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Dracula Sucks (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Dracula Sucks (Vinegar Syndrome) UHD/Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: February 11th, 2022.
    Director: Phillip Marshak
    Cast: Annette Haven, Jamie Gillis, John Holmes, Seka, John Leslie
    Year: 1989
    Purchase From Amazon

    Dracula Sucks – Movie Review:

    Directed by Phillip Marshak (who directed one of the segments in Night Train To Terror), Dracula Sucks makes its official DVD debut (it was included on an unauthorized Alpha Blue Archives DVD along with Vamp and Dracula Exotica under its Lust At First Bite cut) in a never before seen director's cut version courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome.

    The movie is an extremely loose adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula that puzzlingly takes place not in Europe but in a castle located in the California desert sometime in the 1930s. The castle, dubbed Carfax Abbey, just happens to be situated beside an insane asylum and when Count Dracula (Jamie Gillis) takes up residence in said castle, he does what any friendly neighbor would do and pays the guys next door a visit. The asylum is run by a monocled Doctor Arthur Seward (John Leslie) and his assistant Doctor Sybil Seward (Kay Parker) but Dracula is far more interested with the good doctor's niece, Mina (Annette Haven), much to the dismay of her fiancé, Jonathan Harker (Paul Thomas). Also on hand at the asylum are Doctor John Stoker (John Holmes), Doctor Peter Bradley (Mike Ranger), a nurse named Betty (Seka) and an apple obsessed orderly named Henry (William Margold) - and that's just the staff!

    Hanging around Dracula's castle is his old pal Renfield (Richard Bulik), completely insane as per the opening scene, and his wife Irene (Pat Manning) and more than a few ghostly female vampire servants. When Mina's friend Lucy (Serena) comes to visit, he pays her a nocturnal visit and puts the bite on her (in a very strange scene while she's sitting on the toilet relieving herself!), turning her into a vampire too. Later John Holmes' legendary schlong also gets bit and he in turn puts the bite on a certain nurse when she comes to check on him! Just when it looks like Dracula and his cohorts will be able to use everyone and everything in the asylum as their playmates, Doctor Van Helsing (Reggie Nalder credited as Detlef van Berg!?!) shows up to visit his colleague Seward, but Dracula isn't about to let Mina just slip through his fingers!

    This one is pretty out there, a completely off the wall mix of porno movie couplings of varying degrees of explicitness, low budget horror movie trappings, wild overacting and genuinely atmospheric set pieces. The castle location used for the film helps a lot and it's quite well-lit and pretty well photographed too, but then we get strange contrasts to this like a goofy rubber bat and whatever the Hell is going on in the asylum cells with that guy in the cowboy suit and the girl in the Little Bo Peep costume diddling herself under her skirt right next to him - with a stuffed hanging monkey hovering above. It's a movie that dresses itself like you'd expect a horror porn hybrid to dress itself but which then throws genre conventions to the wind in favor of barely restrained cinematic insanity. It's a whole lot of fun, actually.

    The cast, as Margold notes in his commentary track (more on that in a bit) seem to be constantly trying to outdo one another so we wind up with a really mixed bag of thesping here. Leslie has definitely been better but he's fun to watch as the man in charge of the mental hospital and his scene with uber-MILF Kay Parker is a good one. Parker is a bit underused here but she looks great. Seka is fun to watch even if her trademark blue eye shadow is missing in action while Serena is actually oddly effective as Lucy, bringing a weird otherworldly tone to her performance once she's been bitten. Annette Haven's eyebrows look odd here and her hair is kind of overdone but she's still the natural beauty her fans remember her as and she too can act and does well in the part. John Holmes is goofy as goofy can be and looks amazingly dopey with vampire fangs in his mouth while Ranger and Thomas are fun too. And then there's Reggie Nalder who somehow wound up in all of this. Not surprisingly he's got nothing to do with any of the sex scenes but the star of Mark Of The Devil and countless other horror films seems to be enjoying himself acting alongside the top tier of adult talent in the industry at the time, and he gets a few of the best lines in the film.

    Not surprisingly, the real star of the show is Jamie Gillis. Even when his eyes are glowing bright red courtesy of some bad optical effects his work as (a bearded) Dracula is actually quite good. He hits the right mix of over the top theatrical body language and well-mannered line delivery, complete with what we are to assume is a Hungarian accent, you know, to add some authenticity to the fact that this is a Jewish dude from New York playing the world's most famous Transylvanian! Gillis has always been regarded as one of the most talented actors to ever bone women on camera for pay and you can definitely see how his live theater experience would have prepared him for a role like this. He's a kick to watch and looks great strutting about in a reasonably lavish looking cape.

