Cinema/TV, Dracula

Your Daily Dracula – Gerald Fielding as Lucard, Last Rites (Dracula’s Last Rites) (1979)

Your Daily Dracula – Gerald Fielding as Lucard, Last Rites (Dracula’s Last Rites) (1979)

A little-liked regional vampire movie – made in New Jersey – which fits into a tiny sub-genre of films about vampires who’ve managed to find ways of getting fed in modern society while adapting to the present-day (cf: Thirst, Blood Relations, Red-Blooded American Girl).  The set-up – devised by director Domonic Paris, who co-wrote with Ben Donnelly – is cleverly done, but the story shows the deal unravelling through blunders, squabbles (alpha predators famously have trouble co-operating with each other) and the stubbornness of an aggrieved regular human.

It begins with a drag race in the middle of nowhere that ends up in a fatal crash – this sequence is better directed than much of the film, with a terrific punchline as the woman passenger in the survivor car screams while her chickenshit chicken run-winning boyfriend skedaddles into the distance behind her.  While the driver of the crash car dies (no loss – he’s been an asshole), his girlfriend is only injured – however, Sheriff Ordell (Alfred Steinel), medical man Dr Cummins (Victor Jorge) and undertaker Lucard (Gerald Fielding) conspire to have her declared dead and removed to the funeral parlour where the doctor takes his turn at biting a victim who a) turns into a vampire b) is staked promptly and c) is fixed up with morticians’ wax to cover fang-marks and stake-hole to be tidily buried and forgotten while the coven wait for the next convenient victim.  This turns out to be Mrs Bradley (Mimi Weddell), an elderly invalid who ‘dies’ at home – when her daughter Marie (Patricia Lee Hammond) changes her mind and decides she wants the wake held at her home, Lucard comes up with legal waffle as he tries to keep hold of the bitten and incipiently vampirised old woman.  Marie’s husband Ted Fonda (Michael Lally) raises a lot of questions about why the body has gone directly to the mortuary and he starts to have suspicions about the way the Sheriff, the Doctor and the Undertaker keep coming up with barely plausible explanations for the situation – which are confirmed when a minion dies staked on a picket fence while trying to kidnap the corpse and the risen Mrs Bradley goes walkabout while baring fangs.

It’s low-key to a fault, though the bluntly authoritarian small town bigwig bad guys are an effectively unpleasant lot.  Lucard – we presume the name is a vampire in-joke rather than an attempt to suggest this balding, moustached creep is the actual Count – is a touchy mastermind, who can’t keep his flock from snatching blood and barges in on someone else’s turn when it looks like the whole scam is going South.  Unusually for a vampire movie, it has a bunch of car stunts – mostly pulled off in fields, for convenience – and sketches in its rules rather than spells them out (Lucard applies make-up as if it were sunblock).  Performances are okay but a little bland – with the standout being Weddell, who gets nothing to say but wanders alarmingly with fright hair and fangs, scuppering this coven’s chances of blending in with the normies.  A VHS staple, I’ve only ever seen it in blurry prints – and it has a droning score to match.



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