Together in one film—they meet in a fight of fright!
Before Freddy threw down with Jason, two other horror icons went head-to-head in a celluloid brouhaha. The early 1970s found Count Dracula and Frankenstein's monster squaring off for a winner-take-all melee in legendary schlock auteur Al Adamson's Dracula vs. Frankenstein.
Facts of the Case
Things are not well at the carnival. Here, in his top-secret lab underneath a funhouse operated by a midget, a deranged Dr. Frankenstein (J. Carrol Naish) and his emotionally stunted lab assistant Groton have embarked on a brutal experiment, which requires killing lots of attractive young people.
One of these lookers is the sister of Judith Fontaine (Regina Carrol); Judith's search for her sibling's whereabouts brings her to überstud Mike Howard (Anthony Eisley). Together, Mike and Judith find themselves hip-deep in Dr. Frankenstein's ghastly plans, an axe-wielding savant, and an ill-tempered circus dwarf.
Yet there are more sinister happenings afoot, as Count Dracula himself jumps into the mix, searching for a serum to make him invincible. This, too, leads him to the good doctor, and, ultimately, his long-time pet project: Frankenstein's monster.
Uh-oh, this can't be good…
…and it certainly isn't. Dracula vs. Frankenstein is absolute—and self-confessed—schlock, and anyone spinning this disc, thinking otherwise, needs to enroll pronto in "Reading and Understanding Movie Titles" at the local community college. Add to it, this is three-decade-old schlock, so the special effects are only special in that short-bus kind of way, the pacing is ultra-lethargic, and the actors' talents and wardrobes are utterly laughable.
Let's start with the plot. Don't let the title fool you. The two headliners don't really take center stage until the very end; they have a few scenes interspersed, particularly Dracula, but it's hard to ignore the fact that their inclusion feels tacked on.
Without the two monsters, this is basically an uninteresting film about a horny scientist and his simple little friend operating a lab that looks less like a lab and more like the annual Radio Shack holiday blowout sale.
The two leads, Mike and Judith, are pretty goofy as well. Despite a powerful episode where Judith wigs out at a dance club due to some bad drugs, her cleavage out-acts her throughout the movie. Mike is a tool, spouting lines like: "My name is Mike Howard, and this is my pad." Dr. Frankenstein has a penchant to go on and on and on, but when you're out of your mind, I guess that's something you do.
So then how about those crazy heavyweights? Count Dracula (Zandor Vorkav) roars on the scene, sporting an afro, huge sideburns, and beard (which of course raises questions of follicle growth biology and the undead). All of his speech is delivered with a reverberating echo as if his voice-box is forever trapped in a large bathroom.
Frankenstein's monster is near-unrecognizable, save for his faux-mullet. His face resembles an exploded cauliflower, making me wonder if the effects guys accidentally dumped a bucket of caulk on the actor's face and just were too lazy to clean it up.
When the two creatures finally have their big showdown, it is, with relatively little surprise, fairly uneventful. For the most part they just grab each other's arms and rock back and forth. Toward the end of the film however, things get more interesting when they fight it out at Dracula's hiding place, a church (not many crosses there, Einstein!). The two eventually pursue each other into the woods, in a staggeringly poorly-shot sequence, that features some halfway-decent monster combat, but is made opaque by the muddied film stock.
The film is full-frame, with a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, which really pushes the over-the-top "shock-music" (ooh, a close-up of Count Dracula…DUH, DUH, DUUUUHHHHH). The picture is passable at some points and indecipherable in others, particularly the aforementioned climax.
What really sparkles on this disc are the special features; Troma is obviously enamored with the film, and as a result it is loaded silly with extras. Producer Sam Sherman gives an encyclopedic commentary, relating the mini-biographies of almost every actor in the film. Sherman also gives the history of the movie as a preamble to the feature, then continues on in more detail in the "Producing Schlock" documentary.
Also included is some unreleased footage, most notably the original ending which, if used, would have reduced the Dracula vs. Frankenstein fight card by about 90%!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Well, there is the part when the midget falls on the axe…
Here's the skinny: Dracula vs. Frankenstein is ridiculously awful, but possibly inane enough to have a decent time haranguing. It barely qualifies as an entertaining so-good-it's-bad-laugh-at-it-at-its-own-expense flick…but it does. The guffaw-inducing, outdated dialogue and relentlessly cheeseball effects make it a relatively decent alternative to, say, a hernia, but I'd be willing to wager you'll spend some serious time on the scan-forward button.
After enduring this movie, the jury hangs themselves.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary by Sam Sherman
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