Blood of Dracula’s Castle

Blood of Dracula’s Castle 1969

Directed by Al Adamson. Written by Rex Carlton.

One of my favourite film podcasts, The Evolution of Horror is about to embark on their 8th season in coming weeks, and this time they’re focusing on vampires. As a lifelong fan of this subgenre, it got me thinking about vampire films I HAVEN’T seen. And that led me to Blood of Dracula’s Castle (1969) and what a wild ride it was!

Directed by Al Adamson, this definitely falls into the “so bad, it’s almost good” category, making it one of his better efforts. Adamson was a classic director of exploitation films, mostly pitched at the drive-in cinema market, which was hugely popular in the US and Australia in the 60s and 70s. As a child of that era, I was genuinely surprised I hadn’t seen this one before. It did have something of a difficult start, being filmed in 1966 and not released until 1969 and there’s an extended version, released separately as Dracula’s Castle.

The story (quite a convoluted beast) finds Dracula and his wife (played with delicious wit by veterans Alexander D’Arcy and Paula Raymond) living the high life under the alias Count and Countess Townsend in a Gothic castle, complete with an inarticulate beast-like servant, gruff and ghoulish butler (played with much tongue-in-cheek by the great John Carradine) and a dungeon inhabited by chained young women, whose blood is slowly drained to sustain the vampires. And it’s all set in the wilds of… California!

But the Count and Countess are only tenants, and the property is inherited by a hip young photographer and his bikini-model fiance who not only want a tour of the property but want to move in! There’s also a more interesting sub-plot involving a psychopathic killer (and friend of the Count & Countess) which gets kind of left behind.

Despite its multitude of flaws, I really quite enjoyed this very camp romp, probably the only things missing were Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Blood of Dracula’s Castle is a fun excursion into 60s Californian Gothic – but certainly no masterpiece! It’s currently available to stream for free on Tubi in Australia though the resolution is sadly, quite poor.

The Woman in the Fifth

The Woman in the Fifth (2011)

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

This came up recently on streaming site Mubi but I missed it (and a lot of other interesting movies) due to the demands of study, which is thankfully now in hiatus for the next couple of months. I found it on Tubi, a free streaming site that’s just come into the Australian market. Because it’s so late to the licensing table, most of the content is straight to video/dvd b-grade fare, but there are some true gems in there – especially in the horror/sci-fi/thriller areas. Also, there’s a fairly extensive foreign language section that I need to trawl through this winter.

I’m almost ashamed to admit this is my first Pawlikowski film – no, I haven’t seen Cold War (2018) or even Ida (2013) – terrible, I know. But something I’m now determined to rectify in the coming months.

The story centres on an American writer who comes to Paris to try and reconnect with his six year old daughter, who lives with his ex-wife. The always watchable Ethan Hawke plays this damaged fellow with remarkable depth and makes for a very sympathetic character. Kristen Scott Thomas is elegant, understated and incredibly sexy as the mysterious translator but it is Joanna Kulig who really made me sit up and take notice. She owns every scene she’s in and brings a vibrancy to the film that sits well against the grimy underbelly of Paris that she lives in. (Yes, everyone’s told me she’s incredible in Cold War and I’ll get to see it eventually).

With respect to The Woman in the Fifth, I think it was great to see some of the seedier side of Paris, which becomes a tacit character in this. Pawlikowski obviously has a great eye for framing and shot selection but ultimately, the mystery turned to vague frustration for me, with too many obvious plot holes and loose ends that were never acknowledged, let alone tied up. To be fair, I’m not familiar with the text it’s based on, Douglas Kennedy’s 2007 novel but I enjoyed this enough that I intend to seek it out.

For music lovers, there’s bonus points for the best use of Handel’s ‘Per le Porte del Tormento’ I’ve ever heard. Incredibly watchable but not as satisfying as it could’ve been.