A Three-Pack of Fangtastic Films to Get Us Caught Up

I swear, every time I start one of these countdowns, I always say I am going to write and post one every day. As always, life tends to get in the way. So, it’s time to get back on the stake, I mean stick.

31a/31b. Blacula/Scream Blacula Scream
30. The Lair of the White the White Worm

29. Son of Dracula – 1943

The venerable Lon Chaney, Jr., played The Wolf Man, the mummy, Frankenstein’s monster, and yes, Dracula. In fact, he’s the only actor to play all four. Borrowing from something I wrote for my treatises on Universal’s monsterverse, Son of Dracula was directed by Robert Siodmak, and written by Curt Siodmak and Eric Taylor. On the heels of 1936’s Dracula’s Daughter, in which Countess Zaleska burns Count Dracula’s body, somehow, Count Dracula has been resurrected and transported back to Transylvania where he meets and enchants Katherine Caldwell (Louise Allbritton). She invites Dracula, who now calls himself “Alucard,” (just as ridiculous as it sounds) to her family’s estate in the deep southern United States. Katherine plays Dracula for a chump, using him to gain immortality, eventually burning Dracula in his coffin in a bayou graveyard.

Allbritton is absolutely stunning when she becomes a vampire. She is hauntingly beautiful as she lay on her deathbed. Evelyn Ankers, who starred opposite Chaney as Gwen Conliffe in The Wolf Man, also stars.

Many criticize Chaney for his performance, but I watched the film with fresh eyes and he’s actually not that bad. He’s not Bela Lugosi and he doesn’t try to be. There’s a meanness and cruelty to his effort.

Unfortunately, Universal’s treatment of the Count Dracula character is quite abysmal in the two “House of” monster mashes, as John Carradine was a bad fit in the role and the story arc was just plain ridiculous.

28. Vampire Circus – 1972

It’s exactly what it sounds like. A traveling circus of vampires terrorizes local townsfolk. Simple enough, right? Written by Jud Kinberg and directed by Robert Young, this 1972 film is filmed in glorious technicolor with plenty of blood, fangs, and seduction. Adrienne Corri of A Clockwork Orange fame stars as the gypsy leader of the circus. David Prowse, the man inside Darth Vader’s costume, plays the troupe’s strongman. Anthony Higgins, who had a role in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, stars as Emil. He also played Paul in 1970’s Taste the Blood of Dracula.

By 1972, Hammer Studios’ Dracula franchise featuring Christopher Lee was winding down. Dracula films weren’t the only vampire flicks Hammer was producing, but they had been the most successful and well-known. Vampire Circus was different and full of delectable debauchery that started with Countess Dracula the year before. As much as Hammer was famous for cleavage and bloodlust, Vampire Circus was on a different level. The film also introduced some shape-shifting elements we hadn’t seen before.

27. Innocent Blood – 1992

So, I love vampire movies. I also love gangster/mobster movies. What would happen if you combined the two? You get 1992’s Innocent Blood with Anne Parillaud, Robert Loggia, Anthony LaPaglia, and a whole host of the usual suspects, even Don Rickles.

Parillaud plays vampire Marie who runs afoul of the local mafia by feasting on the wiseguys. The only problem, if she doesn’t dispose of the leftovers properly, they come back. There’s a garlic joke in here somewhere. Loggia plays the resident boss, Sally “The Shark” Macelli, and uses his newfound abilities to create more vampires and begin the takeover of the underworld he always dreamed of. Marie teams up with a cop named Joe Gennaro, played by LaPaglia, to put an end to Sally’s machinations and the scourge she has created.

This is a well-made, stylized film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Written by Michael Wolk, and directed by the venerable John Landis, Innocent Blood is one of the better horror films of the 1990s, if you ask me.

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