Count Dracula's Great Love (1973)


It’s been a good run. I’ve either liked each Paul Naschy film I’ve revisited this month as much as the first time I watched it, or more so. Now, though, I must face the truth. I don’t think I’m ever going to like Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973.) Because of this realization, the movie is probably my greatest disappointment.

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It’s… just… so… slow. Every time a vampire appears, which is often, it moves in slow motion and is accompanied by a repetitive melody. It’s not just an earworm; it drills its way through your ear, your brain, and out the other side. The effect is that the entire film, even without vampires, seems to play at an unhurried pace.

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There’s one good scene where the slow motion achieved its desired effect on me. It’s when two of the vampire women leap onto the roof before entering a potential victim’s bedroom. It’s unexpected and eerie, probably shot with them jumping off the roof, then played in reverse. Whatever they did to accomplish the effect, it’s otherworldly.

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The screenplay by Naschy and two others is more singularly focused for Count Dracula’s Great Love than screenplays for previous Naschy films. There’s only one variety of monster. The plot is solid, but it’s either not substantial enough for a 90-minute movie, or it’s mishandled by the director, Javier Aguirre.

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I’m going to choose the latter. I don’t mind a slow burn or deliberately paced movie… when it’s not boring. Aguirre seems to fail with some of his simple shot compositions, sometimes even placing Nacshy with his back to the camera. Also, long shots are sometimes out of focus. He demonstrates none of the creative visual flair of Leon Klimovsky or Carlos Aured.

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Aguirre also raises the level of sexuality. It impacts the film both positively and negatively. With the romantic angle of the plot, there’s a place for it. However, the more you use it, the less effective it becomes. Linked almost exclusively to vampire activity, there’s the potential suggestion that sex is something naughty and perverse.

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The story is simple. Imre Polvi (Victor Barrera) and his travelling companions, four beautiful women: Senta (Rosanna Yanni), Karen (Haydee Politoff), Elke (Mirta Miller) and Marlene (Ingrid Garbo), are stranded when their coach loses a wheel on Borgo Pass. They are offered refuge in the abandoned sanitorium that used to be Dracula’s castle.

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The plot, though, is a little more complicated. Dracula needs the blood of a virgin that will give herself willingly to him, to raise his daughter, Rodna, from her current form as skeleton in a shiny black coffin. It’s confused by Dracula falling in love with the virgin so that he’s willing to forego his plans if she’ll willingly become his partner for eternity. I think.

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The details are interesting… or could be. Each of the four women are at first distinguished by the color of their beautiful dresses and hats, then later by personalities that are unique to each of them. One is promiscuous, one is adventurous, and one is fearful. The fourth is, of course, the sweet young virgin onto which Dracula sets his sight, and hopefully his fangs.

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Oddly, I have no issue with the stocky Naschy playing the normally svelte Dracula. He spends more time as his humanly alter ego, Dr. Wendell Marlow, anyway. There’s a problem there, though. The two characters are so distinctly different and the plot so muddy, I wasn’t sure if they even were the same person or if Naschy was playing one of his famous dual roles.

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On a positive note, the special effects remain a highlight for a Naschy film. The vampire fangs are particularly impressive, so long that the vampires can’t close their mouths. I also like one vampire that didn’t receive two puncture wounds on his neck; instead, his throat was torn out. Maybe there’s more attention to detail than overall entertaining filmmaking.

Written by Javier Aguirre, Alberto S. Insua, Paul Naschy

Directed by Javier Aguirre

Starring Paul Naschy, Rosanna Yanni, Haydee Politoff, Mirta Miller, Ingrid Garbo, Victor Barrera

RT 85 min.

Released May 12, 1974 (Spain)

Home Video Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray)

Rating 4 Waldemar Daninskys (out of 10)


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