Ok, kiddies, get out your notebooks. It’s time to introduce you to another hallowed name in the Bad Movieâ„¢ Pantheon. Screenwriter/Director Al Adamson is well known to aficionados of ’60s and ’70s schlock. He also made a bizarre reappearance in the news in 1995, when his body was unearthed from beneath the floor of his house. It was discovered that he had been murdered by his contractor (no doubt after police cleared all the local film critics).
Adamson was notorious for reworking previous films (if one is so kind as to call them that) by cutting in new footage, thus creating a ‘new’ movie. Hence, his 1965 pic Psycho A Go-Go! went on with a bit of reediting to become The Fiend with the Electronic Brain (with added footage featuring Bad Movie god John Carradine). Still later it was mutated into 1971’s Blood of Ghastly Horror. Other notable Adamson fiascoes include the sick ‘biker’ classic Satan’s Sadists, the putrid brain-transference flick Brain of Blood (a.k.a. Revenge of the Creature) and two of the worst films ever to feature the immortal Count Dracula (and believe me, that’s quite an achievement). One is the just plain awful ‘horror’ ‘comedy’ Blood of Dracula’s Castle (featuring Carradine again, although oddly not as the Count). The other is the current object of our attention.
This film had its own fluid origins. Originally, it was conceived as a follow up to the successful (box-office wise, anyway) Satan’s Sadists. Hence the return of that film’s star, Russ Tamblyn, despite his having died in the previous picture. Part way through, however, Adamson got the chance to hire down-on-their-luck horror vets J. Carrol Naish and Lon Chaney, Jr. In better days, the two had co-starred in Universal’s mini-classic The House of Frankenstein (!). The new ‘plot’ followed Naish’s wheelchair bound Mad Scientist, Dr. Durea, as he conducted extremely hard to follow ‘blood serum’ experiments. This somehow involved sending his insane idiot assistant Groton (Chaney) out to behead young women on the local beach. This ‘shock’ would do something or another to their blood, and then he’d supposedly get his serum. Then, in the midst of shooting, the plot was changed again: Adamson decided to shoehorn the more marketable Count Dracula and Frankenstein Monster into the mix. If you watch the film closely, you can see how little these two characters have to do with the rest of the film. Needless to say, this hodgepodge of elements results in a film that makes little or no sense. But that’s OK. Sometimes you just have to let Art wash over you.
Just in case the film was being watched by someone unaware of Adamson’s impressive pedigree in the Bad Movieâ„¢ field, we begin with one of those credit sequences that causes even the novice to think, “Uh-oh!” Start with the really, really bad ’70s synth ‘horror’ music that plays over the credits. Meanwhile, overexposed frames (to look like drawings) of various ‘scary’ scenes and elements wash across the screen. Getting a load of the movie’s inane conceptions of Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster, even as ‘drawings’, confirms that we are in for a major league turkey. These are alternated with shots of circuit boards, meant, I suppose, to represent the mad Super-Science of Dr. Durea. (Wow. Awesome.) An added bonus is the highlighting of Dracula’s ring. This object plays a (stupid) part in the film, and was apparently constructed for its appearance here. Unfortunately, this piece of jewelry is rather less spooky (and rather more goofy) than Adamson must have thought. For lovers of Bad Opening Credit Sequences, this film is only surpassed by the execrable MegaForce. Still, it’s a surprisingly close call.
We open at the night shrouded environs of Oakmoor Cemetery. Ooh, scary! We can barely see a cloaked figure (hmm, who could that be?) unearthing a coffin. Inside, we see the body and lumpy face of the Frankenstein Monster, represented by what is absolutely the worst ‘Frankenstein Monster’ make-up in the history of motion pictures. Suddenly, just when we most expect it, a guard approaches. His flashlight flashes across Dracula. As portrayed by ‘actor’ Zandor Vorkov (!!), Dracula here looks much like Frank Zappa, complete with Afro and mustachioed goatee, and adorned with the shiniest white mime makeup you’ve ever seen. Dracula attacks, and when the guard hits the ground, the camera zooms in. Because of this, we can’t help but notice that the ‘fang’ marks on the guy’s neck are all wrong. They’re much too close together. This impression is confirmed by a cut to Dracula, whose plastic fangs are two to three times farther apart than the bite marks shown here. Oh, and just in case any of this sounded even marginally exciting, well, it’s not. Adamson’s lethargic direction and pokey editing drain more life from this sequence than Dracula does from his victim.
We cut to nighttime stock footage of an amusement park. We see a young woman walking down a stairway onto the lonely beach, supposedly located under the stock footage. You’d think she’d see how someone is overusing the dry ice machine at the bottom of the stairs and turn back around. But, of course, they never do. Walking under the boardwalk, through the dense, uh, fog, she shivers and gives apprehensive looks. Again, if she’s nervous, then why is she walking under the pier alone at night? Suddenly, someone, orâ€¦something (bum bum bum!!) approaches her through the mist. We cut to an upraised axe, the girl screams, the axe descends, and a somewhat less than totally convincing decapitated head lands on the sand. Then, as you would expect, we cut to stock footage of Las Vegas.
