Dracula: The Great Undead
Director: John Muller
Cast: Vincent Price
I remember when I was six years old finding this video tape in my local Jamesway department store. I was a young monster movie fan and still trying to learn all I could about the genre and this video had all these great looking monsters on it! There was Bela Lugosi as Dracula, Christopher Lee as the Count and Nosferatu! Plus, it was hosted by that guy, the man with the voice that instantly made me know that it was something spooky and fun!
What I discovered that fateful day in the bargain bin where so many horrors sprang forth over the years, was one of the great influences on my young life. I suppose that I always had the heart of an academic, willing to learn and yearning to explore. Documentaries and educational films always appealed to me and films like this helped me greatly on my journey to becoming a genre scholar.
The documentary has this great atmospheric opening with a carriage driving through a foggy evening towards, what appears to be, Bran castle in Transylvania. Chains fall from a gate and we notice this house is number 13 and are left to wander as the carriage drives away into the night. Our host is none other than Vincent Price, clad in a terrific smoking jacket, looking much like a horror movie Hugh Hefner, and he welcomes us in informing us that his servants our unavilable and than the title appears in bold, gothic letterinmg: "Vincent Price's Dracula"!
That's a great sounding title. Price asks the audience about our collective interest in Dracula and vampires and offers us red wine and goes over the story of the real Dracula, Vlad the impaler. This particular documentary is far removed from the near revisionist slant that today's filmmakers seem to take on this historical character. He is depicted exactly as he was, which was a bloodthirsty tyrant with a sadistic streak, highlighted by excellent clips from a Romanian epic on the ruler called Vlad Tepes(1978). These add greatly to the drama and punctuated with that creepy music score certainly makes them particularly unsettling. That impaling scene never fails to make viewers grimace and squirm.
Price returns sporadically throughout the production to the "legend" of the Romanian prince and offers a nice mixture of respect and humor that helps keep the proceedings entertaining. He also reads, masterfully, a passage from the original novel, complete with perfectly inserted clips from Nosferatu(1922) and goes over the myths of vampires and ways to dispatch them, which are accompanied by grainy and creepy videos of burial practices in Transylvania.