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Director: Herbert L. Strock
Starring: Sandra Harrison, Louise Lewis, Gail Ganley, Jerry Blaine, Heather Ames
After the success of I Was A Teenage Werewolf, AIP followed up with not one but two more teen monster bashes.
Released as part of a double bill with I Was A Teenage Frankenstein, Blood Of Dracula is essentially a remake of …Werewolf, but with more engaging characters and unusually for this era, a story told from the female perspective.
Now it’s no Suspiria or Carrie, but it’s tale of supernatural goings on amongst the politics and dramas of teenage girls is refreshing and at least attempts to do something a little different with the concept it lifts wholesale from it’s predecessor.
It’s a shame they didn’t call it I Was A Teenage Vampire though, as Dracula isn’t even in it. Maybe they just didn’t want to draw attention to the fact that they were essentially remaking their own film almost beat for beat after only six months.
Despite her mother dying only six weeks previously. Nancy Perkins’ dad has remarried and the newlyweds are shipping her off to boarding school.
Once there she attracts the attention of first the Birds Of Paradise, a gang of top girls who at first bully her then accept her into their ranks when she stands up to them without informing, then the sinister Miss Branding.
The teacher is conducting bizarre experiments that mix modern hypnosis techniques with ancient black magic to prove her belief in the terrible power in all of us that is strong enough to destroy the world. Once her thesis is proven, she intends to present it to the scientific community with the goal of convincing them to abandon nuclear power and other weapons of mass destruction.
The process involves tapping into Nancy’s turbulent adolescent emotions and channeling both her anger and desires into an insatiable list for blood. Worse, the treatment is physically changing the teenager, into a feral vampire, one who is a danger to anyone and everyone it comes across…
First off, it’s impossible to ignore just how similar to I Was A Teenage Werewolf this is.
Both films involve a troubled teenager who is used as a guinea pig by a deceitful scientist who turns them into a hirsute, amnesiac killing machine via hypnosis and drugs. There’s cast members shared across both, there’s a police chief who isn’t keen on the press, a smart observer who is the first to realise a monster is abroad, discussions of Carpathia of all places and a crowbarred-in musical number. Hell, Miss Branding is pretty much a female version of Whit Bissel’s Dr. Brandon.
It’s a remake, no doubt about it. It’s also a superior film.
If you’d missed the opening credits, you’d never tell Blood Of Dracula was a horror film. For the first 30 minutes, it’s a straight ‘50s teen drama and is all the better for it.
The young cast are engaging and their petty dramas that feel to them so important make for enjoyable viewing in a soap opera way, at least until that dance routine. Seriously, I know a rock n’roll-inspired interlude was all the rage, but watching the synchronised routine with cushions and car horns to the interminable Puppy Love song is hard-going.
It does really reinforce the authentic ‘50s teen movie feel though, which makes the intrusion of the supernatural all the more jarring, in the best possible way of course.
Nancy’s transformation into the hirstute bloodsucker is genuinely better than it is often given credit for abs while her final vampire form is bizarre-looking, it kind of works in the film’s favour as she comes over more feral, more animalistic and generally more out of control. This isn’t a sexual vampire, acting on it’s lust for blood and whatever else takes it’s fancy. It’s a monster emerging from a human being who has no say in the matter and no memory of the carnage it had wreaked the night before.
Yes, just like a werewolf.
Other than it’s origins, the most noticeable thing about Blood Of Dracula is how female-led it is. Nancy and Miss Branding lead the show obviously, with the latter making it very clear she’s been held back in her scientific career due to her gender, while the rest of the main cast who are left with the heavy lifting are the other girls at the school.
The men of the film are generally ineffective lotharios, from Nancy’s dad to the local lads who hang around the school in the hope of some action. For 1957, this is some progressive stuff. Not because it puts men down, because it doesn’t, more that it puts the women to the front. That alone makes it more interesting than I Was A Teenage Werewolf, but the fact that Nancy is massively more sympathetic than Michael Landon’s character is a huge factor in why this works so well.
Blood Of Dracula is probably the most forgotten of AIP’s teen horror cycle, but it really doesn’t deserve to be. A delightful little blast of exploitation cinema, few nail the double whammy of teenage rebellion and horror quite like this. At least not back then they didn’t.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy