aka Dracula’s Dog
While excavating whatever in Romania, some Soviet soldiers stumble upon the
crypt of the family Dracula, all family members apparently properly staked in
their coffins. Alas, during the night watch, a sleepy guard without basic
folkloristic knowledge frees one of the staked undead. It’s…Zoltan, Dracula’s
rather large (vampire) doggy! Well, actually, Zoltan is more the dog of old
Drac’s Renfield (or in the film’s parlance, “fractional lamia”) Veidt Schmidt
(Reggie Nalder). After dispatching the soldier, Zoltan awakens Schmidt, and off
they trot to find themselves a new master.
For this, they need to find the last of the Dracula family, who had been
secreted out of the country when he was still a small boy. He’s all grown up
now, going by the name of Michael Drake (Michael Pataki) and living the life of
the working rich (or as the Americans say, “upper middleclass”) together with
his wife Marla (Jan Shutan), their kids Linda (Libby Chase) and Steve (John
Levin), as well as a dog couple and their new pups. Michael is obviously no
vampire (please insert joke about bloodsucking upper classes here), but that
doesn’t mean Zoltan and Schmidt – well, mostly Zoltan – aren’t going to try to
turn him into one.
It certainly offers a nice opportunity for this sort of shenanigans that the
Drakes are just going off on a camping trip in their RV somewhere a bit isolated
from other campers. It’s all set for our bad guys to create a tiny vampire dog
army to bite Michael, instead of just grabbing him and be done with it.
Fortunately, Romanian fearless vampire hunter Inspector Branko (José Ferrer)
is on the case, and might just come to provide rescue and exposition before
Zoltan is finished sniffing Michael’s butt.
As you probably realized already when reading its title, Albert Band’s
Zoltan, Hound of Dracula is a pretty daft movie. Or rather, it is about
half of the time, for some of its ideas are actually rather interesting, if one
can only get away from the basic silliness of the vampire dog, the unfortunate
glowy eyes effect the dog vampires have, the unnecessarily complicated plan to
vampirize Michael the bad guys have, and so on and so forth.
About half of these screwy ideas are at least rather funny, like the vampire
dog army part of the villains’ master plan, or the film’s final “shock” scene
that is based on that most horrifying of creatures, an adorable vampire puppy.
The other half, alas, is just a bit dumb without going off either into the
stratosphere of the really bizarre or managing to reach the point where you just
accept the stupid bits as a normal parts of the film’s world.
On the other hand, Zoltan’s isn’t trying to be funny at
all. The film shows total conviction of being Very Serious Shit, and in some
scenes, this approach does pay off. Despite everything around them,
most of the dog attacks are pretty well done and suspenseful, with the short
siege sequence the film’s obvious high point much preferable to its actual
climax. In general, Band does manage some rather moody scenes that make
effective use of the outdoors locations; unfortunately, in other scenes, things
bog down to mediocre TV movie levels with basically nailed on camera, adding
another somewhat schizophrenic element to the film.
Reggie Nalder certainly has the right presence for his role but I find it
rather difficult to take a villain all that seriously who more often than not
doesn’t actually do anything but lets his dog do all the work. Dracula
apparently wasn’t a man of good henchmen choices. The rest of the acting is
pleasantly competent, even when the actors have to fight through dialogue that
probably aims for naturalistic but lands on mildly improbable and generally
Which really is Zoltan’s problem in a nutshell: it’s neither strange
or plain bad enough to be enjoyed in this way, not consciously funny enough to
work as a comedy, nor so consistently effective I’m ever able to completely
forget how silly it is. It’s still a film worth watching at least once in one’s
life, mind you, if only to compare it with Devil Dog and Monster