• Blood For Dracula (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: June 25th, 2021.
    Director: Paul Morrissey, Antonio Margheriti
    Cast: Udo Kier, Joe Dallesandro, Vittoria De Sica, Maxime McKendry, Arno Jurging, Milena Vukotic, Dominique Darel
    Year: 1974
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    Blood For Dracula – Movie Review:

    Paul Morrissey started off in film as an assistant director and cinematographer on a lot of Andy Warhol's early experimental art movies. From there he branched out and started producing a lot of Warhol's movies, which in turn lead to directing films such as Flesh, Trash, and Heat. In the early seventies he made Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula (though some say Italian genre director Antonio Margheriti did as much work behind the camera, if not more, than Morrissey did), and these two films, more or less shot back to back, remain his most popular works to this day.

    Shot on location in Europe, the movie follows the exploits of Count Dracula (Udo Kier of the infamous Mark Of The Devil) who, according to his faithful man servant Anton (the bug eyed Arno Jurging), needs to feast on the blood of a virgin soon or he will become ill and soon die. Because the Count is well known in his native Romania, they're having trouble finding nubile young women for him to feast on so Anton decides that they should head to Italy to look for fresh meat. After all, Italy is a very Catholic country and because of that, they should have no troubles finding a virtuous young woman or two for the Count to sink his fangs into.

    After much whining the Count finally and reluctantly agrees to head off to Italy with Anton, who assures him that there won't be any difficulty in finding a snack if they stick to his plan – to pretend that the Count is looking for a virgin wife to take back to Romania with him. While the Count is holed up in a hotel, Arno heads to a tavern to mingle with the locals (one of whom is played by Roman Polanski!) and hears word of Di Fiore family who have four lovely daughters who must surely still retain their purity. Anton heads to their villa, a once beautiful Italian mansion now in a rather run down state, and convinces the family to let he and Dracula stay with them.

    The Count and Anton move to the villa where the family meets him for the first time. While the mother is keen on marrying off one of her girls so that they can bring some new and much needed money into the family, two of the girls are more interested in carrying about with the servant, Mario ('Little' Joe Dallesandro of Trash), who happens to obsess over communist teachings and preaches warning of the upcoming revolution that will surely take down the upper class. The eldest daughter, while still virtuous, isn't interested so much in The Count while the youngest isn't of marrying age yet. This leads to complications for the family, as well as for the count, as he tries to figure out which one, if any, of the girls he'll be able to satiate his hunger with and they try to figure out what exactly his real intentions are…

    Morrissey infuses his take on Stoker's original classic story with heavy doses of socialist politics and the end result is that the movie plays out as much like a class war between the rich and the poor (embodied by Mario's struggle against Dracula as well as his dealings with the Di Fiore family, who he obviously resents) as it does as a story of good versus evil. This makes for an interesting take on the story – it's not often that the vampire film is used as a political metaphor of any kind, even if here it is very much tongue in cheek and done with a fine sense of macabre humor.

    Morrissey's direction is excellent in the film. While it takes a little while to get moving, once we arrive at the Di Fiore home the movie really picks up and the cinematography makes excellent use of the location. There's plenty of atmosphere and at times it almost seems like the state of the family home is mirrored by the state of the family itself as both are falling apart and both have really been let go.

    The real star of the show, however, is Udo Kier. He plays the count with such over the top sadness and suffering that it's funny but at the same time, a little disturbing. The scene where he learns the hard way that one of the victim's he has just attempted to feast on is not a virgin – resulting in his vomiting blood all over the bathroom and convulsing – demonstrates his ability to really use his odd physical characteristics to his advantage. He's a strange looking man and perfectly suited to the lead in the film. Arno Jurging serves as the perfect complement, leering over the girls he hopes to help the count acquire and bringing to his role a sense of unearthly loyalty to his master. While Joe Dallesandro's New York accent seems out of place against the European cast members and their various dialects, he does well as Mario and is believable enough in the part despite the obvious NYC speak.

    Filled with more than a few fairly graphic sex scenes and some completely over the top violence and gore, Blood For Dracula works really well as a macabre black comedy and satire.