    Dracula Sucks – UHD Review:

    Dracula Sucks comes to UHD in an HEVC encoded 2160p 4k transfer with HDR10 “newly scanned & restored in 4K from its 35mm original camera negative” and framed in its proper 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio. First things first, this is not the same transfer that was used on Five Films Five Years Vol. 3 Golden Age Erotica Blu-ray from 2018. A quick look at the screen caps there compared to this new release shows that the reissue has much nicer color reproduction and considerably stronger detail. There’s a lot more depth here and shadow detail is also considerably improved. Skin tones look really solid and skin tones look great. There are no problems with any noise reduction or edge enhancement, everything always looks appropriately filmic, and the image is always clean, showing almost no print damage at all. No complaints here, this is a very strong upgrade and the new transfer has also been used on the version of the movie that is included on the Blu-ray disc in this collection, which uses, obviously, an AVC encoded 1080p version.

    The 24-bit English language DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix on the disc is also very good. Everything is clean, clear and nicely balanced. There are times where maybe there isn’t so much range but that’s quite obviously due to how the audio for the movie was originally recorded. There are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion and the dialogue always sounds nice and clear.

    Vinegar Syndrome has created a few new extra features for this reissue that were not included on their DVD release from 2014, starting with Potluck, a short film directed by Dan Gordon in 1970 produced by and starring Phillip Marshak that runs for forty-four minutes. It's an odd picture that details the exploits of two friends, who we first see in drag, who are clearly up to no good. After a brawl at a billiards hall, the somewhat complicated plot about an attempt to rob a nearby store unfolds. In the interim, catty characters snipe at one another. It's honestly kind of messy but in a very interesting, watchable way. Some unexpected nudity gives the movie some exploitation value but it's far from sexy stuff. As to the presentation, the transfer, which is full frame, seems tape sourced although taken from elements in less than ideal condition. The audio here is very rough, making it tough to follow large portions of the film as there are no subtitles offered.

    Ruben’s Revenge is a 1971 short film directed by Phillip Marshak that runs for twelve minutes. This black and white quickie appears to be sourced from a tape and is about a schlubby, portly man who smokes a lot while trying to construct some sort of complicated bomb in his basement which he then tries to use for his own nefarious means. Although it has music behind it, there’s no dialogue here so the audio quality isn’t as much of an issue.

    The rest of the extras are ported over from the aforementioned DVD release, starting with an audio commentary with actor and co-writer Bill Margold moderated by Vinegar Syndrome's Joe Rubin. If you've heard a Bill Margold commentary before (the most recent incident being his work on the recent Vinegar Syndrome DVD release of Carlos Tobalina's Marilyn And The Senator) you'll have an idea of what to expect - semi-controlled lunacy! Bill doesn't pull any punches here as he talks about his work writing the picture and doing not only second unit work behind the camera but performing in front of the camera as well. He talks about some of the more taboo aspects of the movie that modern day feature porn director's likely wouldn't even try to get away with and he shares plenty of gossip about pretty much each and every one of the cast members. He also talks about Phillip Marshak's attempts to direct the film, the obvious problems with the movie's editing and how large stretches of it don't actually make a whole lot of sense. As always, Margold is a real blast to listen to and this track is a lot of fun. Anyone with an interest in the behind the scenes story of this production would be a fool not to take the time to give this track a spin.

    The second disc in the set contains the alternate 'Lust At First Bite' version of the movie. This runs about twenty minutes shorter than the director's cut clocking in at about seventy-four minutes in length. This was obviously shot at the same time with the same cast but it's a completely different edit of the movie that takes the big finale with Gillis and Haven that's at the end of the director's cut and puts it back in at the beginning of the movie. Large chunks of character and plotting elements are completely cut out here but we get some interesting alternate footage and some of the sex scenes are a bit harder and more explicit. It also features a very different ending from the one seen on the director's cut. Again, it makes very little sense but it's great to have this cut, which will be the more familiar edit of the movie to most fans, included in this release as it is certainly a legitimate alternate version.

    Also included on the second disc is a twenty-plus minute featurette entitled Return To Castle Ranch which brings the film's producer Darryl Marshak (now a talent agent and also the director's son) together with Margold for a road trip out into the middle of nowhere in the California desert to revisit the castle location used for the shoot. As they drive out there the two talk about the history of the movie, what Phillip Marshak's intentions were with the film, what it was like working with the different cast and crew members and how they went about securing this location in the first place. When they arrive, the castle is fenced off and they can't legally get into the area, but it's interesting to see and hear the two men reminisce about their work together on this cinematic oddity.

    Rounding out the extras is a still gallery of German artwork created for the feature and a theatrical trailer for the film. Menus and chapter selection options are provided on both discs for both cuts of the movie.

    As far as the packaging for this release goes, Vinegar Syndrome offers up some reversible cover sleeve artwork and, for the first four thousand copies purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome’s website, a super awesome limited edition embossed slipcover designed by Earl Kessler Jr.

    Dracula Sucks - The Final Word:

    Dracula Sucks doesn't always make a whole lot of sense regardless of which option you go for but seeing it in its director's cut definitely does help in terms of story and flow. The performances are a lot of fun here and the cast members all really throw themselves into their respective roles. The movie is just a lot of ridiculous fun and Vinegar Syndrome's UHD/Blu-ray upgrade is a good one, offering a very impressive presentation for the main feature and a nice selection of extras.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Dracula Sucks Blu-ray screen caps!

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