My heart wants to give Paul Morrissey’s slightly goofy Blood for Dracula (1974) the full five stars, but my head tells me that objectively that’s just wrong—even though I love this preposterous movie a full five-stars worth. The film was started the very day after Morrissey finished shooting his more elaborate and better known Flesh for Frankenstein, which was in wide-screen and 3-D. (Both films were made under the aegis of Andy Warhol, and in fact, both played as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein and Andy Warhol’s Dracula even though Warhol’s participation in both was strictly name value.) In typically chaotic Morrissey fashion, this second Italian-made horror movie deconstruction had no real script (Morrissey wrote the film on his way to the set each day), but more surprisingly, it started life with no Count Dracula. Udo Kier, who had played “the Baron” in Flesh for Frankenstein wasn’t slated for the part and only took it when no one else could be found—thankfully, as it turns out, because Kier is perfect for Morrissey’s vision of the character.
Morrissey doesn’t give the viewer a standard Dracula story—far from it. His Dracula is a frail creature in dire need of the blood of a “wirgin,” and “wirgins” are scarce in 1920s Transylvania. So he and his servant Anton (Arno Juerging, another Frankenstein holdover) travel to Italy where “wirgins” are plentiful—or so Anton thinks (“the Catholic church needs them for its marriage rituals”). The locals point them on to the Di Fiore family (“I’m sure they are religious, they have a very nice house”), rundown aristocracy with four daughters—the middle two being considered prime candidates. Unfortunately, the Di Fiores also have a randy handyman, Mario (Joe Dallesandro), with whom said daughters are constantly friendly. (In fact, Mario asks—in pure Dallesandro Brooklynese—“If he’s lookin’ for a virgin what’s he doin’ with you two hoo-ahs?”) Bad as this might be in general, it’s worse for Dracula, because anything but virgin blood causes him to turn green and vomit copiously (“The blood of these whores is killing me!”).
Outrageous, over the top in the sex, skin and gore department (the film was rated X when it came out, and I doubt it would get any rating at all today), Blood for Dracula is at once a horror film and a spoof—but it’s also something more. A strange, lingering sadness hangs over the film in its depiction of the end of an era. There’s a somber quality to Kier’s Dracula and also to the eldest daughter of the house, Esmeralda (Milena Vukotic)—a quality that lasts long after all the blood spurting, severed limbs and sex have passed. It’s a strange film—sometimes a beautiful one—but it’s also the textbook definition of “not for everyone.”