    Blood For Dracula – Blu-ray Review:

    Blood For Dracula is being released by Severin as a UHD/Blu-ray combo pack but only Blu-ray test discs were made available in time for this review to happen, so what follows are thoughts on the 1080p version. The transfer, taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative takes up 21GBs of space on the 50GB disc. The transfer here looks very good, though you have to assume that the UHD, with HDR, will look noticeably better. Colors are nicely defined, detail is very strong and there’s good depth here. The picture always looks like film, there’s no noise reduction here to complain about nor is there any edge enhancement. Black levels are strong and skin tones look quite nice as well. We see quite a nice improvement here over the past DVD editions!

    NOTE - In an earlier version of this review, there was a digital glitch on the seventh screen cap. This was caused by VLC Media Player, the software that we use for screen caps, which sometimes pixelates on my PC when taking caps off of BD-R discs, which was the case here as a test disc set was sent, not a factory pressed disc. The cap in question has been redone, and is now clearly visible without the pixilation issue. This was never a problem with Severin's master but caused entirely by my computer, and unfortunately it didn't get caught before this review went live.

    The only audio option here is a 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, with optional SDH subtitles provided in English only. The audio quality here is also very good, and you’ll really notice how clean and rich the film’s excellent score sounds on this disc. Dialogue stays clean and clear and the track is properly balanced.

    Extras start off with Trans-Human Flesh And Blood, an interview with director Paul Morrissey that lasts for thirty-six-minutes. He talks about the intentional ridiculousness of some of his earlier films, particularly in how they portrayed young people, before then going on to talk about cranking out films like Lonesome Cowboys in two days, some of the different cast members he worked with on a few of his films, how Udo Kier looks like someone from outer space, working with Producer Andrew Braunsberg, shooting on location in Rome, having access to a bigger budget for Blood For Dracula, meeting Carlo Ponti, how too much preparation can destroy a film, following up this picture with Flesh For Frankenstein, some of the different crew members he worked with, what Joe Dallesandro brought to the picture and what he was like to direct and loads more. Morrissey is very outspoken here, going off on some pretty amusing tangents about childrearing, why he feels that the world is a toilet, the stupidity of youth and plenty more. Don't miss this one.

    Actress Stefania Casini appears next in the eighteen-minute Rubinia's Homecoming which is part interview and part location visit. She walks through the castle that served as the film's main location and looks back on her experiences, talking about meeting Andy Warhol and her experiences with him, what it was like being on set during the film, thoughts on her co-stars in the film including Dallesandro and Kier, Morrissey's directing style, some of the work she's done since making this movie and quite a bit more.

    Udo Kier himself shows up next in Blood For Udo, which runs nineteen-minutes. He talks here about how he came to be cast in this and in Frankenstein, his status as an actor at the time and how his star was on the rise. From there, he details some of the problems that they ran into while working on the film that led to him playing Dracula, working with a very international cast and crew on the picture, the philosophy behind his performance and take on the character, getting cast in Blade because of his work in this picture, working on a few other films with vampiric themes like The Revenant, acting in Spermula, almost starring in Jodorowsky's planned adaptation of Dune and more. Udo sips wine and smokes throughout the interview, at one point stopping to play with his ears, and he speaks pretty openly about his thoughts on a lot of the film's he has been involved with over the years.

    Little Big Joe interviews actor Joe Dallesandrofor twenty-eight-minutes. He talks here about his early career in New York, connecting with Andy Warhol and The Factory scene, getting cast after showing up just to watch one of Morrissey's early movies being made, his thoughts on some of the early film projects that he was involved with, working on the Flesh trilogy and his thoughts on how those films were directed and the movies themselves, having the scene with his actual son put into Flesh, shooting these early films fast and cheap in a couple of days, working with Holly Woodlawn and his relationship with her, getting cast in Frankenstein and then again in Dracula, how he got along with his different co-stars, shooting the film known that it would be dubbed in post, how he was willing to help out and carry equipment on the shoot when many of his European counterparts were not which endeared him to the crew, how different it was working with Morrissey on a film that had an actual budget and plenty more.

