Judith Fontaine (Regina Carrol) is looking for her sister Joanie, who has disappeared into the hippie community of Venice, California. It turns out Joanie has become the victim of Groton (Lon Chaney Jr.), an axe-wielding homicidal maniac working for Dr. Durray (J. Carrol Naish), who is really the last of the Frankensteins and is now running a house of horrors by the beach and is performing experiments on Gorton's victims.
One night Count Dracula (Zandor Vorkov) visits the doctor, showing him the original Frankenstein creation that was buried in a nearby graveyard. The doctor revives it and uses it to take revenge on his professional rivals
J. Carrol Naish ... Dr. Frankenstein, aka Dr. Duryea
Lon Chaney Jr. ... Groton (as Lon Chaney)
Anthony Eisley ... Mike Howard
Regina Carrol ... Judith Fontaine
Greydon Clark ... Strange
Zandor Vorkov ... Count Dracula
Angelo Rossitto ... Grazbo
Anne Morrell ... Samantha
William Bonner ... Biker
Russ Tamblyn ... Rico
Jim Davis ... Police Sgt. Martin
John Bloom ... Frankenstein's Monster
Shelly Weiss ... The Creature
Director Al Adamson's most popular "masterpiece" is often both revered and reviled, but I'm not ashamed to say that I like it. For fans of the old Universal monster mashes of the 1940s, this film sort of updates the exploits of Count Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster to the "modern" times of the late '60s and early '70s. What's interesting is that it was never intended as such when the movie was first conceived...
Originally begun in 1969, producer Sam Sherman and director Adamson wanted to make a biker flick which would kind of be a semi-sequel to their recent SATAN'S SADISTS hit movie. They started shooting with Russ Tamblyn picked to reprise his role of a motorcycle hoodlum and then added a new plot where a mad doctor would be conducting weird experiments on young girls, having his deformed servant stalk them with an ax, supplying their blood to the doctor. At this point the film was going under a title of THE BLOOD SEEKERS or BLOOD FREAKS, and then later it was decided to consider the crazed scientist to be none other than Dr. Frankenstein, so the tentative title became BLOOD OF FRANKENSTEIN. But still the concept changed, and eventually came to include the marketable characters of Dracula and the Frankenstein Monster - and over a course of three years, footage was added or changed or deleted in order to create what's now known as Dracula VS. FRANKENSTEIN (1971). Whew!
In the finished movie, Count Dracula (played by a deliciously incompetent curly-haired & goatee'd stockbroker named Roger Engel, adopting a dopey pseudonym of "Zandor Vorkov") digs up the comatose Frankenstein Monster (7' 4" accountant John Bloom) and makes a deal with the elderly Dr. Frankenstein. The infamous doctor (played by an aged J. Carrol Naish in his last role, who has trouble reading cue cards and whose dentures can be heard clacking away as he delivers idiotic dialog) is operating under the phony moniker of Dr. Duryea, and runs a Creature Emporium Sideshow at a local amusement park. The show merely serves as a front for his gruesome blood experiments which he conducts down in the basement. Duryea frequently injects a serum into an over-sized half-wit named Groton (played by horror veteran Lon Chaney Jr., now sadly bloated and ravaged from years of alcohol abuse) transforming him into a "mad zombie". Growling and prowling under the boardwalk on the beach at night with an ax, Groton decapitates young girls for his master's sinister plans. Regina Carrol (wife of director Adamson) plays an older sister of one of the female victim's, who meets up with over-aged hippie Anthony Eisley to find out what happened to the girl, but gets tangled up in the web of Frankenstein and Dracula. Angelo Rossitto (who co-starred with Bela Lugosi in the '40s) is also on hand as a shady dwarf who takes tickets outside of Dr. Duryea's Creature Emporium. The one casualty of the final film who gets a raw deal is Russ Tamblyn, whose few surviving scenes from the original biker fiasco now seem out of place in a revamped movie about monsters and maniacs.
Okay - technically, this is a "bad" film, there's no way to get around that. But it's also a good deal of fun if you take it in the right spirit. It's colorful, "groovy," and is a final showcase for seasoned horror pros Lon Chaney and J. Carrol Naish, even if they are on their last legs. Despite the fact that Lon could barely talk and therefore remained mute for the movie, much to his credit he is still able to elicit sympathy and pathos in his scenes. For fans of the old monsters, it's a kick to see updated (re: early '70s) manifestations of Dracula and the Monster as they arrive into the 20th century: Dracula not only looks like a mod, he actually speaks in a voice that echos through a loudspeaker (don't ask me why) and shoots death rays from his ring; the murderous monster has a mashed-potato face that looks like it was stung by a horde of a thousand bees, and he even gets to strangle none other than Forrest J. Ackerman, celebrated editor of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine! The final clash of the titans at the end of the film is pretty awesome, considering it was filmed with a practically zero budget and was added as an afterthought. You have to be one of those viewers who "get it" when it comes to appreciating grade-Z, low-level exploitation trash cinema -- but if you do, this is as good as they come and is a cult classic of its type.
