Dracula Contra Frankenstein (1972)

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Sometimes I wonder how Ed Wood was pegged as the worst filmmaker ever, yet all Jess Franco gets tagged as is a purveyor of Euro-Sleaze. Yes, Franco’s films are often 1,000x dirtier than anything Wood ever shot (including Orgy of the Dead; possibly dirtier than the pulp porn Wood ended his life writing. But for sheer incompetence, it’s hard to find anyone that can hold a torch to Franco. I’m watching Dracula Contra Frankenstein’s opening credits, and Franco can’t keep the camera static.

It’s focused on a mountaintop castle! The camera’s supposed to be static, but keeps being slightly jostled. As if Jess Franco, who ended his life with over 300 films to his name, never possessed a tripod. Or never hired a cameraman who knew how to use one.

Dracula Contra Frankenstein - Medium Attacked

Now I know why this film doesn’t have a wiki.

I’m guessing this was shot early enough in Franco’s career that his “style” wasn’t fully developed yet. And by “style” I mean habit of zooming in on any and all vaginas. Here he’s zooming in on Dracula (Howard Vernon) tasting his first victim, and between the screen going dark the camera keeps zooming in tighter and tighter on the victim’s throat. Not a bad idea until you reach the end, where all you can see is the victim’s hair and a bit of Dracula’s chin.

Dracula Contra Frankenstein - Introducing Dracula

You almost have to admire Franco’s audacity. Seemingly taking bits and pieces of the Dracula legend and placing them on-screen in a Mad Libs fashion. First comes a feeding attack, followed by another woman who has pictures of Dracula’s arrival adorning her walls. Instead of, you know, them being the other way around. Dracula arrives, the haunting starts, then someone dies.

I’m realizing that there’s a reason why most writings about Franco focus on his leading ladies Soledad Miranda early on, and Lina Romay after Miranda died). This happens because without the ladies, the films are just tedious.

Dracula Contra Frankenstein - Dancer

Dracula is feasting on the townspeople unopposed while Frankenstein (Dennis Price) is kidnapping townspeople to perform experiments on. Which, I guess, creates a justification for the inevitable confrontation; especially since there’s an average of three lines of dialogue per 10 minutes of film time.

A shame given how the concept behind the movie, Dracula trapped by Dr. Frankenstein, is pretty much the genre wet dream of the Mary Shelley set. Before Freddy Vs Jason there was Dracula Contra Frankenstein. Imagine Frankenstein digging up Dracula’s corpse by mistake, and using that as the base model for his unGodly abomination.

Dracula Contra Frankenstein - Dracula and Acolyte

Instead Frankenstein resurrects Dracula in an attempt to solidify Frankenstein’s “shadow army.” After creating an ungodly Monster (Fernando Bilbao) to aid the Count in building an army of vampires.

I’ve talked before about how Jean Rollin, Europe’s other reigning sleaze director creates films that don’t need synopses. A gallery of pictures does all the talking; letting you experience the thrill of his erotic grandeur in seconds, rather than hours. (Only half the experience sure, but you’ll at least get the gist.) Franco does the same here, only instead of clowns and nude vampires, it’s a fifty year-old man and his madcap assistants.

Dracula Contra Frankenstein - Frankenstein and Dracula Meet

Take the above for example; a scene where Dr. Frankenstein is plotting to rid humanity’s only savior, Dr. Seward (Alberto Dalbes), of his only chance at salvation, a medium who can battle agents of the dark side. But don’t worry about the silly plot, and don’t worry about how Dracula is sitting exposed to sunlight. Instead just focus on the shot’s composition. Mind you, Dracula’s eyes haven’t blinked since they’ve arrived, nor has his mouth closed. (I guess he has to show his fangs so you’ll remember the character with the blank, unblinking stare is the Prince of Darkness.)

If I was Dr. Seward, I wouldn’t be impressed, let alone frightened.

Dracula Contra Frankenstein - Bloody Eye

Dracula’s bloody eyeballs, however, are really gross, and a great addition to the character. If all the vampires bled from their eyes while feeding, I might start to worry. The fact that the vampires attack en masse, with no attempt at subtlety is another fantastic addition to the genre.

Gone is the vampire’s old habit of hiding in the shadows. Here, when they find a couple making love in their bedroom, they smash through the window and attack both, at the same time! Absolutely no one is safe, not individuals, or groups. If you breathe, you’re prey.

Dracula Contra Frankenstein - Wolf Man

Unless you’re a lycanthrope, in which case you’ll be the film’s de facto hero. With the last medium also a vampire, and part-time hero Jonathan spending most of the movie laid up in a hospital bed, we’re forced to wait for the first full moon, Which brings out the wolf man (Brandy), who drives all the other night creatures crazy, causing a battle royal, and brings about Dr. Frankenstein’s shadow army’s downfall.

You’d really think having three vampires, one of which is the Dracula, and a golem made out of human flesh would be enough to ward off one werewolf for the night. So Dracula Contra Frankenstein Contra el Hombre Lobo would be a more accurate title.

Dracula Contra Frankenstein - Frankenstein and Monster

But wait, there’s more! The Wolf Man is just a red herring hero, the same as Dr. Seward and Jonathan before him! After the Wolf Man battles Frankenstein’s Monster, Dr. Frankenstein picks up a long spear, and starts stabbing the vampires as they sleep! Claiming he’d somehow been betrayed by them. As if this film was making too much sense, so Franco had to throw in a fourth protagonist with Frankenstein having a change of heart.

Did I mention this film doesn’t have a wiki entry?

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