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October 18, 2012

Lake of Dracula

Lake of Dracula 1.jpg

Noroi no yakata: Chi o su me
Michio Yamamoto - 1971
Shadow Warrior All Region DVD

The lake in the film is part of the background. And except for references by name, Dracula doesn't make an appearance here, either. Then again, in the Hammer classic, Brides of Dracula, there are no brides and no Dracula, so I'll allow some leeway here.

In other ways, Michio Yamamoto's second vampire film makes more effort to transpose Hammer horror to a contemporary Japanese setting. Vampire purists might have trouble accepting the selectivity of vampire lore used here. Others might be scratching their heads at some very big plot holes and lapses of logic. Even though the film was made when Hammer was taking advantage of new screen freedoms to up the ante in sex and violence, Yamamoto's film could well have been made about ten years earlier.

The opening scene is of a young girl, five years old, sitting by a beach with her small dog. The dog runs away, and the girl chases after him. Running into a cave, the two discover a large western style on the other side. The dog runs into the house. The girl doesn't find her dog, but sees a very pale woman, sitting at a piano. The pale woman falls down, apparently dead. The girl looks up to see a man dressed in black, with very strange, orange eyes.

Lake of Dracula 2.jpg

Flash forward to the present day, where Akiko is vacationing with her sister, Natsuko. Akiko has been working on a painting of a pair of orange eyes, staring from a forest. As far as Akiko and everyone else is concerned, the painting is inspired by a childhood nightmare that refuses to be forgotten. For unexplained reasons, a coffin is delivered to the small lakeside resort where the sisters are staying. Not long after the appearance of the coffin, strange deaths occur, with the victims marked by mysterious punctures along the neck.

Again, as in The Bloodthirsty Doll, the main point of interest is seeing how the vampire genre is used in a non-Christian environment. Akiko's boyfriend, Saeki, explains that the vampire is killed with a stake and then burned. None of the other trappings of classic vampire films are used or mentioned, so no crosses or garlic or holy water. The main vampire, who is never named, has no reflection on a mirror, but doesn't have the ability to change into a bat. Recalling Hammer films, especially Brides of Dracula, the female vampires are a handful of cuties from the Toho lot, although unlike Hammer films, there is no emphasis on cleavage. One pretty vampire does display her legs underneath her short nightie.

I'm not sure if greater care in the screenplay would have made a significant improvement, but the sibling rivalry between Akiko and Natsuko is neither fully explained nor explored. Also, as the presence of the vampire is explained as being a descendant of "a foreigner", one might consider as indirectly providing a political critique of contemporary Japan. Whatever faults or weakness are in Lake of Dracula, the film does contain some undeniably delicious imagery, especially of when the female vampire, played by Sanae Emi, smiles and flashes her fangs.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 18, 2012 08:00 AM