Germany produced a slew of vampire comedies throughout the Seventies, most likely inspired by Roman Polanski's charmingly subversive The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) though none were in that league. This one arrived somewhat late in the game and feels much like a film out of its time. We open in nineteenth century Transylvania where Count Dracula (a very gaunt looking Stephen Boyd, in his final role) abducts a sleeping girl into the night. He is pursued and eventually staked by a genre regulation torch-and-crucifix-wielding peasant mob though not before he puts the bite on the little girl. A century later a construction crew unearth a mysterious coffin whereupon a greedy antique dealer gets the shock of his life when out springs the little girl to claim her first victim. This fresh dose of blood transforms the child into the grownup and beautiful Barbara (Evelyne Kraft) who cannily gets a job as a mortician's assistant to ensure herself a steady supply of the red stuff. Reports of a serial killer on the loose draw the attention of the rugged Kommissar (Brad Harris) and his wisecracking sidekick, Eddie (Eddi Arent), although the former is soon smitten with lovely eye-witness Barbara.
Lady Dracula was based on a story conceived by its star, Brad Harris, an American actor who found fame in Europe as the lead in the popular Kommissar X series of Euro-spy films as well as the cult classic Three Fantastic Supermen (1967). As an in-joke the film tags his character with a familiar moniker and does the same for co-star Eddi Arent, a familiar face for fans of the German-produced Edgar Wallace krimi thrillers of the Fifties and Sixties. Arent provides much the same function here as he did in those movies which is basically pull funny faces, spit silly one-liners and accidentally injure himself to generally less than side-splitting effect. Interestingly however, though ostensibly making a comedy, sex comedy staple Franz Josef Gottlieb plays all the clichés of gothic horror along with the melancholy romance surprisingly straight. He unabashedly invites viewers to sympathize with bloodsucking Barbara who only feeds to stay alive, exhibits remorse after each kill and tries her utmost to refrain from draining blood from the man she loves. In that sense the film is something of a precursor to the likes of John Landis' oft-overlooked Innocent Blood (1992) and the vastly superior German effort We Are the Night (2010).
Best known as the glamorous, athletic lead in a couple of off-kilter productions from Hong Kong's legendary Shaw Brothers studio: Deadly Angels (1977) and The Mighty Peking Man (1977), Swiss actress Evelyne Kraft makes for an undeniably elegant, captivating vampire in spite of her bizarre all-yellow wardrobe. But Gottlieb trades Polanski's sharp wit for leaden slapstick routines mostly centered around two comically inept undertakers who drop a coffin down a flight of stairs and lose a corpse off the back of a moving hearse. A cast of veteran comic performers including Theo Lingen, Roberto Blanco and Walter Giller (who appeared in almost every German comedy around this time) run through all the familiar blood bank gags along with partaking in that unwritten rule in all Seventies vampire comedies: the costume party that features wacky outfits that must be seen to be believed.
Gottlieb stages some lively set-pieces, including a scene where the heroine escapes a fire at the morgue by transforming into a rubber bat, and makes neat use of wide-angle lenses and prowling camerawork amidst some impressive production design. Yet the plot is inert and the jokes merely wearisome even if the romance proves oddly sweet. The knockabout climax proves fairly amusing albeit inconclusive as the film does not end so much as fizzle out. Horst Jankowski's score ranks among the production's most endearing aspects, combining some charming easy listening tracks, bossa nova and disco-funk whenever something steamy is afoot.