Dracula And Son

1976, Movie, NR, 96 mins

Review

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Despite a poor dubbing job, DRACULA AND SON is an amusing and witty French vampire romp, stylishly directed by Edouard Molinaro (LA CAGE AUX FOLLES) and starring Christopher Lee as the immortal bloodsucker who is cursed with a bumbling half-human son.

In 1784 Transylvania, a young woman (Catherine Breillat) is on her way to marry a nobleman when her coach breaks down and she seeks refuge in the house of The Count (Christopher Lee), who commands her to produce an heir for him. After she gives birth to a son, the Count turns her into a vampire, but she's destroyed by the sunlight. Two centuries later, the grown boy, named Ferdinand (Bernard Menez) is an inept vampire who's an embarrassment to his father. When Communist troops take over Romania, father and son are ousted out of their castle and they flee to the West. Separated at sea, Ferdinand winds up in Paris and takes a series of menial jobs, while the Count goes to England and becomes a movie star playing Dracula. When the Count comes to Paris to film a new movie, he's reunited with Ferdinand, but they fight over a woman named Nicole (Marie-Helene Breillat), whom they both fall in love with and who's the spitting image of Ferdinand's mother. Ferdinand finds that as he falls in love, he's becoming fully human and is no longer subject to vampirism. Nicole eventually chooses Ferdinand over the Count, who's vanquished when Nicole inadvertently exposes him to sunlight. Six years later, Nicole and Ferdinand are married and have a daughter and a son. While the two children are playing, the daughter cuts her knee and the son bears his fangs.

Unlike so many so-called horror spoofs, DRACULA AND SON actually works because it treats its subject with respect and doesn't degrade it for cheap, campy laughs. In fact, the first 20 minutes of the film, set in a spooky and atmospheric Transylvania, are played completely straight and could have come from any classic vampire movie. As the story progresses, the subtle humor arises out of the clash between the Count and the crudeness of modern society, as well as the indignities he suffers while trying to teach his half-witted, half-human son to be a vampire ("Drink your blood and go to bed," he tells the mischievous boy, who's using a skull as a bowling ball to knock down the urn containing his mother's ashes). There are a number of funny lines and sight gags (the Count discovering that a female "victim" is actually an inflatable love doll; the Count's casket in a fancy leather-case on the airport luggage carousel; Ferdinand cracking his fangs on the neck of a frozen corpse at the morgue) that are funny precisely because they stay within the rules of the vampire genre. When the Communists invade the castle, the snobbish Count sniffs "The peasantry is partying in the throne room," and they chase the vampires out by using a hammer and sickle to make a cross. The scenes in England showing the Count becoming a movie star (where he's continually frustrated by the director yelling "cut" just as he's about to bite a neck) cleverly tweak Christopher Lee's real-life career as a Hammer horror star, and the notion of making Nicole an advertising executive who wants to hire the Count for a toothpaste commercial is inspired. The sloppy English dubbing job is unfortunate, making the nerdy Ferdinand sound like a cross between Woody Allen and Austin Pendleton, but at least it allows Lee to be heard in his real voice, and he gives a droll and elegant performance that never resorts to self-mockery and is a worthy addition to his gallery of vampire portrayals. (Nudity, sexual situations, violence.) leave a comment

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