Now the horror truly begins, as an untalented female is heard warbling an obnoxious little song. To our dismay, we cut to the source of this caterwauling, one Judy Fontaine. She and two male backup singers proceed to perform, at length, a notably lame song and dance number. Fontaine, complete with giant blond hair and big bouncing boobs, is portrayed by the amazing Regina (rhymes withâ€¦, oh, never mind) Carroll. Not only is this lady an, uh, uniquely talented songstress, but she just happened to be Mrs. Al Adamson. Coincidentally, Ms. Carroll’s most famous role prior to this flick was as the ‘Freak Out Girl’ in Satan’s Sadists.
When this interminable ‘musical’ interlude finally finishes, we cut to stock footage of an audience lustfully clapping. I assume that they’re applauding the fact that they’re not actually in this movie, and so didn’t really have to sit through Ms. Carroll’s musical stylings. In her dressing room, Judy opens a telegram. For some reason, this scene is accompanied by inexplicable “Laugh-In” style music. The note, from a Sgt. Martin, informs her that her sister, Joanie, is still missing. Prominent in Judy’s dressing area is one of those Styrofoam heads you put wigs on. Perhaps this is meant as a blackly humorous clue that her sister was the decapitee we saw earlier. If so, this is by far the wittiest thing in the movie. One thing is sure, though: The Styrofoam head on display here is only marginally more fake looking than the ‘head’ we saw hit the sand.
Judy, wearing a garish fur coat, is next seen with Sgt. Martin. As they leave his ‘office’, we can’t help noticing the red door stenciled with ‘Sgt. Martin’ in sloppy, uneven white lettering. When films can’t ‘do’ something like door signage properly, well, that’s generally a bad sign (see also Double Agent ’73). They walk down a hallway to a door stenciled as “IDENTIFICATION”. Amazingly, here all the letters are lined up evenly. Inside, this high-tech crime fighting center consists of two desks and some wall shelving holding two sets of home encyclopedias and a couple of small cardboard filing boxes. They’ve obviously got crime on the run in this burg. Martin browbeats his guest, telling her to go home and leave things to the authorities. Judy, needless to say, reveals her intentions to hang around and look for her sister. This scene is enjoyable due to the conspicuous lack of acting talent on either end. Martin reveals that Joanie was living with (*gasp*) some “hippies” on the beach. “It seems that living near the water brings out the best and worst in us,” he notes. (?)
We cut to some stock footage of a boardwalk. Of course, the stock footage shows voluminous crowds, while the newly shoot footage only features a few cast members. A ‘hippie’ couple, Strange and Samantha, stop to listen to Grazbo the dwarf extolling the awesome frights contained in Dr. Durea’s Creature Emporium. This is supposed to be a ‘House of Horrors’, but it proves to be more of a ‘House of Borers’. Strange looks like a thirty-five year old Gary Shandling, wearing an especially ugly hippie outfit. This ensemble includes a red open-necked shirt matched with black and white zebra pants. Meanwhile, Samantha spots the rather portly Rico, a local biker and all around no-good-nik. Rico is played by Russ Tamblyn, who once starred in actual, you know, movies, like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and West Side Story. Hoping to avoid an unpleasant scene, she pulls Strange into the exhibit. Grazbo charges them a buck admission, and then proceeds to ‘eat’ the dollar. Let’s just say that they won’t have to explicate this amazing ‘illusion’ on a future edition of Magic’s Secrets Revealed!
Inside they are treated to about the most desultory collection of ‘horrors’ imaginable. In spite of this, the couple reacts by gasping and shrinking back from the purportedly terrifying exhibits. This seems unlikely, unless they happen to suffer from a very specific phobia: the fear of listening to a midget spouting gibberish in a darkened room. Just to give you an idea of the film’s budget, the tableaus feature actors in cheap frightmasks and cheaper make-up jobs. Apparently, they couldn’t afford actual, you know, mannequins.
First up is a guy in a really bad Ape Man suit, holding the ‘bloody’ corpse of a girl who we see moving in a distinctly un-mannequin like fashion. (This is ironic, given that most of the actors here act like mannequins when they’re supposed to be people.) “There’s more to come,” Grazbo chortles. Which you’d kind of expect, given that they’ve only seen one exhibit so far. The next exhibit, instead of featuring a half-man/half-ape holding the swooning body of a girl, portrays a gorilla, holding the swooning body of a girl. Man, that Dr. Durea has some imagination! Next is a guy in a two dollar novelty mask (clearly Lon Chaney, Jr., much to both his embarrassment and ours), grunting behind some phony prison bars. Things continue on for some time, including an appearance by Durea himself (see IMMORTAL DIALOG) , until our twosome are safely back in the sunlit world.
Dr. Durea then rides his little elevator down to his secret lab. There he greets Groton. This is another embarrassing scene for Lon Chaney, Jr. fans, as Groton the idiot is playing happily with a puppy. In other words, Chaney is still doing ‘Lenny’ from Of Mice and Men, a role he played some thirty years earlier. Chaney, who at this point was suffering from throat cancer (which also killed Chaney, Sr.), can only nod or shake his head in response to Durea’s queries. Durea rolls over to a medical gurney, atop of which lies a sheet enshrouded form. We take the opportunity to peruse his table display of ‘scientific’ apparatus: a bubbling beaker complete with your standard dry ice enhanced liquid and a test tube holder. Wow, the March of Science is indeed an unstoppable juggernaut.
