Severin’s Release Of ‘Blood For Dracula’ Reviewed

by Rachel Bellwoar

Being undead, it makes sense that vampires are usually pale. They don’t usually look old, though. That’s the whole perk of being a vampire – the whole not aging thing – and while maybe other vampire movies have shown vampires wearing make-up before, and Blood for Dracula is far from the first to do a ‘no reflection’ reveal, there’s still something jarring and unexpected about the opening of Paul Morrissey’s film, which shows just how much make-up Count Dracula wears.

Unlike other depictions of Dracula, Udo Kier’s Count is a serious homebody who’s not at all pleased that he has to leave home to find virgins. “…I am the first one in our family who leaves,” he says to his assistant, Anton (Arno Jürging), in the same way someone might say “I am the first one in my family to go to college,” but Count Dracula doesn’t view leaving as an accomplishment. It might be the reason he’s applying makeup – to help secure a bride – but that’s it.

It’s the hair that stands out the most. Bela Lugosi’s Dracula never had to use a paint brush to make his hair black. Kier’s Dracula does. Otherwise, his hair would be as white as Andy Warhol’s, whose name was used to help promote the movie and who Kier credits as coming up with the idea for this sequence in an interview on Severin’s Blu-ray (the film is on both discs – 4K and Blu-ray – but the bonus features are on the BD).

Morrissey might disagree with that version of events. In regards to Blood for Dracula being referred to and promoted as Andy Warhol’s film, Morrissey calls it “a crime against humanity” in his new interview. Filmed straight after Flesh for Frankenstein, Blood for Dracula shares a lot of the same cast members but wasn’t filmed in 3D (though that was the plan).

Why is Blood for Dracula worth watching?

  • Vampire movies don’t always allow Dracula’s victims to have much depth. Their job is to look beautiful and helpless, not to have a personality. Add to that the fact that all four of Dracula’s potential brides in Blood for Dracula are sisters, and it would’ve been easy for the film to make them interchangeable. Instead, all four characters have their own distinguishing wants and desires, and it makes it so that when Dracula bites one of them, it really feels like a loss. These aren’t strangers being reduced to zombies. These are people we’ve gotten to know.
  • Every vampire film has its own rules, but what’s fascinating about Blood for Dracula is that, in so many ways, Kier’s Dracula is let off easy. He doesn’t burn in the sun. He can be around crosses. They’re bothersome, but not intolerable. Yet, when it comes to blood, it’s not just that Dracula prefers virgin blood, but it turns out — as becomes glaringly clear from the multiple scenes of Dracula having conniptions — virgin blood is the only blood Dracula can drink. He doesn’t have a choice and, while that doesn’t excuse his behavior, it does explain it.
  • Really, Blood for Dracula does everything to de-glamorize being a vampire. No ability to compel humans. No super strength. Kier’s Dracula is weak, and that’s a very different take from most vampires shows and movies today.
  • There’s also never been a Van Helsing like Joe Dallesandro’s Mario. Author Stephen Thrower talks about this a little in his interview (he’s the only interviewee who wasn’t involved in the making of the picture), and while Van Helsing is usually the hero, Mario is a sexual predator.

In addition to the bonus features already mentioned, Severin’s Blu-ray is loaded with new interviews. Dallesandro gives an overview of his career with The Factory and Morrissey. Stefania Casini (who played the third oldest sister, Rubinia) talks about learning English in a month, and revisits Villa Parisi, where Blood for Dracula was filmed. Other interview subjects include Milena Vukotic (who played the eldest sister, Esmerelda); soundtrack composer Claudio Gizzi; producer Andrew Braunsberg; assistant director Paolo Pietrangeli; and art director Gianni Giovagnoni.

Blood for Dracula is available on 4K and Blu-ray from Severin Films and comes with a CD of the soundtrack.

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