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Now in our eighth calendar year!
PCR #394  (Vol. 8, No. 41) This edition is for the week of October 8--14, 2007.

"Eastern Promises"  by Mike Smith
Forgotten Horrors: "Blood of Dracula's Castle"  by ED Tucker
Halloween Brew: A Potpourri of Halloween Recommendations, Pt. 1--Books and Music  by Terence Nuzum
Book Review: The Birthday Party by Panos Karnezis  by Lisa Ciurro
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Orlando 2007  by Andy Lalino
Mom .... Movie Notes .... Don't Tell Terence .... Whatever Happened To--? Chapter 30: John Rhys-Davies  by Mike Smith
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CF Presents Retrorama

“Blood of Dracula's Castle”

By the late 1960’s, the fledging film production company Independent International had already begun to make a name for itself in the exploitation film market. While partners Sam Sherman and Al Adamson only had one feature to their credit at this point, Satan’s Sadists had come in on the cutting edge of the new violent biker movie trend that was currently sweeping the drive-in theater circuit. Hoping to cash in on the always popular horror genre, Adamson had procured a story treatment called Feast of the Vampires and writer Rex Carlton was brought in to translate the tale of cannibal vampires into a screenplay. The finished film may not have retained much of the original story but it did prove to be one of director Adamson’s most coherent productions and a popular item in theaters and on television for many years to come. Sadly, Blood of Dracula’s Castle would also end up being a black eye for Independent International and a source of financial disappointment.

On a meager budget estimated to be around $60,000, Sherman and Adamson were able to secure both an excellent location and an impressive cast. Shea Castle (also known as Sky Castle) was built in the Southern California desert near Del Sur by a real estate tycoon in the early 1920’s. The imposing structure was modeled after medieval Irish castles and came complete with a lake and its own private air strip. Tales of supernatural phenomenon still surround the site and at least one death by suicide has been confirmed within its walls. It was at this architectural curiosity that Adamson assembled his equally curious cast of veteran actors and members of his ever growing repertory company.

Alex D’Arcy (Horrors of Spider Island) and Paula Raymond (Beast From 20,000 Fathoms), both of whose long careers were nearly at an end, were cast as Count and Countess Townsend (aka Dracula). Robert Dix (Forbidden Planet) played the psychopath Johnny who in some versions of the film even turns out to be a werewolf! At the last minute, veteran horror actor John Carradine was added for name value and (mis)cast as George the butler. While Carradine makes everything he can out of a throwaway role, it seems almost impossible that he could appear in this film at all and NOT play Dracula! The remaining cast, including Gene O’Shea, Barbara Bishop, and Vicki Volante all give performances in excess of the film’s low budget. This combination of cast and location made it look like there was far more on the screen than the cost conscious Independent International had really spent.

Blood of Dracula’s Castle is the tale of modern day vampires, who may be the original Count and Countess Dracula, living in an isolated desert castle. To survive, they capture young women who are chained in their dungeon basement and drained of their blood through the most modern of techniques. At some point in history, the Draculas apparently became mixed up with the cult of the moon goddess Luna. Whenever things get boring around the castle, they sacrifice one of their blood slaves with the help of their butler George, who just happens to be a high priest! Also on hand for laughs are Mango the mute hunchback and Johnny the recently escaped homicidal killer/werewolf. Things get complicated when a young couple inherit the castle and decide they want to evict the current tenants and live there themselves. By the end of the film the vampires, who seem a little too civilized for their own good, and their associates are dispatched and the young heroes are left to ponder if they really want to live in a castle out in the middle of the desert after all.

Director Al Adamson manages to infuse some unique and unconventional touches that give the film a charm all its own. The vampires only drink blood from wine glasses after their butler has extracted it from their victims with a large syringe. When they meet their end by turning to dust in the light of the sun, the Count and Countess turn into bats and fly off into the castle. The final moments of the film are a Mango-fest as the hulking brute is shot, hit with an axe, set on fire, AND shoved off a cliff! Hopefully actor Ray Young got a bonus for that days work!

Unfortunately after the film was completed it became locked in legal turmoil. The financial backers had this film and another one, Nightmare in Wax starring an eye patched Cameron Mitchell as a demented artist, in production at the same time. When Nightmare ran into financial problems with the lab that the backers could not resolve it was trapped in legal limbo. Blood of Dracula’s Castle had been cross collateralized with Nightmare in the finance arrangement so it was stuck too. A distributor called Crown International eventually paid off the lab costs and obtained the rights to both films which they played on a very successful double bill. Independent International lost all rights to the picture and spent years competing against their own product for drive-in rentals.

After a long and successful theatrical run, the film was syndicated to television by two different companies in two different versions. One version, from Crown International, is the same as the one they distributed to theaters and the character of Johnny is just an ordinary psychopath with a fixation on the moon. In the other version, credited to Paragon International Pictures, the distributors apparently decided their weren’t enough monsters in the mash so Johnny actually turned out to be a werewolf! To accomplish this, they filmed some additional scenes of an actor in a Don Post werewolf mask killing a prison guard and chasing a woman through the woods. The new footage doesn’t exactly make sense because the werewolf beats the guard to death with a club and in the chase scene he is wearing his prison uniform again even though by this point Johnny has stolen clothes and reached the castle where he apparently keeps a full wardrobe. Later in the film, Johnny doesn’t turn into a werewolf during the full moon sacrifice he participates in and is subsequently killed with a regular bullet! These dueling versions kept young horror in fans in arguments for many years depending on who saw what version of the film!

Blood of Dracula’s Castle is currently available on DVD from Rhino Home Video as part of their Horrible Horrors Collection, volume two. This set includes seven other films also owned by Crown International including the original co-feature Nightmare in Wax and the Florida-lensed William Grefe snake opus Stanley. This is a reasonably priced, no frills, collection and is highly recommended to the Creature Feature crowd.

Coming Next Week: “I was a Teenage Blood Slave! - The Tricia Anderson Story”

"Retrorama" is ©2007 by ED Tucker.   All graphics this page, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.