There are certain actors whose names are synonymous with horror movies. Greats like Bela Lugoisi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee…oh, and, of course, Paul Naschy. What’s that you say? Who is Paul Naschy!?! Well, having played many of the great horror characters…Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy…Naschy was Spain’s answer to these other great actors. Today’s movie is features Naschy as Count Dracula alongside a mini-harem of vampire beauties. It’s 1974’s “Dracula’s Great Love.”
The film has a strange opening where two delivery men bring a heavy, coffin-shaped, crate to a creepy castle. The two open it up, hoping to find riches they can swipe, but all they find is a skeleton. They start wandering the castle looking for anything they can grab and soon encounter a caped figure. One of the men is bitten on the neck while the other one runs for it. But, at the top of a staircase, he gets and axe in the forehead and tumbles down the stairs. The strange part is that the credits now run over footage of the guy falling down the steps in slow motion…over and over and over again.
After the credits we are introduced to Imre (Vic Winner) who is traveling across the countryside with a quartet of beautiful women. Senta (Rosanna Yanni), Karen (Haydee Politoff), Elke (Mirta Miller), and Marlene (Ingrid Garbo) are all over this guy like he’s an 18th century Hugh Hefner. When their carriage loses a wheel, it happens right near a creepy old castle which, legend has it, was once the home of Count Dracula. When one of the horses gets spooked and kills the driver with a hoof to the head, Imre and the girls have no choice but to try and get help at the castle.
At the castle they meet the current owner, Dr. Wendell Marlow (Naschy). He’s a friendly guy who quickly offers to let the travelers stay for a few days. Senta immediately sees an opportunity to bag the rich and handsome doctor, while some of the other ladies are a bit creeped out by their surroundings. But Marlene doesn’t mind much, since she is already enjoying late night visits from Imre. The next day, the ladies take a break from skinny dipping in Dr. Marlow’s pool long enough to visit his library. There they find a book called The Memoirs of Professor Van Helsing, which tells about how Dracula may have plans to resurrect his evil daughter.
That night, Imre encounters a strange figure in the hall. It’s the delivery guy who got bitten in the pre-credit sequence, now a blood thirsty vampire. Not content to be the only bloodsucker in the house, he changes Imre into a vampire. Then Imre goes to Marlene’s bed, sinks his teeth into her neck, and changes her into a vampire. Then she passes the favor on to Elke.
Meanwhile, Marlow and Karen are beginning to connect. This makes Senta jealous which causes her to increase her efforts to snag the doctor. After she practically throws herself at him, the two make love. Shortly afterward, vampire babes Elke and Marlene sink their teeth into Senta. With all these vampires running around the house now, Marlow reveals to Karen that he is really Count Dracula and that he needs her to blood resurrect his daughter. But will Karen’s love for the Count allow evil to win?
“Dracula’s Great Love” does require some effort on the part of the audience. There’s always something a little awkward about foreign films dubbed in English, so that’s a bit of a hurdle. The film also starts out really shaky with that weird opening credits sequence. But as the film gets going, it has a style that is reminiscent of the horror films produced by Hammer. It’s got a creepy gothic setting, eerie atmosphere, gallons of bright glowing blood, and beautiful ladies in push-up costumes. But if Hammer pushed the envelope with the eroticism in their horror stories, this Spanish production hits the envelope with a sledgehammer. For example: it’s not enough for Elke and Marlene to sensually bite Senta’s neck…they have to remove her top in the process. It’s a bit over-the-top.
As for Naschy, the Spanish horror legend, he’s quite good. He has a very smooth approach to the role of Dracula. Of course, when watching a dubbed film it’s a little tough to get the full picture of the actor’s performance, but what did come through seemed to work for me.
The film does have a few meandering moments that threaten to ruin things, but, for the most part, the film stays interesting. I will say, though, that the ending is pretty anti-climactic and a bit of a head-scratcher. Still, those who enjoy the Hammer style of horror will probably find enough to like in “Dracula’s Great Love.” Just keep in mind, with it’s amped up sexual content, this ain’t a Saturday matinée Dracula film.