    Conversation With A Vampire is an audio interview with actress Milena Vukotic that clocks in at nineteen-minutes. She speaks here, over a selection of stills, about where her career was at before and up to this period in her life. She then talks about working with Bertolucci and a few other Italian 'masters of cinema.' From there, she goes over how she came to land the part in Blood For Dracula through her agent, her basically non-existent personal relationship with horror films and literature, thoughts on the character that she played in the film, her thoughts on the costuming in the film, her thoughts on the finished movie and the use of humor in the movie and more.

    Assistant Director Paolo Pietrangeli gets in front of the camera for fifteen-minutes in a featurette entitled Bloodthirsty. He talks about how he got his start in the film industry at a young age and some of the Italian filmmakers that he collaborated with. He talks about working on Frankenstein and Dracula for Warhol and Morrissey, how he felt that the movies were definitely comedies, how dealing with some of the crew was a nightmare as they kept moving thee camera around, how he was sad after working on these films when he was no longer able to work with Morrissey and Warhol, legal issues that surrounded the production, Antonio Margheriti's connections to the films, keeping his relationships with everyone on the films completely professional, essentially shooting the two films immediately one after the other and more.

    Black Cherry is a twenty-seven-minute interview with art director Gianni Giovagnoni who starts by talking about how producer Enrico Job brought him on board to work on both Frankenstein and Dracula, how he was hesitant to do this at first until he learned that Warhol and Morrissey were involved, what his work on both films involved, the locations and props that were used during the production, having to use cue cards for a specific actor to ensure smooth line delivery, some of the people that he worked with behind the scenes and more.

    The Blood Of These Whores... is a featurette with author Stephan Thrower that lasts twenty-minutes. He provides some background information on how Warhol recruited Morrissey to work with The Factory on their various film projects. From there, we learn how he rose up the ranks and became the right choice to direct their adaptations of Frankenstein and Dracula. Thrower talks about their penchant for just letting the camera role, how Morrissey started taking directing more seriously, Morrissey's very strong anti-drug stance, some of the better known films Morrissey made for Warhol in L.A. and New York, the brilliance of Udo Kier's work in Blood For Dracula, how all of the different accents in the film are noticeable in the film and how this effects the movie, some of the metaphors for heroin addiction that are used in the portrayal of Dracula in the movie and lots more. As is typical for Thrower's pieces, it does a great job of peeling back the layers of the film and providing some welcome social context alongside plenty of facts and trivia.

    The twenty-minute Sad, Romantic Dracula is an interview with soundtrack composer Claudio Gizzi who starts by talking about how his life has always revolved around music. From here, he explains his background and his training, getting his start working on film scores, scoring for Visconti early in his career and some of the other noteworthy filmmakers he collaborated with, meeting Morrissey for the first time, working on the different musical themes that recur throughout the film, bringing a gloomy but romantic touch to some of the music and lots more.

    The last featurette is The Roman Connection, an interview with producer Andrew Braunsberg that lasts for twenty-three minutes and which was recorded via Zoom during the Cocid-19 pandemic. He starts off by noting that these are Morrissey's films completely and that the Warhol connection was a mutually agreed upon commercial consideration. He then talks about how and why he would up producing the movie after collaborating on Macbeth and What? with Polanski, trying to get a ski film made in Switzerland, how they came up with the idea of doing both Frankenstein and Dracula movies, bringing Morrissey on board to direct, putting up Warhol and his entire entourage when they came to Europe and what a pleasure it was to do despite some complications, working with Morrissey again on an adaptation of Hound Of The Baskervilles, allowing Morrissey to make his movies his way so as not to take away from his style and loads more. Braunsberg is a very good story teller with a sharp memory, his input here is very welcome.

    Aside from that, we get two trailers for the feature, menus and chapter selection, but included alongside the Blu-ray disc is the film’s entire soundtrack on CD which is a nice touch.

    Note that the Paul Morrissey and Udo Kier commentary track from the Criterion release has not been ported over to this release.

    We’d also like to point out that this review is based on test discs so we can’t comment on the packaging or inserts.

    Blood For Dracula – The Final Word:

    An offbeat and completely engrossing take on the vampire mythos, Blood For Dracula revisits DVD with a vastly improved transfer and a nice selection of extras. The movie holds up really well, thanks to Udo Kier's amazing performance and Morrissey's interesting direction, and Severin Films has given the film a very nice high definition upgrade.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blood For Dracula Blu-ray screen caps!