Durea begins a truly inane speech (see IMMORTAL DIALOG). The body on the table proves to be Joanie. Oddly, Durea has not only reattached her head, but somehow brought her back to life. Only the fact that she’s drugged keeps her on the table. Although, personally, I’d think anybody who could recover from decapitation could shrug off a Mickey Finn. But what do I know? Anyway, having gone through this process, Joanie’s body is manufacturing the blood serum Durea needs. But not in the quantities Durea requires.
Groton moves the somnolent Joanie off the table. He puts her naked body in a sort of stand-up box, next to another woman in a similar state. The bodies are held in by slats that are, shall we say, strategically placed. Then Groton climbs onto the table, and Durea gives him an injection of the blood serum. This turns him into a sort of Mr. Hyde type madman. (Uh, what exactly is this serum supposed to do again?) This awesome transformation is ‘realized’ by adorning Chaney with some prosthetic pimples and greenish face makeup. Groton grabs his axe and descends to the beach via a ladder. This lowers through a trapdoor set in the laboratory floor.
Back upstairs, Durea finds Dracula lurking in his exhibit hall. (Wow, it’s all starting to come together, huh!). Durea oddly fails to comment on how his mysterious (and goofy) visitor seems to be talking through a echo chamber (!!). This just seems like something you’d mention. Dracula reveals Durea’s secret: he’s “the last living member of the family Frankenstein.” (Oh, brother!) Jeez, you’d think all the ‘last’ Frankensteins would get together and have a convention or something. Dracula reveals his knowledge of Durea’s past, how he was discredited by members of the “Medical Institute.” The Count explains that it’s Durea’s destiny, as the latest of the last of the Frankensteins, to re-reanimate his ancestor’s creation. Dracula reveals that he has located the Monster, and now possesses it. It had been hidden away years ago by none other than Durea’s nemesis, Dr. Beaumont. Fearing that Durea would learn of his secret, Beaumont not only had him drummed out of his profession, but started the fire that crippled him as well.
Durea refuses to knuckle under to Dracula’s orders, noting that he lives “beyond fear.” Dracula then reveals a rather ludicrous new wrinkle. It turns out that his ring can shoot out cartoon ‘rays.’ These cause a nearby rag to burst into flames, with Durea staring aghast at the sight. Frankly, though, I don’t see that this is much more frightening than if Dracula threatened him with a can of gasoline and a cigarette lighter. So much for living ‘beyond fear.’ Dracula promises that, once revived, the Monster will also wreak revenge on Durea’s behalf. “And all those who would meddle in the destinies of Frankenstein and Dracula,” he reverberates, “will see an infernal bloodbath the likes of which has not swept the Earth before!!” (Uh, would that include, say, the Black Plague? Or World War II?)
Out on the beach, a couple is necking. We are now subjected to an utterly typical ‘nervous girl hears noises while the guy tries to get into her pants’ scene. This is intercut with shots of the mutated Groton, who appears to be standing about three feet away from them, axe at the ready. Needless to say, this scene is soon ‘cut short.’ (Get it? ‘Cut short’! Ha ha ha!!) Then we cut to the “Big Protest.” With-it kids are carrying awkwardly lettered signs, featuring strangely generic anti-establishment slogans like ‘Let us have our freedom!’ and ‘Youth have rights too!’ This hep assembly is accompanied by ‘groovy’ guitar music.
This sets up (sort of) a segue to a really lame hippie/biker bar, complete with bad music and awful decor. Slogans like ‘POT’ and ‘SOCIETY SUCKS’ are painted on the wall, presumably to ‘blow the minds’ of any ‘squares’ who might wander in. Groovy young kids, both Black and White (I can dig it!) dance to some nondescript tunes. Judy pops in, continuing her search for her sister. She shows Joanie’s picture to the waiter, whose forehead is garnished with a hilariously bogus giant scar. The photo is a full body shot of Joannie taken from roughly ten feet away, meaning that her face is about a half an inch tall. He denies any knowledge of her. Then she asks if he knows Rico (a name she got from the police), and again he pleads ignorance. However, we soon see him conferring with Rico himself.
Rico gives the guy some LSD to slip into Judy’s drink. Right quick, Judy is experiencing a not-very psychedelic ‘freak-out.’ She dances around, while flashing intercuts represent her fragmented hallucinations (ah, the miracle of the freeze frame!): Judy, wearing a sort of yarn almost-dress, is hanging in a giant spider’s webâ€¦Judy, wearing a black gauzy bodysuit, is writhing on a red-sheeted circular bedâ€¦Judy, wearing some kind of pink filmy number, is running on a beachâ€¦a darkly lit close-up of (I think) Judy on the circular bedâ€¦Judy in the spider web againâ€¦another long shot of her on the circular bedâ€¦another close-up on the bedâ€¦white gloved hands grabbing a woman’s leg on a ladder that just happens to look exactly like the one in Dr. Durea’s labâ€¦an extreme zoom shot into the torso of a woman wearing a silver dressâ€¦Judy again on the beachâ€¦Judy again in the webâ€¦well, you get the idea (or lack thereof). This goes on, featuring distorted music (like you can tell) and recurring shots of a flashing light panel to increase the, like, general way-outedness of it all. Luckily, Strange, now wearing a poncho over his zebra pants, and Samantha show up and hustle her to safety. Why? IITS (It’s In The Script).
