Dracula vs Frankenstein (1971) starring J. Carrol Naish, Lon Chaney Jr.
Before talking about Dracula vs Frankenstein itself, I would like to point out that it was the final appearance by two excellent actors: J. Carrol Naish (Sahara, Annie Get Your Gun) and Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolf Man, The Defiant Ones) — and both frankly deserved better. Lon Chaney Jr. was mute in the film, due to the damage done by throat cancer. Although I doubt that it would have improved the film very much if he had been able to speak. Yes, Dracula vs Frankenstein is that bad.
The plot is …
The basic plot for Dracula vs Frankenstein, such as it is, is as follows: the lovely and successful Judith Fontaine (Regina Carrol) is looking for her missing sister, Joan (Maria Lease, St. Elsewhere) who has disappeared into the hippie community of Venice, California. However, Joan has become the victim of Groton (Lon Chaney Jr.), a mute, axe-wielding homicidal maniac who alternates with playing with little puppies. Groton, in turn, is working for Dr. Durea (J. Carrol Naish), a wheelchair-bound mad scientist who is experimenting with re-attaching decapitated heads and resuscitating the victims. Dr. Durea is secretly the last descendant of Dr. Frankenstein and is running a house of horrors by the beach as a cover, assisted by Grazbo the Evil Dwarf (yes, that’s the character’s name, portrayed by Angelo Rossitto).
One night Count Dracula (Zandor Vorkov) visits the doctor, telling him that the original Frankenstein monster that was buried in a nearby graveyard, by the men who caused the accident that forced him into the wheelchair. The monster (played by John Bloom) is dug up by Dracula, revived by Dr. Durea, and used to take revenge on his enemies. In exchange, Dracula wants to use Durea’s strange serum to make himself invulnerable, and … ruuuuule the world!
Add in a love interest of Judith, a younger hippie couple, some bikers, some more victims, and the typical police officer, and you’ve got the plot. Eventually, when things go wrong, Dracula decides to turn Judith into his vampire bride, but the Frankenstein monster objects, and we get to the promised fight between the two monsters, which destroys them both.
A few comments:
- The makeup for Frankenstein’s monster is the worst I’ve ever seen. I thought Kiwi Kingston’s makeup in The Evil of Frankenstein was bad, but this is far worse — it looks like burnt meatloaf with a bad case of the mumps.
- Speaking of makeup, there’s little effort at consistency. Frankenstein’s monster’s face is greenish, but his hands are perfectly normal. Likewise, Dracula’s face is ash white, but his hands are normal, as is Groton when he’s been injected by Dr. Durea.
- Director Al Adamson specialized in making cheap, schlock films. His wife Regina Carrol starred in most of them, including here.
- The story itself is very disjointed.
- It’s not family-friendly, with flashes of frontal nudity
- When Dracula fights Frankenstein’s monster, he began pulling on one of the monster’s arms, and I joked to my daughter that he’s going to pull off the monster’s arm and beat him to death with it. That’s not quite right, but fairly close …
In short, Dracula vs Frankenstein is one of those movies that’s so bad, it’s enjoyable to watch simply to make fun of the bad script, cinematography, wooden acting, etc. I rate it 1 star out of 5, and that’s probably generous.