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Sandra Harrison in Blood of Dracula, 1957.

From the DVD case: A vampire stalks a local university, preying on the student body. Where did this vampire come from? Who is behind the killings? (1957, b&w)

Mark says: If you come to this American International Picture expecting to see Dracula, or even some blood, you’re going to be disappointed.

Blood of Dracula was made to cash in on the success of I Was A Teenage Werewolf. In fact, I’m a little surprised AIP didn’t just stay with the theme and title this movie I Was A Teenage Vampire. Though it probably had something to do with I Was A Teenage Frankenstein being released the same month (November) of that year.

Sandra Harrison plays 18 year old Nancy Perkins, a girl sent to Sherwood Academy (an all-girl boarding school) after the death of her mother. Nancy is upset at being torn away from her boyfriend, her school and her social life, but she is even angrier that her father has remarried only six weeks after her mother’s demise.

Nancy is supposed to be a rebel, spouting lines like, “I never won any medals for obedience,” but much of the time she comes off as a perfectly polite young lady. She is surrounded by other girls who “belong” and are intolerant of “lone wolves” and “oddballs.”

Louise Lewis, who played Principal Ferguson in I Was A Teenage Werewolf, is chemistry teacher, Miss Branding. Branding is an embittered old woman trying to establish herself in a man’s world. She blames society’s ills, especially war and the misuse of atomic energy, on men. She is convinced she can demonstrate that each human possesses enough destructive power “to make the split atom seem like a blessing.” Whatever that means.

Miss Branding believes that if she can prove how lethal each individual is within, that man will stop his “destructive experiments” and war will cease to exist, as any confrontation from then on would result in complete annihilation. It certainly sounds like a world I would love to live in, knowing that any one person could decimate the globe on a whim.

For her experiment, Miss Branding needs a fiery-tempered test subject, and Nancy just fits the bill. Through a combination of hypnosis, and a strange magic amulet from the Carpathian Mountains (this is real science, kids), Miss Branding unleashes Nancy’s deadly forces. Nancy can now turn into a vampire and kill at Miss Branding’s bidding. (This is the great experiment to end all wars.)

The transformation scenes are pure low-budget schlock. They consist of a close-up of Nancy’s already partially transformed face, some watery, looks-like-dissolving-into-a-flashback effect, and make-up generously applied between frames. Take a gander at the image above for the final result. She may be a vampire, but she definitely has some werewolf blood in there, too.

Naturally, after several teenagers show up dead, the police become involved. But it is only young doctor Mike (Paul Maxwell) who acknowledges that the murders may be the work of a vampire. Mike is deservedly scoffed at by the detectives and his older colleague, Dr Lawson (Voltaire Perkins).

I can’t go on without mentioning the bizarre choreographed musical number featured when three boys sneak into Nancy’s initiation party. Tab (Jerry Blaine) is asked to sing “Puppy Love,” a sappy, pseudo rock n’ roll song. As Tab is singing, the girls strut around in a well-rehearsed manner, dancing with cushions and looking smitten. Tab joins in with the dance maneuvers, trying to look like Elvis, I think, and finishes the song with the girls screaming and clamoring for his attention. This is easily the most revolting sequence of the movie. When Tab is killed by our teenage Vampira, we aren’t too saddened. We only wish it would have happened before his big singing debut.

Though Blood of Dracula shares almost identical elements with I Was A Teenage Werewolf (just plug Nancy into Michael Landon’s role, Miss Branding into Whit Bissell’s character, and change werewolf to vampire) it lacks the strong performances that made Teenage Werewolf so enjoyable. And, by now, the story is getting old, and still seems preposterous.

Blood of Dracula does feature some familiar B-movie faces. Most notably, Thomas Browne Henry (The Brain from Planet Arous, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers) as Nancy’s father, Mr. Perkins; Richard Devon (War of the Satellites, The Undead) as Det. Sgt. Stewart; Gail Ganley (Not of This Earth) as the forever brown-nosing Myra, and Heather Ames (How to Make a Monster) as the first victim, Nola.

Directed by Herbert L. Strock (The Crawling Hand, How to Make a Monster).

Produced by Herman Cohen (Horrors of the Black Museum, Target Earth).

Scene to watch for: Mr. Perkins gives his daughter a good smack after she tries to wreck the car with him and his new wife in it.

Line to listen for: “Wow, what a frosty chick!”

Trivia: Jerry Blaine, who plays Tab, wrote the song “Puppy Love” which he performs in the film. How embarrassing for him.

Bonus: A great tribute site dedicated to Producer Herman Cohen, including a page devoted to Blood of Dracula.

Extra Bonus: Read another review of Blood of Dracula at Taliesin Meets The Vampires. Also includes a brief discussion on the creation of vampires through hypnosis as portrayed in modern film.

Mark’s Rating: ! ! out of 5.

IMDB Link

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5 Comments

  1. i am glad that they didn’t waste the title i was a teenage vampire on this! i only wish they would have given it one more shot using that title! a teenage male vampire may have been able to more convey the angst that landon did in …teenage werewolf.

  2. John: Yea, I thought the same thing. It was a wasted opportunity.

  3. Mark,
    Once again this is a movie I first remember seeing on our local Creature Feature TV show in the mid-sixties, only in north central Indiana it was called Double Shock Theater at the time. The program would start right after The Hollywood Palace on Saturday nights. (I still feel the thrill of anticipation, waiting for the scares to begin, every time I hear the tune “Put on a Happy Face,” which was The Hollywood Palace’s theme song.) Double Shock started out as a double feature of monster movies, but eventually changed its format to show one movie and a couple of episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller series. I still remember watching this movie and being disappointed that Dracula was nowhere to be found. Although the vampire looked wicked, with those long fangs and scary eyes, I was old enough to know the vampire legends and found the “hypnosis and a magic amulet” premise to be a far cry from the undead rising from its crypt.

    About a year ago I found the DVD in the discount bin and decided to give it another try. Knowing what to expect, it found it a little more enjoyable the second time around. I agree with your opinion about the muscial number. It was obvious the film makers wanted to fit some rock-n-roll into the mix, but having the girls do the hokey dance routine seemed a bit much.

    As usual, your comments of this movie hit the nail on the head. As I read your review, I kept thinking, “Yea, that’s what I thought, too.”

  4. Paul: It does have some entertainment value if you go in knowing what to expect. Even the dance sequence is kind of a schlocky guilty pleasure. Thanks again for your comments and support!

  5. I’ve wanted to see this one for so long and still haven’t caught up with it. Thanks for your words of wisdom regarding this picture, Mark. That photo up top looks a bit like the, uh, toothsome lassy from the AIP gem “Frankenstein’s Daughter,” which also features a great rock ‘n’ roll number, called “Daddy Bird.” This latter film is probably my favorite guilty pleasure; the funniest bad movie ever made. If “Blood of Dracula” is half as good/bad, I know I’m gonna love it….


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