Next, after a few stock shots of a lightning storm, we cut to Durea’s lab. In spite of the cheapness of the set itself, some of the ‘scientific’ equipment is both pretty cool and oddly familiar. (I don’t mean the goofy ‘master control unit’, which comes complete with colored radio tubes that flash on and off like Christmas lights.) That’s because it was provided by Kenneth Strickfadden, who created the stuff for the original 1931 Universal Studios production of Frankenstein (!). That whizzing sound you hear is probably Boris Karloff spinning in his grave. On the table lies the Monster, well lit so as to give us a really good look at his abysmal make-up. He looks sorta like an Oliver Hardy who has been stung in the face by a couple of hundred bees. As another kick in the head to fans of the classic Universal monster movies, the ‘music’ here is a thinly disguised yet horribly mangled rip-off of some of the classic Universal film scores.
However, they make sure we realize that we’re not watching a Universal flick (no problem there!) by including a ridiculous and utterly gratuitous plot device. Dracula starts pontificating about some comet that somehow is part of the Monster’s revival process (huh?!). This comet supposedly appeared when the Monster was first animated, and it just happens to be due to make its next appearance any moment now. This is a concept that owes more to the Mexican horror laughfest The Brainiac than any version of Frankenstein that I ever saw. In fact, I have no sooner written that last sentence than a hilariously bogus ‘comet’ is shown streaking across the ‘sky’. This, definitely, is right out of The Brainiac. Anyway, long story short, the Monster comes awake (which is more than you can say for the audience).
We cut to Dr. Beaumont getting into his car. To the further chagrin of classic horror fans, Beaumont turns out to be an amateurish cameo by Famous Monsters of Filmland founder Forrest J. Ackerman. Presumably, it was through Ackerman that the film was able to access Ken Strickfadden’s electrical props. Beaumont, driving, is shocked to find his passenger seat suddenly occupied by Dracula. The nervous medico asks the Count’s identity (and also becomes the latest character not to mention the vampire’s echo-chamber voice). “I am known as the Count of Darkness,” Dracula replies, “the Lord of the Manor of Corpathia.”
Now, not only are those the lamest ‘Dracula’ nicknames that I’ve ever heard, but, well, shouldn’t that be Carpathia? Not that that’s a word either, but at least it sort of sounds like a derivative of the Carpathians, a mountain range that runs through Transylvania. Anyway, Dracula directs Beaumont where to go, while Ackerman randomly turns the steering wheel in an unsuccessful attempt to look like he’s actually driving a car. Pulling onto a side street, Beaumont exits the car just in time to be crushed by the waiting Monster. Still, he makes sure that his flailing arms never connect with the Monster’s face, lest he dislodge large chunks of the doughy make-up. I’m sure that this description fails to convey just how lamely this whole sequence plays, but words can only do so much.
The next day, Judy wakes up in a strange yet groovy apartment. It’s the home of Mike Howard, a middle aged hippie, who tells her that it’s, yes, his “pad.” Here we have definitive proof that hippie fashions look even stupider on people in their thirties than on teenagers. Mike sports tight white pants, a tan turtleneck pullover and a beaded animal tooth necklace. He reveals that he knew Joanie, but has no idea of her current location. Taking Judy outside, we see that Mike lives (of course) on the beach. Strange and Samantha are frolicking nearby. Mike continues using clichÃ© idiom, saying things like, “That’s my bag.” Apparently, he’s a writer (or something). Just then an extra runs on with some expository dialog. A man was found all chopped up on the beach, and his girlfriend is missing. “Man, it’s a real bummer,” the guy notes. Hmm, could this tie in with the missing Joanie? Oh, and to pad the film a little we watch a few stock shots of surfboarders.
To Judy’s chagrin, Mike reveals that Joannie hung around the boardwalk, fantasizing about being “a freak.” “Two heads, an eye missing, an elongated spine,” he continues, “anything that was grotesque turned her on. But that wasn’t the whole story.” No, for she wanted to use a ‘magical formula’ to transform the grotesque into the beautiful. In connection with this she spent a lot of time at the Creature Emporium. Is any of this making sense to you yet? If so, I’d be very worried. Anyway, Mike, Judy, Strange and Samantha (who are starting to remind me of the Mystery Machine gang from Scooby Doo) are soon in front of Durea’s place. Strange tells Samantha that he isn’t worried about her safety. “You know how to go invisible,” he joshes. “Only from the waist down,” she sexily replies. (Huh?)
They go inside, following the tape recorded spiel. Unbeknownst to them, Dracula is lurking in the background. The order of exhibits is different this time, starting with a dummy getting beheaded by a guillotine. When we cut to the, uh, actors, they are supposed to be watching this. However, the director apparently never told them where exactly the guillotine was supposed to be, because they’re all looking in different directions. The tape mentions that, had this been a real beheading, they would have noticed a lack of blood. I guess that this is the script’s ‘sly’ way of explaining why, when Groton beheads his victims, their blood doesn’t fountain out their severed necks. That would, presumably, rather detract from their ability to change their blood chemistry when their heads are reattached (or whatever the hell is supposed to happen here). Now, I’m no doctor, but I’d have to assume that a beheading would, in fact, result in quite a bit of bloodshed.
