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Dracula Vs. Frankenstein / Brain Of Blood (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Dracula Vs. Frankenstein / Brain Of Blood (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: October 25th, 2022.
    Director: Al Adamson
    Cast: J. Carrol Naish, Zandor Vorkov, Lon Chaney Jr., Russ Tamblyn, Reed Hadley, Kent Taylor, Regina Carrol
    Year: 1971
    Purchase From Amazon

    Dracula Vs. Frankenstein / Brain Of Blood – Movie Review:

    Previously released as part of their Al Adamson Collection in 2020, Severin now reissues two of Al Adamson’s betters known pictures on a double features Blu-ray, carrying over all of the extra content from that set.

    Dracula Vs. Frankenstein:

    One of Adamson's better known horror efforts, 1971's Dracula Vs. Frankenstein shows off an old cemetery where the Frankenstein monster is buried before then introducing us to Count Dracula (Zandor Vorkov) himself! But before we get to that, there's the matter of Dr. Durea (J. Carrol Naish), a descendant of the original Dr. Frankenstein, who is currently involved in a series of experiments involving dead young ladies and a blood serum. He has some help from a hulking man servant named Groton (Lon Chaney, Jr.).

    Anyway, Dracula meets with Durea and tells him he'll help him bring the Frankenstein monster back to life if, in return, Durea will give him some of the serum which, for reasons never properly explained, will allow Dracula to roam California during daylight hours. The pair decide to work out of the Creature Emporium, a haunted house style attraction on the nearby boardwalk, because why not. The succeed in resurrecting the monster (John Bloom) and Durea asks Dracula and the monster to get revenge on Dr. Beaumont (Forrest J. Ackerman), the man responsible for crippling him and confining him to a wheelchair. There's a strange subplot involving a biker named Rico (Russ Tamblyn) and then some hippie types that wind up at the Creature Emporium, more young women go missing, the monster kills some cops and Dracula falls for a showgirl named Judith Fontaine (Regina Carroll). Oh and a dwarf Grazbo (Angelo Rossitto) shows up too.

    This one is a lot of fun. It doesn't always make sense and it was clearly made on a ridiculously small budget for a movie that shows some legitimate ambition. The makeup effects are laughably bad and the set dressing appears to be courtesy of a thrift store. The acting is bad and the plot completely nonsensical. But somehow it works in its own weird way?

    Zandor Vorkov makes for a legitimately interesting Dracula. He might not be particularly good in the traditional sense, never scary or sexually intriguing the way the best Dracula's are, but he's got a big shock of poofy hair, some dime-store fangs and a makeup job that wouldn't feel out of place on stage at a black metal show. His narration is flat and uninspired in terms of its delivery, but that somehow adds to the occasionally surreal feel of the film. The movie would also prove to be the last cinematic hurrah's for both Lon Chaney Jr. (who was clearly in rough shape when this was shot) and J. Carrol Naish, so it's got some historical significance for that reason. It's run to see Russ Tamblyn show up here and it's also kind of cool to see Carroll do her stage act thing in a Vegas setting and to see Adamson himself hanging out in the audience at a back table. Filmmaker Greydon Clark also has a role as one of the hippie types in the movie.

    Brain Of Blood:

    When the Blood Island films struck box office gold and the Filipino filmmakers behind them were off working on other projects, Al Adamson was brought in to make a film in the same vein. The results? 1971's Brain Of Blood!

    Shot entirely on location in the United States but meant to look somewhat exotic, the story begins when Amir (Reed Hadley, somehow), the ruler of the kingdom of Kalid, has his two assistants, Dr. Robert Nigserian (Grant Williams) and Mohammed (Zandor Vorkov), take him see an American scientist named Dr. Lloyd Trenton (Kent Taylor). Why? Because Amir has cancer and is dying, this won't be good for the people of Kalid. They need Trenton to perform a brain transplant on him - which puzzlingly involves being wrapped in tinfoil - and put his sharp mind into a healthy new body!

    Trenton and his dwarf assistant Dorro (Angelo Rossitto) agree but when they have trouble finding the proper body, they resort to using the one belonging to a massive, lumbering idiot named Gor (John Bloom)! To make matters worse, when Gor was a child he had car battery acid dumped on him by two thugs, so he's horribly scarred. After the transplant is complete and things go predictably wrong, Trenton has to grab his laser gun, hunt down Gor/Amir and try to set things right. Meanwhile, Dorro tortures the women shackled up in the basement (one of whom is Vicki Volante) while buxom blonde Tracy (played Adamson's wife Regina Carrol) runs around getting into trouble.

