Redemption Films and Kino Lorber's Blu-ray treatment of Jess Franco's DAUGHTER OF DRACULA provides opportunity for reassessment of this lesser-known entry in Franco's unofficial "Universal monster rally" trilogy.
Summoned to the bedside of her ailing mother Baroness Karlstein (Carmen Carbonell, OBSCENE MIRROR), Luisa Karlstein (Britt Nichols, A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD) learns that the first Karlstein was the vampire Count Dracula whose crypt is in the family castle's north tower. Visiting the tower, she is bitten by the Count (Howard Vernon, THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF) and starts stalking the village by night in search of victims while more slowly draining her cousin Karine (Anne Libert, EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN) who has long fostered a lesbian attraction to her. Investigating the murders, Inspector Ptuschko (Alberto Dalbes, THE DEMONS) dismisses the superstitions of budding writer/Karlstein family secretary Cyril Jefferson (Jess Franco himself) about vampires and other dark forces. Sensationalistic reporter Charlie, however, casts suspicion on Max who has a limp when a witness is struck by the killer with a distinctive walking stick, only for Cyril's own wife Ana (Yelena Samarina, WEREWOLF SHADOW) to vouch for Max's whereabouts. As the killings continue, Charlie continues investigating the Karlsteins and inadvertently drives a wedge in between Karine and Luisa.
Coming across like a sexed-up reworking of Franco's earlier, more stylish THE SADIST BARON VON KLAUS, DAUGHTER OF DRACULA is rather listless as a thriller or a horror movie. Also lacking the funereal aspect of A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD (with which it shares its palatial location), the film has some attractively-lensed languid sequences of Nichols and Libert wandering the estate but the mystery side of the film is half-baked at best (especially since the vampiric murder that opens the film precedes Nichols learning of her heritage and being bitten). Without the investigation scenes and additional killings to pad the film out, the dynamics of the lesbian relationship and its vampiric aspects are not sufficiently developed to make softcore entry worth sitting through even more prettily filmed sexual encounters (which are more explicit than Hammer's Karnstein trilogy but never go as far as Franco would just a year or so later). What makes it worthwhile for Franco fans is the Techniscope lensing by Franco himself (with Jose Climent credited) quite attractive – although never as striking as the Franco films EROTIC RIGHTS OF FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA, PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN shot by Raul Artigot (THE WITCHES MOUNTAIN) during the director's period of collaboration here with producer Robert de Nesle (CELESTINE) – the gorgeous and also frequently nude Nichols and Libert, Franco in one of his more substantive acting roles (up there with EXORCISM's Mathias Vogel) as well as White, and the use of the two beautiful castle locations familiar from the other de Nesle titles.
Never released stateside theatrically or on video, DAUGHTER OF DRACULA received its first digital release in German courtesy of X-Rated Kult Video. Sporting a vintage French track and newer Spanish dub with alternate scoring (like the German disc of THE DEMONS, the rescoring was more likely motivated by the lack of a separate M&E track for the new dub) and English and German subtitles. The presentation was imperfect in that it lacked the French title sequence, instead creating a new computer-generated titles over a textless version of the titles background (which was also featured in the extras sans text). Redemption Films' UK DVD simply place the title and a credit for Franco at the start on black on the same master. Redemption's new Blu-ray (distributed by Kino Lorber), licensed by UK company Euro London Films, sports a 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.35:1 widescreen transfer that seems to represent the elements as well as can be given Franco's zoom-happy camerawork and penchant for contrasty lighting. White scratches are evident throughout which are presumably a combination of in-camera damage and the processing of the elements (a lengthy stretch of which we learn in the commentary had been printed in reverse), but it is a generally fine if not meticulously cleaned up BD25 encode.
Besides the film's trailer (4:38) – the narration of which provides more forward momentum than anything in the film itself – and the recovery of some alternate "safe" footage (3:19) shot for Spanish release but apparently never used since the film was not dubbed into the language until last decade, the disc also features an audio commentary by Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas – who has previously recorded tracks for Franco's THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF, NIGHTMARES COME AT NIGHT, and A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD – in which he makes the persuasive case that the film was probably begun on the side during A VIRGIN AMONG THE LIVING DEAD as a giallo-esque reworking of THE SADIST BARON VON KLAUS but then reworked with the vampire element more awkwardly shoehorned into the film when shooting resumed a year or two later during the shooting of the de Nesle films. He points out mismatching shots, scenes that suggest a more traditional black-clad killer who stalks rather than mesmerizes victims, wounds more suggestive of an "oral sadist" (like THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF's Morpho) than puncture wounds, as well as the ways in which story threads trail off and the unsatisfactory denouement (had the film made more of the relationship between Luisa and Karine, it could have sustained an ending like that of FEMALE VAMPIRE rather than the obligatory one that is more suited to Franco's earlier, less experimental works or even his "monster rally" Frankenstein films for de Nesle). The one "error" Lucas makes is in discussing the filmography of Samarina when he refers to MANIAC MANSION (IMDb's default English title for Francesco Lara Polop's LA MANSION DE LA NIEBLA) which is pretty much known to English-speaking audiences as TV print title MURDER MANSION. (Eric Cotenas)
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