As it turns out Dracula's son Count Downe (the ironically reclusive Harry Nilsson) is due to be crowned King of the Underworld in a ceremony in London that will make him the ruler of all of the monsters. What sort of bureaucracy that entails, we are not told. What we are told is that in the 72 hours prior to his crowning, he is extremely vulnerable. To what exactly, we are not told either. While waiting for the ceremony, we get a lot of scenes that seem to be just random events to help pad the film to feature length. For instance, Count Downe foils a completely random attack by a werewolf on a widow by stabbing him in the sholder with his cane sword. Ok, so Dracula's son carries a silver cane sword so he can settle disputes over prey. Sure, I'll go with that. In another scene he looks into a record shop window that is sporting a full Harry Nilsson display (yes, we got it already), and then heads to a local bar where he has a drink (yes, Dracula's son drinks alcohol), and jumps up on stage to jam with the band. If you are one of those Nilsson fans who sought out this film because of him, no doubt this will be mesmerizing as he barely did any live performances and the musicians he plays with at a couple points in the film include Peter Frampton, John Bonham, Keith Moon, Leon Russell, Bobby Keys, Jim Price and Klaus Voormann. Of course, that is probably all you will take away from this experience. For those who come at it from the angle of the monsters and the cast, the musical interludes (including a lengthy piano ballad before bed) will be a constant irritation. One film, multiple ways to be annoyed!
|Note to self:|
Never shoot billiards with a sorcerer.
|If only this ad had something to do with the movie.|
If there is anything more amusing than a cinematic train-wreck, it's a cinematic train-wreck that happens to be a vanity project as well. Actually, I may be misusing the word "amusing". Maybe I meant "grueling". Directed by industry veteran Freddie Francis, I can only imagine that he was dipping into Nilsson's private stash because this film feels in places like it's one step up from a David "The Rock" Nelson production. The camerawork is pedestrian at best, scenes go on for way too long, the musical cues sound like a tune-up session, and Nilsson acts more like a morose, love-sick zombie than a legendary vampire, delivering his dialogue as if dosed to the gills on thorazine. Come to think of it, knowing the reputation of Nilsson and friends, he was probably dosed to the gills on a lot of things. Actually, you'd have to be to make this movie! To make matters worse, the script is a mess, without any actual jokes to make it a comedy, it relies on the constant droning of hippie rhetoric about love being all that you need, which wears thin really fast. The end of the film with Nilsson and his love Amber (Professor Van Helsing’s assistant, Suzanna Leigh) on a farm with the sun setting in the background reeks of those cheesy TV commercials for CD collections with titles like “Love Forever” that can be had for five easy payment installments of $9.99 a month and always featured someone's, if not Harry's, cover of Badfinger's "Without You". If it weren't for the cloyingly saccharine thrust of the last hour of the movie, this would be a masterpiece of fromage. Erm, when I say "masterpiece", what I mean to say is that, it would be much more fun to sit through. Well, maybe "fun" is overstating it a bit. It would just be easier to sit through.
Written by Jennifer Jayne, whose only other writing credit is the lackluster Amicus anthology TALES THAT WITNESS MADNESS (1973), with the intent to make it a David Bowie vehicle, it is amazing that this film got made, let alone attracted Nilsson and Starr. But then again, that’s why I like Starr’s filmography. He doesn’t seem to care whether it’s a great movie or one that is doomed from the start. If it’s completely off the wall, of if merely the character he gets to play is eccentric as hell, he’ll sign up. It's not like he needs the paycheck!
Completed in ’72, co-producer Starr found that he couldn’t get anyone to pick up the film for distribution. Reportedly after cracking a window to clear out the pot smoke, he realized that the comedy they had made wasn't very funny. Starr had contacted Graham Chapman to re-write and re-dub the dialogue in an effort to add jokes, but said in an interview that "it makes even less sense now". This version has never been shown to the public. After a year and a half, he finally got a US distributor, Cinemation Industries (who released all manner of exploitation classics from Earl Owensby to Jimmy Wang Yu), to pick it up for a brief run in the States, with a world premier in Atlanta. According to those who remember, the run lasted about a week. According to harrynilsson.com, Ringo said this of the US release: "In America, the movie only played towns that had one cinema, because if it had two no matter what was on down the road, they'd all go down there!"
|A sequel? Thank you sir, may I have another?|