Dr. Durea rolls in, startling our heroes. More choice dialog proceeds. Durea notes that he is always in the Emporium, at least in spirit. “Especially in this room, since all of these creatures are byproducts of my mind,” he boasts (if that’s the right word). I guess he means the gorilla and the guillotine. Hmm, what other horrific beasts or devices might spring forth from his fertile, macabre imagination? Perhaps a fantastical giant striped cat with massive claws and teeth. Or some kind of diabolical furniture that slays it’s occupant with a deadly electrical charge. Judy notes that her missing sister visited his establishment. Durea replies that many young people come to him, “â€¦to study the mysteries of the arcult.” The what? What, nobody on the set knew that the word is ‘occult’? More likely they just didn’t have the budget to reshoot the scene. Or maybe they didn’t really care (Bingo!). Judy says that Joanie was last seen right by the Emporium, a fact not previously mentioned. Durea suddenly realizes that Sis is down in his lab, but plays dumb (insert your own joke here). Although suspicious, our gang realizes that they won’t get anything more out of him, so they split.
Out in the alley, they’re accosted by Rico and a couple of his henchmen, riding in on their hogs (that’s motorcycles for you non-hep types). It turns out that Samantha was a motorcycle mama in Rico’s gang, and that once in, you stay in. Perhaps actor Russ “Rico” Tamblyn is remembering better days, when he starred in West Side Story. You know, “When you’re a Jet, you are always a Jetâ€¦” Anyway, Rico and his crude dudes begin hassling our foursome when a police cruiser comes by. Warning Samantha that next time will be different, Rico and crew ride off. And who’s in the cop car? Why, it’s none other than Sgt. Martin! What a coincidence! Martin gets out from about ten feet away and watches Rico ride off. Then Judy comes over. “Did you see those motorcyclists?” she asks. What is he, Mr. Magoo? Martin again advises Judy to quit her investigation. “If you’ve got a fireplace, burn some wood in it. It’ll be a lot better than running loose on the streets.” Yes, well, now it’s perfectly clear. Thank you, Sergeant.
Uh, oh! It’s the inevitable ‘romantic montage’ scene. Judy and Mike holding hands while walking on the beach. An insipid love ‘ballad’ on the soundtrack. Seagulls. Ocean waves. More seagulls. (I didn’t say it was a good romantic montage.) At the end, they sit on the beach, watching the ocean. Judy says how beautiful it is here, being with someone so nice. “It’s about time you admitted it,” Mike replies. Yeah, it’s been, like, what, a whole day since she woke up in his house. I mean, you can’t expect a guy to wait forever, even if you are searching for your missing sister! Anyway, he doesn’t have to wait any longer. The couple clinches, then the fade-out. Footage of pounding waves (apparently they didn’t have any footage of towering smokestacks or trains entering tunnels) subtly indicates that they’ve ‘done the deed.’ Time for this whole romance sequence: two minutes. Yeah, boy, that was important to the story.
Back at the lab, Dr. Durea is tinkering around with one of his subjects, pretending to be scientific and everything. Things are apparently coming along swimmingly. Unfortunately, Groton picks that very moment to have a Mr. Hyde-type spaz-out. He begins transforming, and Durea is forced to inject him with some of the precious serum in order to calm him down. (Note: Please ignore the fact that earlier in the film, Durea injected Groton with the serum to cause the transformation, not to halt it.) Groton ends up looking mighty satisfied, while Durea is extremely peeved. Meanwhile, back on the beach, Mike and Judy are still talking. Their clothes are on, but Mike’s smoking a cigarette (wink, wink). Judy comes to the conclusion that maybe it’s time to let Joanie live her own life (oops, too late). Mike, however, has concluded that Durea and the Creature Emporium are tied into all the recent mysterious events.
We cut to an anonymous couple making out in a car on a secluded road. In case you don’t get to see many horror movies, this isn’t a good sign. Sure enough, the Monster pops up and soon has the car door off in his hands, like that guy in the Victory Auto Wreckers commercial. (Note: This reference will only make sense to Chicagoland area TV viewers. The Management apologizes for any inconvenience that this may cause.) Dumping the guy on the ground, the Monster grabs the woman. Her beau tries to counterattack, with predictable results. Just then, a police car drives up. A couple of cops jump out and confront the Monster. After the obligatory ‘firing shots to no avail’ scene, one of the cop pulls my favorite stupid attack maneuver. This is the one where, having ascertained that your target is bulletproof, you run up and try to bop it one with the handle of your sidearm. Does anyone think that physically grappling with a guy who’s proven to be invulnerable to bullets is a good idea? Anyway, after a pretty perfunctory ‘fight’ scene, the Monster reclaims his distaff prize and shuffles off. By the way, this scene has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the picture.