    Bad brain surgery, a few great dummy deaths, horrible makeup and seriously questionable makeup decisions make this one that Adamson devotees will gobble right up, particularly as its cast with quite a few faces that will no doubt look familiar to those who have followed his work. Yeah, it's all cheap as cheap can be and it doesn't always make much sense, but if you've got a soft spot for Z-grade schlock, this is bound to float your boat. The aforementioned brain surgery goes on too long, but Adamson and Sherman probably wanted to get their money's worth out of that calf brain they bought and those dime store laboratory props, so you'll take what they give you and you'll like it.

    Diminutive Rossitto, who played Angeleno in Todd Browning's classic Freaks, steals every scene that he's in. running around in a floppy golfer's cap causing trouble, he's an entertaining little dude with a lot of manic energy. Seeing Reed Hadley cast as a Middle Eastern statesman is amusing as well, while Kent Taylor does a fine job as the fairly insane doctor… you know the kind, his methods are effective but his moral code is suspect. Maybe not the best film in the set, but definitely an entertaining one.

    Dracula Vs. Frankenstein / Brain Of Blood – Blu-ray Review:

    Dracula Vs. Frankenstein gets 19GB of space on the 50GB disc and is framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. It looks very nice overall. Grain can be heavier in some scenes than others but generally speaking the picture quality is quite nice. Colors are handled well and black levels are pretty solid too. There's very good detail, depth and texture here. Nothing to complain about at all, really. Brain Of Blood takes up 15GBs of space and is framed at 1.33.1 fullframe, featuring a 2k CRI scan. This is clean, colorful and quite nice looking, a nice upgrade over the old DVD release. Detail is pretty solid, even if it is still soft in spots, and colors reproduced very nicely, bringing all of those garish hues to life. There are no noticeable compression issues here and the picture is free of noise reduction or edge enhancement issues. This is definitely the best of the transfers in the set and the 1.33.1 framing looks good.

    Both films get DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks with subtitles provided in English only the first feature in 24-bit and the second in 16-bit. Audio quality can and does jump around a bit throughout both of the movies. You might pick up on some occasional hiss now and then if you're listening for it but it's never a real problem and for the most part the tracks are pretty well balanced and fairly clean. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. Dracula Vs. Frankenstein also includes a Spanish language dub.

    The special features for Dracula vs. Frankenstein are extensive, starting with an archival partial audio commentary from Sherman. Again, it's a great talk. He talks about the founding of Independent International Pictures and how this film is one of their best known, but was also one of the hardest to get made, as it took three years to get made and went through many incarnations. He also talks about how the original film didn't have either Dracula or Frankenstein in it. Acknowledging the film's many flaws, how the movie started as 'Blood Freaks' based on a script called 'Blood Seekers.' He talks about original casting choices, how the movie morphed into the form we see it in now, how Zandor Vorkov wound up in the film, where Dracula's ring came from, how and why the Las Vegas film featured in the picture came to be, why Regina Carroll does her song and dance number in the film, Adamson's cameo in the film, the use of sets in the film versus location shooting, how Adamson got Lon Chaney Jr. in the film, filling the set with 'electronic junk that I bought at a surplus store for fifty dollars' and lots, lots more.

    Zandor and Friends is a twenty-three-minute featurette that interviews Zandor Vorkov (a.k.a. Roger!), about how he got into acting, his work in NYC at a record store which connected him to producer Gary Katz which led to doing mini-concerts, his service in Vietnam, meeting Adamson and Sherman at a deli for the first time and how much fun Adamson in particular was to work with. He talks about what it was like working on the shoot and lots more. He covers moving to Hollywood, how well he was treated on set and how nice everyone was, working with Angelo Rossitto, Chaney and the others, Ackerman's cameo, undergoing the makeup required for the role and plenty more. Sherman shows up here and talks about the production as well, and there's some archival interview footage featuring John Bloom, Gary Graver and we also get some insight from Sean Graver (Gary's son) on his father's work on the picture.