I don't care what anyone says, Al Adamson's "Dracula vs. Frankenstein" is loads of fun to watch and is very entertaining! Adamson is one of those directors that you either love or hate and I happen to love him!
"Dracula vs. Frankenstein" is a throwback to the Universal age of horror films, with some biker movie/musical/drug movie ingredients thrown in. J. Carrol Naish and Lon Chaney, Jr. are the classic actors thrown in as a tribute to the golden days of horror. Chaney isn't half-bad as murderous Grotto, given that he's a mute the entire movie, but Naish as Dr. Duray/Dr. Frankenstein is inexcusably wooden. This would be the last role for both of them. Adamson regulars Russ Tamblyn, Regina Carrol, Greydon Clark, and Gary Kent are along for the ride as well! Tamblyn is not used very much, but does strike a presence as Rico, a mean biker who attempts to rape a girl on the boardwalk! I love Regina Carrol dearly and she is fabulous in what could be her best role (that I've seen) as Judith Fontaine, a Vegas showgirl (who sings a great song!) who travels to Venice, California to find her missing sister. Anthony Eisley is her love interest, an aging hipster who is anything BUT hip (check out his tooth necklace!). Clark is Weird, a hippie who spends his time going to protests and venturing into Dr. Duray's Creature Emporium with his girlfriend Samantha. Gary Kent is seen briefly as the boyfriend who gets axed by Grotto on the beach! Now for the monsters: Dracula is played by Zandor Vorkov, an accountant with a white-boy afro, and Frankenstein is played by B-movie big boy John Bloom, whose makeup is...original, to say the least.
The plot is sort of weak, the acting is a bit above average, the scares minimal, if not invisible, and production values are cheap. Lots of people say that this movie should have played on MST3K. But who says this movie can't be entertaining? In my opinion, a bad movie is one that can't entertain you in any possible way (see my review of "Demented"!). "Dracula vs. Frankenstein" is striking in its ineptitude and unforgettable in its cheap presentation.
You have to give credit to producer-director Al Adamson he has a rare talent for getting well-known actors to star in his atrocious movies. This film (and several other Adamson projects) was put together slowly over a period of years. What Adamson ended up with was a film that features J. Carrol Naish (in his last role) as Dr. Frankenstein, living under an alias while he manages an amusement park (!), Lon Chaney, Jr. (in his last role) is Frankenstein's moron assistant who obediently fetches the heads of young girls. Russ Tamblyn ("West Side Story", "tom thumb") plays an aging biker. Even Jim Davis (Jock Ewing from "Dallas") has a part in this disaster. And Forest J. Ackerman (editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland) is one of the monster's victims, along with Anthony Eisley ("The Navy versus the Night Monster").
Adamson also manages to insult several famous props from classic films; some of the lab equipment he used is from "The Bride of Frankenstein". Adamson's busty blond wife (Regina Carrol) is bitten by Dracula (played by an actor named Zandor Vorkov, who looks like Frank Zappa in "Kiss" makeup). Frankenstein also has a dwarf assistant, played by Angelo Rossitto, who starred in the bizarre 1932 film "Freaks". All in all, a remarkable film from the man who gave the world "Blood of Ghastly Horror".
* Final film appearances of J. Carrol Naish and Lon Chaney Jr..
* Originally planned as a sequel to Satan's Sadists (1969), with Russ Tamblyn and other "bikers" reprising their parts from that film. However, not long after filming began, it was decided to turn it into a horror film instead of a biker picture and much of the footage with Tamblyn and other actors from the first film was cut out. They were unable to cut them completely out of the movie, though, which is why Tamblyn and his biker gang seem to be wandering in and out of the film, with no connection to the story line and with not much to do.
* It was originally intended to have Dracula turn Frankenstein's Monster into a bloodthirsty vampire, so the Monster could better serve the Count's purpose. The idea was dropped, however, when the fangs kept falling out of actor John Bloom's mouth, which he couldn't keep in due to his heavy makeup.
* Much of the electrical lab equipment in Duryea's lab are props originally used in Frankenstein (1931). Ken Strickfaden, who had designed all the electrical gadgetry in that film, supplied the equipment.
* In his scene confronting Count Dracula, J. Carrol Naish looks noticeably older than he does elsewhere in the film. This is due to the time that had elapsed between the bulk of his scenes, when it was intended as a different film entirely, and the Dracula/Frankenstein scenes that were grafted on later.