Dracula's Great Love
directed by Javier Aquirre
(Janus, 1972)

While Dracula's Great Love has a few problems, I'm quite taken with this movie. This Spanish vampire film from 1972 actually gives you blood flowing from open veins, a pretty Gothic atmosphere, lovely women running around in rather revealing clothing (and sometimes licking blood off of one another), gratuitous nudity and even one good virgin-whipping. What's not to like?

Admittedly, the film is a little bit on the weird side, sort of coming unraveled a little bit during the final 15 minutes, but the ending is nothing if not unpredictable. I'm used to seeing Paul Naschy playing a werewolf, so it was nice to see him shed all that hair and try his hand at channeling Dracula; I imagine he enjoyed himself, as well, since vampires -- not werewolves -- get all the women. As strange as it sounds, Dracula's Great Love is actually a rather tragic love story.

That story seems to take place somewhere around Borgo Pass, near the spot where Dracula was supposedly killed by Van Helsing. We hear the whole story from a fellow who is traveling through the region, via stagecoach, with a bevy of lovely ladies wearing low-cut Victorian dresses. Just about the time they pass by the creepy sanitorium on the hill (which one must assume is Dr. Seward's old stomping grounds), they lose a wheel, a horse kills the driver and they have no choice but to seek refuge in the sanitorium. They are greeted there by Dr. Wendell Marlow (Naschy), who seems rather charming to the ladies (except for the one scaredy-cat of the group). Marlow, as it turns out, is actually Dracula, whose evil has survived his apparent death at the hands of Van Helsing. In order to fully regain his great power, though, Dracula must win the human love of a virgin.

Gradually, our list of four candidates is wheedled down to one (but only after Dracula miscalculates and has a one-night stand with a woman who had obviously not been a virgin for a very long time -- resulting in a rather awkward moment for our vampire). Once the designated virgin falls in love with him, Dracula cannot only restore his powers but also bring his daughter Rodna back to life. (Please don't ask me where Rodna came from or what she is doing here, as I have no idea; we wouldn't have a virgin-whipping without her, though, so I vote we keep her.) I thought I knew where this movie was heading, but the whole substance of the story took a rather dramatic turn toward the end -- it's hard to explain exactly why, but it does make this movie a memorable one.

Paul Naschy isn't bad at all as a vampire, and the women are great, always eager to lick the blood off of half-naked female victims. Their revealing wardrobes don't make much sense for the time period of the story, but they definitely add a little something to the film -- it's called cleavage, to be exact. Haydee Politoff is particularly easy on the eyes. It's sort of a weird story, but Dracula's Great Love offers a most unusual take on the Dracula legend -- I only wish I could talk about it without giving anything away. In terms of the technical quality, there's no mistaking the fact that this movie, shot on 35mm film, hasn't been restored; the print is rather dark for the most part, the night scenes sometimes look as if they were shot during the day, and there seems to be something of a cropping issue with the opening credits. Still, though, the look and feel of Dracula's Great Love really isn't all that bad. The dubbing could be better, but it could also be a lot worse.

Naschy is something of a horror icon in his native Spain, and I have to say this is the best of the few Naschy movies I have seen thus far. The story is grounded in the original Dracula of Stoker's creation but goes off in a most unusual direction, and that makes it a very interesting vampire film well worth watching.

by Daniel Jolley
10 December 2005

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