Victor Israel, a Spanish horror/Western regular) who occasionally leaves off trying to molest Lucy (a humourous thread that now grates even more than it did then) to persuade Jonathan to become a proper Dracula, which – after a great deal of business – he does.
The ’Frau Blucher’ gag is reworked with wolves/lightning whenever Dracula’s name is invoked and other bits of broad comedy are thrown in, though Benpar seems keener on schtick from vintage rather than then-contemporary Hollywood (to whit: Keaton and Marx references). All the women – gypsy sorceress Kresthencia (Norma Kerr) shows up late in the film to join the pack – get burlesque-style not-entirely-revealing striptease numbers to camera. It signs off with an onscreen quote from Rimbaud. Scripted by José Antonio Domenech and Patricio Raorán. *Ferry plays a possible Dracula in Horror Story (1972), which lands him in that exclusive played-Dracula-and-Van-Helsing Club with Thomas Kretschmann, Rutger Hauer, David Carradine and one or two others.