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  Mama Dracula Bloody Mama
Year: 1980
Director: Boris Szulzinger
Stars: Louise Fletcher, Maria Schneider, Marc-Henri Wajnberg, Alexander Wajnberg, Jimmy Shuman, Jess Hahn, Michel Israel, Suzy Falk, Vincent Grass, Marie-Françoise Manuel, José Gral, William Del Visco, Martine Willequet, Sandrard, Oriane Gilmon
Genre: Horror, Comedy, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Professor Van Bloed (Jimmy Shuman) has been conducting experiments to see if he can create a synthetic blood, and now he is so close to achieving his aim that he entertains dreams of winning a Nobel Prize. However, in the midst of his reverie his housekeeper bursts into the lab and tells him excitedly about a letter he has just received. It is from Eastern Europe and invites him to a conference about blood, which he is greatly intrigued by so how can he refuse? Soon he is heading off to the castle where this is all to take place - the home of Mama Dracula (Louise Fletcher).

Horror comedy has been around since the movies began to work themselves into genres and the notion that frights and scares would go well together provided many a promising item of amusement. This was not one of those films, as it proved yet again, even at this stage in her career, that too regularly Oscar winners such as Louise Fletcher weren't going to pursue the projects that would show them at their best. Whether that was by accident or design is a matter of opinion, yet although she secured a starring role in this, she was not many people's idea of a slinky lady vampire.

In fact the way this played out was more that she was a mumsy vampire, leaving the sexual side of such exploits down to the occasional extra willing to take her clothes off for the camera. Her supporting actress here was Maria Schneider, still best known for Last Tango in Paris, although that film had soured her views on a lot about the movie industry, including being naked in front of the camera, so when she finally did show up over half way into the film you might have wondered why she bothered at all, as being alluring appeared to be the last thing on her mind. She played a cop who is investigating Mama Dracula's habit of bathing in the blood of virgins.

Or "weergins" as they are called here, as director Boris Szulzinger had evidently been very impressed by the sickly camp of Udo Kier in Blood for Dracula a few years before and hoped to capture some of that tone in this. He had last collaborated on a film with Picha, making the animated Tarzan spoof Jungle Burger, and much of that cartoonish sensibility informed the humour here, except when seen acted out it was even less funny. Much of the supposed laughs were centred not on the scientist who ends up being placed in the cellar to carry on experimenting and pretty much forgotten about until the finale, and more on twins who acted as Fletcher's bloodsucking sidekicks.

These were the Wajnberg brothers, looking grotesque enough but struggling to divine genuine humour in what ran out of plot after about twenty minutes and was forced to resort to noodling about with non-jokes concerned with typical vampire pasttimes, none of which appear to apply here other than the blood-related stuff. You can sort of see how this might have been pulled off better as animation, because for live action you're left with a somewhat airless and artless pursuit of silliness in a romantic, European take on bloodsuckers that refuses to gel when there's very little romance in what we were offered. In places this verged on the amateurish in spite of the professionals before and behind the camera, doing nothing but demonstrate how crucial a decent script is to this kind of effort, which was unavoidably missing with Mama Dracula. If little else it offered a benevolence in its attitudes, though that only meant its teeth were blunted. Surprisingly lush music by Roy Budd.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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