Next we see Judy on the beach. Ignoring the fact that she’s an idiot for going there at night, what with all of the murders and everything, I’m left wondering why she hasn’t been intercepted by the cops. Aren’t they patrolling the site of all these horrible crimes? Apparently not. A hand suddenly (and awkwardly) appears in frame, grabbing her shoulder. But, ha ha, it’s only Mike! Whew! What a relief from all the tension. Maybe a cat will jump out at them next. Heading to where the Creature Emporium would be, Mike examines the bottom of the boardwalk. I guess the police didn’t think of that. Mike almost immediately spots the trap door from Durea’s lab. Judy starts whining about how she wants to leave. Mike agrees, wondering what to do about his find. (Uh, tell the police?) Then Judy sits down two feet from where she was just nervously mewling. There they stop and engage in a fairly lengthy conversation. Why? IITS.
Somewhere else on the beach, Samantha is hanging out, spending a cheerful night alone on Death Beach. Why? IITS. Rico and his hoods show up. (Again, why aren’t the cops patrolling the beach? And exactly where in relation to Samantha are Judy and Mike?) After an awkwardly filmed ‘hide and seek’ scene, Rico catches hold of Samantha, preparing to have his way with her. Yep, nothing like a rape scene for pure entertainment! Unfortunately, this goes on for some length. Fortunately, Groton shows up and whacks (literally) Rico’s rather smallish gang before the real activities start. Samantha passes out (or something). Groton grabs her and heads back to the lab. As he climbs the ladder, Mike asks Judy if she heard something (why are they still on the beach?). This doesn’t exactly indicate cat-like hearing. After all, the last we saw they were less than a yard away from the trapdoor.
Mike gets up to investigate, telling Judy to stay put. Roughly five seconds after he leaves, Judy comes running up to him. “I just couldn’t stay there by myself anymore,” she explains. Yeah, was he going to leave her there forever? Under the trapdoor they find Samantha’s locket in the sand. They wonder what to do. For the last time, let me suggest that this might be the time to call in the police. No? Well, don’t blame me then. Mike runs topside and enters the Creature Emporium, buffaloing over Grazbo. Judy shows up and Grazbo points her inside. Almost immediately finding the door to the secret lab, Mike and Judy head down there. Spotting the comatose bodies, Judy spies Joanie and runs over. Durea, speaking over the PA system, reveals that she’s alive and well. Then he reveals that they have been chosen to join in on the experiment.
Groton appears and blocks off retreat. Then Durea wheels in and pulls a sheet off the unconscious Samantha. A breast is also exposed for audience amusement, a prime example of way too little, way, way too late. Durea explains that Samantha has experienced a “remarkable cellular conversion,” the result of seeing Rico and Co., hacked up by Groton. This has resulted in her blood containing exactly the correct components to complete Durea’s serum. Even more amazingly, Durea somehow figured all this out in the roughly three to five minutes since Mike heard Groton carry Samantha into the lab. Durea explains that when Judy sees Mike’s death, a similar reaction to occur in her. “And when you witness the sudden death of your lover,” Durea ‘explains’, “the traumatic shock will draw the reservoirs of blood into a single electric stream. You will feel yourself lifted to a new plateau. And this physical resurrection will be the beginning of a new life for yourself. And others. Mainly my friends here.” Mike and Judy look up to see Groton and the axe wielding Grazbo moving in for the kill.
However, in an extraordinarily clumsy, and amusing, bit of business, Mike accidentally trips the lever to the trapdoor. Grazbo has been standing over it, and drops the axe below as he grabs onto the ladder. However, his wee hands are too small to procure a hold. He then manages to fall in such a way as to land face first on the axe blade, protruding up from the sand below. I really can’t convey in words how awkwardly all this is shot, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Let’s just say that it’s not quite the moment of horror that the director probably envisioned. Then there’s the fact that the rest of the characters all have ‘horrified reaction’ close-ups. This is somewhat odd. After all, Grazbo fell through the trapdoor and out of their sight, so there’s simply no way any of them could be aware of his fate. Grazbo’s death causes Durea to repeatedly shout, “They must all die!!” Yeah, both of all of them. Judy runs for it and Groton pursues her. Durea grabs a convenient revolver and goes after Mike. He manages to wing him, then rides his elevator up to continue the pursuit.
Upstairs, Durea takes another shot at Mike and runs out of bullets. To give the film credit, they did give Durea exactly six shots, which would be right. Durea, unarmed, panics. Attempting to wheel his way out of there, he somehow gets entangled with the guillotine exhibit and gets himself beheaded. (Wow, the irony, huh.) This scene is even more awkwardly shot than the ‘Grazbo falling on the axe’ bit. First we see a stuntman wheel into the side of the guillotine. Then they cut to actor Naish’s upper torso jammed halfway through the guides of the guillotine (which would be impossible from the angle that ‘he’ hit it). Then a quick shot of the blade descending. Then, all of the sudden, Durea’s head, represented by a pathetically obvious dummy head, is somehow in the exactly the right position to get lopped off. Finally, we cut to a classic ‘actor’s head jutting through a hole in the floor’ shot to represent his astray cranium, as ‘shock’ music plays to emphasize the moment. Oh, the horror of it all!
