Screening Log #19: Blood for Dracula (1974)

Written by Paul Morrissey and Pat Hackett based on a character by Bram Stoker
Directed by Paul Morrissey
Starring Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro, and Maxime McKendry

 

Produced by Andy Warhol, Paul Morrissey’s Blood for Dracula (or, Andy Warhol’s Dracula) thrusts the character of Dracula, played by Udo Kier, into the early 20th century. Dracula, needing virgin blood to survive, is transported to Italy by his servant Anton, on the hope that the country’s strong Catholic leanings would furnish more virgins than his native Romania. Upon arriving in Italy, Dracula and Anton catch wind of an aristocratic family, the Di Fiores, who have four daughters of marrying age. Here Morrissey couches Dracula’s mythology in a not-unfamiliar political light; the Di Fiore family is a once-wealthy, now destitute, family living off the legacy of their old fortune. Dracula too is weak, frail, and prone to bouts of coughing, his body giving up after going so long without virgin blood; the old system of wealth and political power is withering away.

 

Contrasting against this is the Di Fiore family’s lone worker, Joe Dallasandro’s Mario, who carries an out-of-place American accent alongside his strident socialist leanings; between bouts of not-so-rapey and rather-rapey intercourse with the Di Fiore’s two middle sisters, Mario proselytizes the immanent end of the aristocracy at the hands of the proletariat. Mario’s muscled physique and square-jawed handsomeness contrasts sharply with Dracula’s lean body and slightly androgynous face – which first seen having makeup and hair-dye applied during the opening credits, feminizing Dracula’s presence in the film from its first moments. Mario has obviously read Marx’s “Limits of the Work Day” wherein he writes that, “[like] a vampire, capital is dead labour that keeps itself alive only by drinking in living labour and that invigorates itself more the more labour it sucks in. During the period when the worker works, the capitalist consumes the labour power he has bought from him”. In this light, Mario’s suspicion about Dracula seems well-informed. Later in the film, Mario divorces Dracula from his limbs, arms before legs, literally demonstrating how the aristocracy will be disarmed by the proletariat.

 

The film borrows liberally and loosely from Bram Stoker’s book in instances such as the eldest sister, Esmerelda, having been turned lurches over Dracula’s body shouting “He belongs to me!” as Dracula did over Harker’s body in the novel. The performances range from passable to hilariously campy and the score sometimes makes scenes more hilarious than is probably intentional – i.e., a jaunty clarinet number as Dracula sulks in the back seat of his car – and both ideologies represented by Dracula/the Di Fiores and Mario have differently and equally problematic means of dealing with women; Mario at one point calls a sister a bitch, slaps her, and forcibly procures fellatio and later says to the youngest daughter before ostensibly raping her for her own good, “You should lose that, ugh, virginity of yours”. Smooth. A ridiculous and strange film that is populated by a few striking images – unsurprising, given Warhol’s involvement – the film’s political allegory is as obvious as it is slightly surprising.

 

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  1. […] with Blood for Dracula, Paul Morrissey’s Flesh for Frankenstein again sees the skeleton of a Victorian monster […]



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