    Feed Your Head! Lose Your Head!: An Appreciation by Cult Film Historian Howard S. Berger is a fifty-six-minute piece in which Berger provides a thematic deconstruction of the film, by giving us a quick rundown of Adamson's history and speaking of his adeptness at moving with the trends in theaters at the time. He talks about Sherman and Adamson's love of monster movies, the James Warren connection, how Dracula Vs. Frankenstein is in many ways a modernization of the classic Universal Monster movies, the history of the different actors that appear in the, the marketing behind the film and how important it was to its success, the psychology behind danger and violence as depicted in the film, the editing in the film, the use of the 'film within a film' technique in the picture, how the film works like a carnival thrill ride, the unique look of Dracula in the film, how the whole concept of 'blood seeking' plays out in the movie visually and thematically, the significance of the church scene and lots, lots more. Berger clearly got a LOT more out of this movie than anyone else on the planet and while I don't agree with all of his points, this is a legitimately thought-provoking read of the film that goes super in-depth and provides a lot of food for thought. Whether you agree with him completely or feel he's reading way too much into it, this is a genuinely interesting piece and one of the more unique extras in this boxed set.

    Monster Protest Home Movie Footage is a five-and-a-half-minute collection of footage showing a 'protest' with a bunch of people in monster makeup that took place at a screening of the film. This was shot silent, probably on 8mm, but music from the film plays overtop of it and it's an interesting document of a genuinely odd publicity stunt!

    Sam Sherman Interviews Forry Ackerman is a five-minute bit shot at Chiller Theater where, as you'd expect given the title, Sherman interviews the man behind Famous Monster Of Filmland to talk about the DVD debut of Dracula Vs. Frankenstein. Sherman talks about finding some unused footage featuring Ackerman, how Ackerman has done ninety-three film cameos, what it was like getting strangled by the monster and how he tried to play a dead guy convincingly in the film. We see the Ackerman/Dracula footage play out once the interview ends.

    The disc also contains almost twenty-one-minutes of outtakes and extended scenes from the film. There's no audio for some of the clips, so music from the movie plays out over those chunks of footage instead. Lots of go-go bar footage, some great bits from the lab, some extra bits with Chaney and a fair bit more. Finishing up the extras for this Dracula Vs. Frankenstein are a trailer, a TV spot and a selection of vintage audio spots for a triple feature of Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Frankenstein's Bloody Terror and Horror Of The Blood Monsters.

    The main special feature for Brain Of Blood is a partial audio commentary with producer/co-writer Samuel M. Sherman, which is quite good if you haven't heard it (it's been ported over from the old Image Entertainment DVD release). He speaks here about not just producing the film but coming up with the story and assisting in writing the picture as well. He tells lots of stories about being involved with the cast and crew, talks up Adamson's direction quite a bit, shares some info on the locations and more. It's interesting stuff.

    Also worth checking out is Memories Of Blood, a featurette made up of interviews with director Al Adamson, producer Samuel M. Sherman, associate producer J. P. Spohn, actors Zandor Vorkov and Sean Graver and filmmaker Fred Olen Ray. Made up of selections from a longer documentary yet to be released, this is quite interesting. Sherman and Spohn talk about needing to follow up the Blood Island films and doing it in the United States, the influence of H.G. Lewis and more. Adamson, appearing in archival footage obviously, shares some fun stories about the shoot and seems amused by all of this while Graver notes what it was like working on the film as a kid. Zandor talks about his character and the gore effects while Ray offers his insight into the entertainment value that the film provides.

    Rounding out the extras on the Blu-ray disc is a radio spot and a remarkably garish trailer.

    Bundled with the Blu-ray is a CD (exclusive to this release and not included in the Al Adamson Collection boxed set release from 2020) containing the original soundtrack for Dracula Vs. Frankenstein – four re-edited cues, twelve cues from The William Lava Sessions, six bonus tracks of outtakes and session chatter, a selection of sixteen radio spot commercials from the Independent International archives and eighteen minutes of audio liner notes from Sam Sherman. An insert inside the case features a track listing for the CD on one side and a Dracula Vs. Frankenstein one sheet reproduction on the other. As to the packaging, Severin includes some reversible cover sleeve art and, for the first pressing at least, a nice spot varnished slipcover.

    Dracula Vs. Frankenstein / Brain Of Blood – The Final Word:

    If you’ve already got the Al Adamson Collection boxed set, you’ll have to figure out if you want to double dip based on the admittedly very nice packaging and cool soundtrack CD, but if you’re not the proud owner of that set, Severin’s reissue of Dracula Vs. Frankenstein and Brain Of Blood offers up two really entertaining, and patently ridiculous, Al Adamson trashterpieces in nice shape and with a great selection of extra features.

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