Friday, September 26, 2008

In short: Dracula's Last Rites (1980)

The modern world creates many new problems for its inhabitants, problems earlier generations could hardly have comprehended.

Let's take a look at poor Mr. A. Lucard (Gerald Fielding) as an example. As a vampire, this century hasn't been good to him. A few hundred years earlier he and his fellow creatures of the night were the scourge of humanity, dreaded and feared by everyone; today, their survival depends on keeping their existence hidden and their deeds covered up.

The problems un-life brings about notwithstanding, Lucard has adapted to modern times quite well. His genius has lead him to a method for acquiring new victims that is as elegant in its simplicity as his pseudonym. What better life could there be for a modern vampire than life as owner of a funeral home in New Jersey? One only needs to get his minions in key positions like Sheriff, physician and ambulance driver and soon a nigh unstoppable flood of nearly dead victims will stream into one's arms. The doctor just needs to declare someone who is still alive dead, and everyone's next meal is secured.

It wouldn't be reasonable to let every victim rise as a new vampire again, of course, but a stake through the heart solves the problem nicely.

All goes well for Lucard and his vampire conspiracy, until they feed on the mother of Marie Fonda (Patricia Hammond). Would you believe that her husband Ted (Michael Lally) talks her into wanting her dead mother back from the funeral home, to hold the wake in her living room!? After Lucard has already bitten the old woman, but before he has been able to stake her!

There's not much that can be done, except for sending out a minion to break into the Fonda place and steal the corpse. But Ted turns out to be a very energetic man when confronted with a burglar, so the poor minion ends up staked on a white wooden fence.

Even worse, later that night Ted's mother in law awakens as a vampire and goes on the lam.

Lucard's problems suddenly start to mount. Besides a roaming grandmother, he also has to cope with Ted's nosiness that rapidly leads to knowledge of the facts of vampirism and some very badly behaved minions. And Ted is a natural born vampire hunter.


All this might sound rather silly, but Dracula's Last Rites is in fact one of the better examples of very low budget filmmaking. Acting and plotting are perfectly alright, the photography is even quite good, if someone would just have looked up and seen what I saw in many, many scenes: the point where set ends and studio wall begins. Still, the film achieves a few creepy scenes and moody shots. Which is a lot more than I usually hope for from a film like this.


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