Production and distribution (3)
TV Broadcasts: Cumulative total
TV broadcasts: details by country
With angry villagers driving them away from their castle in Transylvania, Dracula (Christopher Lee) and his son Ferdinand (Bernard Menez) head abroad. Dracula ends up in London, England where he becomes a horror movie star exploiting his vampire status. His son, meanwhile, is ashamed of his roots and ends up a night watchman in Paris, France where he falls for a girl. Naturally, tensions arise when father and son are reunited and both take a liking to the same girl.
Source : Wikipedia
On its U.S. release, it was heavily edited down to 75 minutes, supposedly to speed up its rhythm and make it funnier. As a result, the plot and the tone of the film have been severely modified.
As the film was shot almost entirely in French language, Christopher Lee dubbed his own voice for the English language soundtrack. Then again, in the American version, he was dubbed by a totally different actor faking occasional ludicrous foreign accents.
Point of view
Two years after Christopher Lee claims he swore off horror, Hammer and, most importantly, his signature role of Count Dracula, we find him donning that very famous cape once again for this largely forgotten but surprisingly agreeable Gallic spoof. Thankfully, the print I came across is an extremely good-looking one emanating from Germany that is, unfortunately, accompanied by frankly awful English subtitles (that often do not even bother to translate the intermittent German title cards!) which soon forced me to rely on my knowledge of the French language acquired in high school all those years ago; ironically, I managed to acquire a corrected set of subtitles soon after I finished this first viewing of the film!
Having said that, the film occasionally lapses into Romanian (during the early Transylvanian sequences), English (when Dracula is picked up at sea by a British vessel and lands in that country) and Arabic (when Dracula Jr. is taken in by a bunch of them upon first disembarking on French soil) and, while it runs for a slightly overstaying 93 minutes in the PAL-sourced print I watched, it was reportedly much re-edited when cut down to 79 minutes for its Americanized English-language version (the end result got saddled with a *½ rating on the Leonard Maltin movie guide)! Ultimately, the film serves to show that, even at 54 years, Lee owns the role of the Prince of Darkness (essaying it here for the last time even if the name Dracula is never actually uttered) and it was an added pleasure hearing him speak his lines in perfectly fluent French!
Indeed, there are a steady flow of funny lines and situations to be found in the film: Lee to his child, "Ferdinand, finish your blood and go to bed!" and "Ferdinand, don't play bowling with your mother's ashes"; Dracula's son as an adult – played by Bernard Menez (who had appeared in TENDER Dracula itself 2 years earlier) is so hesitant in plying his trade that, when he is sent by his father to bite an old gypsy woman in the woods, he ends up helping out with the cart she had been laboriously pushing behind her!; Lee is at a loss for words, when about to be thrown into the sea in a closed casket, as to how they will manage to reach the surface; the elder vampire bumps into the glass door of a modern British building when chasing after a prospective victim; French character actor Raymond Bussieres offering Menez a bite to eat in a train station when the latter's blood-starved stomach starts to make its hunger heard; the son bites into a frozen corpse during a day job in a mortuary and is later sickened by the sheer overdose of blood available for him to sample in an abattoir; their luggage is amusingly coffin-shaped; Dracula Jr. dumps his father's coffin out of a hotel window in a fit of rage; Lee is taken into police custody (when daylight is imminent) after being suspected of lewd acts in a car!; humiliatingly, he is also being made to advertise toothpaste on TV commercials; Lee pulls up his sheets in embarrassment when surprised by his young new conquest in his coffin, etc.
It goes without saying that this was not the first comic treatment of Dracula on celluloid nor would it be the last – LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT (1979; with George Hamilton at his suavest), FRACCHIA CONTRO Dracula (1985; starring beloved Italian comedian Paolo Villaggio and Edmund Purdom as Dracula) and Mel Brooks' Dracula: DEAD AND LOVING IT (1995; starring Leslie Nielsen) – and, in fact. Lee himself had already sent the vampiric Count up in a much-earlier Italian spoof starring Renato Rascel, TEMPI DURI PER I VAMPIRI aka UNCLE WAS A VAMPIRE (1959) but, what I found surprising here is the fact that, much like Roman Polanski's own somewhat heavy-handed spoof of the genre, THE FEARLESS VAMPIRE KILLERS (1967), this flawlessly replicates (at least in the scenes set in Transylvania) the Gothic atmosphere of a Hammer Horror, down to a full-blooded (pardon the pun) music score by Vladimir Cosma; notably, the makeshift cross – formed by peasants from a hammer and sickle a' la Michael Reeves' THE SHE-BEAST (1966) – is not only able to hold vampires at bay here but also set them ablaze!
Unfortunately, the predictably upbeat ending is somewhat rushed with Lee meeting his demise in the way of his comeuppance in Hammer's first Dracula picture and Menez finding himself cured during a train journey merely by abstaining himself from drinking blood for so long…or perhaps through the power of love since, at the very end of the film we find him, father to a brood of children (one of whom bares his fangs in the closing freeze frame!) with the girl (Marie-Helene Breillat who, rather foolishly, does not believe the vampire lore, even if both father and son keep harping on it) who had been the object of contention between the titular characters throughout the film. The actress was married to director Edouard Molinaro (still a couple of years away from making his cross-dressing international hit, LA CAGE AUX FOLLES) at the time and her younger sister, controversial film-maker Catherine, has her last acting job for 16 years here (prophetically, we think she is being bitten but is actually getting it on with Lee in his coffin in an early scene from the film)!
Source : IMDb