Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Random Film Review: Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein

Dir: Jess Franco | 1972 | Spain | 85min

On one level: crap. But on another: beautiful, terrifying, sublime, mysterious, poetic, erotic and just plain weird. There’s no talking for the first twenty minutes (apart from an out-of-place diary voice-over), and not much after that. Its images recall Dreyer, Hitchcock and Borowczyk. Its camerawork recalls Altman, porno films and botch jobs – a constant moving (in part because of panning-and-scanning, I guess), zooming, going in and out of focus. Its characters recall Bruegel paintings.

It’s a film of astonishing moments and images: the extreme close-ups of the eye of the professor and the dead girl; then the terrifying moment when he puts a spike through her eye, and you see no blood, and the candles go out; the woman with the kinky boots getting undressed and then killed by Dracula; the bat drowning in blood then turning into Dracula; the gypsy scene; the zoom into the woman’s red dress; the same woman rolling around screaming for no apparent reason; the use of windows like in Nosferatu (Dreyer, 1922); the extreme close-ups of medieval Bruegel-like faces; the upward shot of the spiral staircase; the coffin that opens in the middle; the way Dracula can turn into bats, men or women; the women all kinky and sexy and the men all old and ugly; the choral music; the gypsies again; the strong contrasts of light and dark, and people just standing around; no one really talks to anyone; the dance routine with the end zoom shot – the woman taken away and tied up in her underwear; fast motion trees blowing and the bell ringing; the woman’s large eye staring at us through the dark and dirty window; the skeletons in the coffins with branches, and the gypsy on-lookers; the bad make-up... What the hell was going on and did it really matter anyway?


Pearce said...

Wow, never expected to see a Jess Franco movie reviewed on here! I have this one, but haven't got around to watching it. It certainly sounds typical of his '70s work.

My favourites are probably Venus In Furs and Eugenie de Sade. "Not for everyone" would be an understatement.

Barnaby said...

Well, I never expected to see a review of Alien Raiders (coming after Welles' Mr Arkadin) on yours!

I may accidently have seen other Franco films but can't remember. He treads the fine line between cult and crap, and so bad it's actually worse. Which reminds me, I've got some Dario Argento DVDs I've been meaning to watch...