Up on the roof, Groton is chasing Judy. However, Strange and Sgt. Martin are investigating nearby. Martin, seeing Groton, draws his sidearm. Amazingly, his gun just happens to be the exact same model as Durea’s. What are the odds, huh? Showing miraculous marksmanship, Martin somehow manages to fire up three floors and hit the running Groton. Groton pitches over the side (has anyone shot on top of a building ever not fallen over the side?). Down on the ground, he’s nuzzled by his cute little puppy. Ah, the pathos! And let’s not overlook that this is exactly the way The Beast of Yucca Flats ended.
Unfortunately for Judy (and us, because it means the movie’s not over yet), Dracula appears on the roof and mesmerizes her. He takes her up some stairs. Suddenly, ‘shock’ music from Creature of the Black Lagoon blares out. This music somehow ended up in the public domain, appearing in many other turkeys like They Saved Hitler’s Brain and Women of the Prehistoric Planet. Now, you’d expect that this blaring musical cue would herald something scary, like the lumbering Monster coming to kill her. Instead, and laughably anticlimactically, Dracula pops back into frame with some rope to tie Judy up with. Wow. Chills.
Down in his car, Mike is rummaging around for a weapon. The best he can come up with is a road flare. Back topside (where are the cops during all of this? I guess they just went home), Dracula releases Judy from his mental hold. He plans to re-create Durea’s experiment. “Your fear will fully energize the molecular structure of your blood,” the Count of Darkness explains. Once this occurs, he will drink her blood, allowing it to do its magic. The Monster lumbers over. Judy screams, apparently terrified of really bad makeup designs. Then Mike shows up. Dracula reveals that the blood serum will make him invulnerable (presumably to sunlight, although they could explain this better). Ranting on like some third-rate Bond villain, Dracula explains that he will raise an army of the living dead and, yes, take over the world. (Has anyone ever figured out why anyone would want to rule the world?)
The Monster attacks Mike (so that Judy can witness his death, yada yada). However, Mike’s flare temporarily blinds the Monster, and it’s soon grappling with Dracula by mistake. While this less than epic struggle proceeds, Mike unties Judy and they run away. However, in a moment sure to shock modern viewers, Dracula untangles himself from the Monster and fries Mike with his goofy deathray ring. Lest anyone give the filmmakers too much credit, however, for a truly shocking plot development, let’s put things into perspective.
Dracula vs. Frankenstein was produced in the period of the late ’60s/early ’70s, post the release of George Romero’s seminal Night of the Living Dead. That picture once and for all shattered the rules of the classic horror flick. For a brief second, it seemed to herald a new era of freedom for horror movies. Unfortunately, many filmmakers decided that it was easier to just ape Night of the Living Dead than to write an original script. This resulted in a parade of films that mimicked Romero’s flick as blindly as earlier filmmakers had followed the previous era’s conventions. And, unfortunately, one of the aspects that many copied was Night of the Living Dead’s nihilism. All of the sudden, heroes and heroines were meeting gruesome fates left and right. What seemed like an authentic artistic statement in that movie, though, soon become tiresome and depressing when applied to an entire slew of lesser movies. This resulted in a particularly unpleasant period of horror films. So the killing of Mike wouldn’t have been as shocking to contemporary audiences as, say, James Whitmore’s death in 1954’s Them!
In any case, Judy faints at the sight of Mike’s flaming corpse, and we fade out. Next we see a somewhat ‘gothic’ looking house. Dracula and the Monster, carrying Judy, show up and head inside. Taking Judy to a candle lit section of the house, Dracula proceeds to tie her up, prior to drinking her energized blood. As Dracula wanders around, the Monster comes over and strokes Judy’s hair. Gee, will he fall in love with her and battle Dracula to protect her? Dracula finally comes over and prepares to put the bite on her. But the Monster intercedes. Apparently, he’s fallen in love with her, and will battle Dracula to protect her. Taking care to separate Drac from his ring, the Monster knocks him outside. Dracula retreats for a while, not wanting to have to destroy the Monster. Finally, though, deep in the woods, he turns to make his stand.
The title bout begins, although it’s so poorly lit as to be barely seeable. “I’ll destroy you piece by piece as Dr. Frankenstein created you!” Dracula warns. He proceeds to do just that, in a scene that appears to have been the inspiration for the ‘Black Knight’ scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Soon, both of the Monster’s arms have been ripped off. Then Dracula pulls his head off, holding it aloft and gloating. He has little time to savor his victory however, for dawn is dawning. The Count jogs back to shelter, but is ultimately trapped in the rays of the sun. After a less than brilliant disintegration sequence, Judy stumbles from the house, replaying scenes from the movie (including ones she didn’t see) in her mind. She ends up tossing the Count’s ring onto his ashes. This apparently was to set up a sequel. Astoundingly, such a script was actually written, as documented in Don Glut’s great tome, The Dracula File). Luckily for humanity, we were spared this indignity.
It’s tough to award a single Bad Acting trophy here. This being the film that knowledgeable Chicago Horror Host the Son of Svengoolie referred to as the “Super Bowl of Bad Acting.” After all, Chaney couldn’t talk; the hammy Naish was too much of a frail old man for me to pick on that much; the hideously poor Dracula performance by Zandor Vorkov (!), filled with the most blatant mugging imaginable, perhaps looks worse than it is because of that stupid echo chamber voice thing (although probably not); John Bloom makes the stumbling of the Monster, about all he does here, look phony; Russ Tamblyn looks disengaged and mildly drunk all the time, and who can blame him? Ultimately, I’d have to give the respective acting awards to Jim Davis, the guy who stiltedly played Sgt. Martin, and, of course, the fabulous Regina Carroll. Thanks for the memories, people!
