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September 29, 2016

Daughter of Dracula

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La Fille de Dracula
Jesus Franco - 1972
Redemption Films BD Region A

Not only is the title of Jesus Franco's film similar to the 1936 Dracula's Daughter, but the two films have shared the same title, or translation of the title, depending on what version of Franco's film has been seen. Additionally, Franco was able to depict what was only suggested in Lambert Hillyer's sequel to the 1931 Dracula, with the saphically inclined title character sneaking a few glances to suggest her feelings towards her female victim. In thirty-six years, the stern and forbidding Gloria Holden would be replaced by the centerfold ready Britt Nichols, her desires not faintly implied, but plainly stated and demonstrated, with Anne Libert as the very willing lover and victim.

For those viewers unfamiliar with the various cinematic wanderings of Jesus Franco, I would suggest checking out the earlier, more conventional narratives of The Blood Judge or The Diabolical Dr. Z. For those familiar with Franco's career, where feature films were created quickly with little money and the few resources at hand, the inconsistencies of Daughter of Dracula are less jarring. Sure, the vampires here aren't affected by sunlight, and there is no problem with a crucifix or two on the wall of Castle Karlstein. As for the castle itself, that exterior shot of the castle, filmed in Spain, has no visual relationship to the main set and castle, filmed in Portugal. And even though the version here is in French, like many European films of that era, the language was dubbed, providing voices for actors from several countries.

As he had last year with The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, Tim Lucas proves a helpful guide through Francoland, and the idiosyncrasies of a filmmaker both loves and loathed, sometimes for the same reasons. Filmed the same year, several of the same cast member of Erotic Rites appear in this film. There is no Dracula. The family name is Karlstein, and Britt Nichols comes home to learn from her dying mother that she is the descendant of vampires. Nichols is handed a key to the crypt where her infamous relative is locked away. As Dracula, er, Count Karlstein, Howard Vernon pops up from inside his coffin, bares his fangs, and apparently goes back to sleep. Not only does Count Karlstein never leave his coffin, but Nichols helpfully drags a female victim, shoving her into the coffin, on top of the ravenous Count. While Franco plays loosely with vampire legends, his greater interest is in the time spent filming Nichols and Libert as kissing cousins. And has anybody discussed the connection between Franco's frequent use of close-ups of the female genital area and Gustave Courbet's painting, The Origin of the World?

Lucas does make sense of some of the narrative inconsistencies by suggesting that what is presented as a horror film was originally scripted as a thriller. As a response to commercial necessity, Franco made use of existing material with a few script changes and insert shots. Reading a review of Stephen Thrower's new study on Franco and his films, I am reminded that Franco studied music and especially loved jazz. Perhaps the key to appreciating some of the films by Jesus Franco is to allow that he may well have taken some that most important element of the jazz musician, the ability to improvise, and incorporated that his method as a filmmaker.

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Posted by peter at September 29, 2016 07:51 AM