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  Vampira Blaculass?
Year: 1974
Director: Clive Donner
Stars: David Niven, Teresa Graves, Peter Bayliss, Jennie Linden, Nicky Henson, Linda Hayden, Bernard Bresslaw, Cathie Shirriff, Andrea Allan, Veronica Carlson, Minah Bird, Christopher Sandford, Freddie Jones, Frank Thornton, Aimi MacDonald, Patrick Newell
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Count Dracula (David Niven) has found an easy way to lure visitors to his Transylvanian castle, and that's to open it up to the public as a tourist attraction. This means he gets a steady stream of victims, which is not only good for his diet, but also helps in his research: he is trying to bring his undead bride Vampira back to life, or as close to life as a vampire can get, but he needs the correct type of red stuff to do so, though in spite of the amount of sightseers he has attracted, nobody has fit the bill. There's always something to go wrong, as today when his secretary Helga (Linda Hayden) threatens to leave...

Although Hayden may have wondered why she bothered to show up considering how little screen time she had, appearing not in a co-star capacity, and more of an extended cameo. That said, it appeared to be the purpose of this film to pack as many attractive actresses into the project as possible, and she was just one on that production line of dolly birds who passed before director Clive Donner's camera. Donner had presumably been hired thanks to his work on What's New Pussycat?, which took a similar stance to its female performers, but even though that was no classic, it was still a lot wittier than anything screenwriter Jeremy Lloyd conjured up for this.

Lloyd was best known for penning sitcom Are You Being Served? with David Croft, but that had a far better laugh rate per half hour than this whole movie had in ninety minutes or so, the innuendo not being empahsised when the idea was to be as painfully hip as possible. And the method of doing so? Make Dracula's bride black, which the producers apparently thought would offer them a kind of blaxploitation cool missing from all those Hammer Draculas (one look at their Dracula A.D. 1972 would give you an idea of what to expect, and that wasn't supposed to be a comedy). This racial mix-up occurs when a collection of Playboy Bunnies come round to stay, and one of those is a black woman, Rose, played by Minah Bird (which was her real name).

The infusion of such fluid into the inert, white body of Vampira turns her into Graves, best known for the cop show Get Christie Love! who approached this nonsense with better humour than it really deserved, but making for a truly weird pairing with Niven, who at this age deserved the American title of this, Old Dracula, a cash-in on Young Frankenstein. He did his best as well, but with a tone wavering between lame gags and an attempt to dress it up with modernised (for 1974) horror conventions this wasn't going to satisfy anyone much in its day. Fast forward to the twenty-first century, on the other hand, and it offered the kind of time capsule that could have only come from something to desperately trying to be hip and happening (for example Graves attends a screening of Black Gunn to learn to speak jive).

Dracula, once he's seen what the accidental combination of Rose's blood and the magical qualities of the blood of her fellow Bunny Ritva (Hammer fixture Veronica Carlson) has done to the love of his, er, death, decides to head over to London to track down the models and see which one of them was repsonsible for this mix-up. As he cannot go out after dawn, this is an excuse for lots of London nightlife as envisaged through parties and whatnot as if determined to prove that the capital is still swinging as much as it ever did, so naturally Niven looks out of place no matter what his star power might have been. Writer Nicky Henson is hypnotised into taking blood samples from his lady friends, often through a surely unscientific special pair of fake fangs, with the result that strains for farce, but drops like the proverbial lead balloon. Yet if you had a hankering for the entertainment of this decade, nostalgia could take over for the sort of movie they didn't make anymore - especially that twist ending. Music by David Whitaker.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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