Sgt. Martin tries to bore Our Heroine out of town by relating his nonsensical theories about the Nature of Man:
Martin: “There’s an amusement park just east of the pier. It’s a hangout for pushers and white slavery operators. Oh, yeah, we’ve still got ’em around. And you’d be surprised just how many young girls come out here, just hoping to get involved in all this kind of stuff. Here’s some shots. Murder. Rape. Beatings. Now maybe you ask yourself a question. Why do all these terrible things have to happen? Well, it took me twenty one years of my twenty two on this business to get the answer. And at last I have it!”
Fontaine: “And what is the answer?”
Martin: “These people want these things to happen! That sound too simple? Well, not really. ‘Cause it’s the most complicated thing in the world! Nobody, but nobody, knows anything about the subconscious, Ms. Fontaine. Not even ourselves. Yeah, it’s a dark, dark world, Ms. Fontaine.”
Grazbo begins the following lecture to Strange and Samantha at the House of Horrors. Ooh, spooky! Still, like any master of the Cinema Macabre, Adamson knows how to horrify us, but then let us breath easy with some inspired comic relief:
Grazbo: “Come right in! Do not be afraid, this is Dr. Durea’s Creature Emporium! Before you, you will see sights that you will not believe! But I assure you that each and every one of them is true, and has happened many times in history!”
Strange: “But I don’t even see anything!”
[A spotlight comes on, illuminating the ‘Ape Man’ exhibit. Strange and Samantha unconvincingly appear ‘startled’.] Grazbo: “You see! You must open your eyes to see things! There’s more to come!”
[Yeah, you’d imagine so. After two more truly lame exhibits, Dr. Durea himself makes an appearance, beginning with an announcement unlikely to inspire much debate.] Durea: “It’s only an illusion, children. It’s all right! Of course you were frightened, because this is all unknown to you. The greatest mysteries in the world are not mysteries at all, unless we take time to become familiar with them. He’s really a gentle fellow [Chaney, wearing a ‘scary’ mask]. But put that mask on him, and the whole world will gladly turn against him! I have this exhibit unattended for several reasons. I believe we should all experience life with a natural spontaneity. And this can only happen if there are no restraints. Do you agree? The Romans had their Circus Maximus, seating over two hundred thousand. But their spectacles were no more bizarre than that which I can conjure up for you right here. Now, look here! [A guillotine is spotlit, and a dummy’s head is chopped off.] Now look there! [A girl, wearing the world’s worst ‘pirate’ outfit, complete with eyepatch, is ‘hanging’ from the ceiling.] Strange: “Man, it sure looks real!”
Durea: “True. All illusions look real or they wouldn’t be illusions, would they?”
[At this point, our couple somehow find themselves outside.] Strange, obviously relieved: “Man, that place’d give anyone the creeps!”
Samantha: “Poor baby!”
Strange, recovering quickly: “C’mon, let’s get ready for the Big Protest tonight!”
Samantha: “What are we protesting tonight?”
Strange, shrugging: “I don’t know. But I’ll bet it’s fun!”
Lecturing Groton, the presumably high Dr. Durea explicates his unique philosophical views and the hard, cold scientific facts behind his blood serum:
Durea: “You heard them up there, Groton! They want to see an illusion. They do not realize that Reality itself is the grandest illusion of all! And that human blood is the essence from which future illusions may be created! [Durea reveals the scarred neck of a victim] But the secret is not to have the blood at rest. No, the circulatory system must experience a traumatic shock! One that is inconceivable to the human mind. The idea of trauma is not a new one, but I am sure I am the first such experimenter, to incorporate the horror of an actual decapitation with the later rejuvenation of a human mind! My, it’s remarkable! A few scars, scars that with time will dissolve away. Nothing more. Had she not been drugged into a surface somnolence, she could walk away from us now, as though nothing had happened on that fateful night! But of course, we cannot allow that to happen! No, not until enough of the serum has been made and tested. Oh, she’s a lucky young woman, Groton. We have desperate need of her blood. She has survived decapitation and is manufacturing the right type of vital fluid for us. We are not butchers, Groton! We don’t have this young lady here to merely drain her body and cast her aside! No. We are scientists! And we must have others to experiment with!”
Later on, Dr. Durea further expounds upon the science behind his amazing blood serum, before going off on a more personal tangent:
“Yes, you see it coming into being now, Groton. The final stages of the andreninal-molecular structure. The traumatic shock which has vibrated through these bodies has now been tempered. Tempered to an even rhythm. The blood has reversed through the pulmonary artery. We are all going through changes of having the same blood. It is flowing throughout all our bodies. We shall soon become more and more as one. Soon perhaps we will even look as one! Your cure is here, I promised! I promised you that! But I must have the full force of the serum first. I can no longer remain in this wheelchair! I’m chained to it! I need to feel the earth beneath my feet. Without that, Groton, none of you will experience a normal life!”