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Dracula, Prisoner Of Frankenstein (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Dracula, Prisoner Of Frankenstein (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: January 30th, 2024.
    Director: Jess Franco
    Cast: Howard Vernon, Alberto Dalbes, Anne Libert, Dennis Price, Luis Barboo
    Year: 1971
    Purchase From Amazon

    Dracula, Prisoner Of Frankenstein – Movie Review:

    In a remote European village Count Dracula (Franco regular Howard Vernon of The Awful Dr. Orloff and a zillion others) is roaming the area sucking the blood from some of the local ladies. When Dr. Seward (Alberto Dalbes who starred alongside Paul Naschy in Hunchback Of The Morgue) comes across the drained corpse of a pretty young woman (Anne Libert of A Virgin Among The Living Dead) he knows who is to blame and what he has to do. Before you know it, Seward has found his way to Dracula's castle and staked the old guy through the heart, causing him to turn into a bat before breathing what Seward believes will be his last breath.

    With Dracula out of the picture and his castle up for grabs, Dr. Frankenstein (Dennis Price of Venus In Furs), and his horny mute assistant Morpho (Luis Barboo who had a small roll in Naschy's Return Of The Werewolf), move in so that they can continue their evil experiments. This involves once again bringing life to the undead Frankenstein Monster (Spaghetti Western star Fernando Bilbao of The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein where he also played the monster!). Their efforts soon bear fruit and a short time afterwards the monster runs rampant around the town, first kidnapping a sexy female cabaret singer (Josyanne Gibert who shows up in Devil's Island Lovers) and then returning her to his creator so that he can use her blood to revitalize the dead vampire who used to call the castle home.

    It would seem all of Dr. Frankenstein's practice has been paying off, as his attempt to resurrect the Count is successful. With Dracula under his control, or, as the title says, his prisoner, he sends the vampire out into the town to kill off a few more of the locals which is the first step towards his goal of creating an army of vampires that will obey his every command (one of whom is played by the lovely Britt Nichols of A Virgin Among The Living Dead)! The only hope that the locals have lies with a strange gypsy woman (Genevieve Robert who also appeared in Devil's Island Lovers) and her werewolf servant (played by the mysterious Brandy).

    Dracula, Prisoner Of Frankenstein is a very atmospheric, quiet, brooding picture that, despite the obviously low budget, moves along at a deliberate pace and succeeds in creating some nice, macabre mood. The makeup effects aren't very good – you can see where the paint stops on Vernon's face just before his hairline quite obviously and if you drank a beer every time a rubber bat showed up on screen you'd probably die from alcohol poisoning – but there's enough charm and mystique evident in the sets, locations and cinematography that Franco fans should have no problem looking past those flubs even if it is tough to look at the Frankenstein Monster and not snicker a little bit at just how bad his makeup looks when seen close up.

    What really makes this movie interesting is the cast, most of whom had either worked with Franco before or would work with him again, and the credits read like a 'who's who' of Franco regulars a few of whom, like Britt Nichols, showed up in other Spanish horror films of note (she was sacrificed to the Templars in Tombs Of The Blind Dead). Price and Vernon get most of the screen time and for good reason as they knew what Franco required of them by this point in time. While the movie gets more and more off kilter as it plays out, everyone is able to give reasonably restrained performances here. This balances out some of the truly goofy ideas that are bouncing around the movie (whether or not Franco did this on purpose or not is debatable). Price doesn't look to be in the best of shape here and, sadly, two years after this movie was made, he'd be dead from cirrhosis of the liver but he at least makes for an interesting Dr. Frankenstein. His lines are delivered by a narrator (possibly because he was drunk for the duration of the shoot?).

    Despite all the strange Franco touches that you'll notice throughout the movie (there's a whole lot of zoom lens action here!), Dracula Prisoner Of Frankenstein plays it fairly safe in the sex and violence department. There's no nudity at all and while a bit of kink is implied here and there, nothing is actually shown which may disappoint those who are only able to appreciate the more exploitative aspects of Franco's filmography. A bit of bloodshed shows up but again, it's tame and the whole movie feels like an absurdist take on the old Universal monster films that so obviously inspired it. Franco would bring Price and Bilbao back for The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein soon after this production was finished, an equally bizarre take on the old Universal films, albeit this time with more sex and violence.

    Dracula, Prisoner Of Frankenstein – Blu-ray Review:

    Dracula, Prisoner Of Frankenstein arrives on a 50GB region free Blu-ray disc from Severin Films in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. This version, the longest known to exist, was scanned in 4k from Spanish, French and German release prints and it shows a fair bit of print damage and some inconsistencies in color reproduction and contrast (things sometimes look a bit blue), but having said that, it’s a pretty huge upgrade over the previous domestic DVD edition, which was non-anamorphic and improperly framed. The disc is well-authored with a good bit rate, avoiding compression artifacts, but the problems with the source material are hard to miss. Still, this is certainly more than watchable and it definitely takes advantage of the format. Some scenes show really strong depth and detail while others are a bit flat looking. This was very likely a matter of doing the best job possible with some less than perfect elements, and those accustomed to how this movie has looked on home video in the past should be more than happy with this transfer, even if it isn’t a reference quality image.

    Audio tracks are supplied in a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in English as well as in Spanish, Italian, German and French options in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. Optional subtitles are provided in English for each one of those options. The English track sounds okay, but again, the elements come into play here so expect a bit of hiss and pop now and again. Otherwise, the audio is pretty well-balanced and while it isn’t especially exceptional, it sounds fine.

    Extras start off with a forty-two minute featurette titled ‘Prisoner Of Franco-Stein’ which is an interview with Stephen Thrower, the Author of Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema Of Jesús Franco. In this talk, Thrower goes over the obvious influence of the Universal Monsters movies, how Franco's career shifted after his split from producer Harry Alan Towers, Franco's approach to shooting during this period, whether or not he was working on different films at the same time during the making of this movie, whether or not the movie is set in the 19th century, the continuing use of the Morpho character, if the film is supposed to take place in the real world or some sort of netherworld, how Franco's cavalier attitude to constructing the film leads to interesting sequences and potential surrealism, some of the problems with the actual storytelling in the movie, thoughts on the different versions of the movie and the deliberate lack of dialogue in the film, Howard Vernon's take on Dracula as well as the other performances, Dennis Price's life and career as well as some of the trouble that he had in life including gambling and alcohol addiction, locations used for the production and lots more. As is typical with Thrower's work analyzing Franco's work, this is really well-done.

    In The Land Of Franco Part 10 spends eighteen minutes with Thrower, and later Alain Petit, exploring and detailing the history of a location used for Shining Sex and quite a few locations from Midnight Party (Petit gives us some interesting insight into the making of this one and talks about shooting some of the night club scenes in a venue called The Cold Saloon that is now a yard full of pottery as well as what it was like working with Franco and Lina Romay) as well as the lost film Mandinga.

    Finishing up the extras on the disc is a Spanish opening credit sequence, a deleted scene from the English language version, a Spanish language trailer, menus and chapter selection options.

    Note that copies purchased directly from the Severin Films website will come with a limited edition embossed slipcover.

    Dracula, Prisoner Of Frankenstein - The Final Word:

    Dracula, Prisoner Of Frankenstein is a pretty entertaining monster-mash, sometimes despite and sometimes because of the bizarre nature of the narrative and the characters. That said, it never lacks in atmosphere and as erratic as it is, the movie is very nicely shot. Severin’s Blu-ray goes a long way towards making up for genuinely crappy past editions, and while this movie will probably never look flawless, the presentation here is a serious upgrade over what we’ve had in the past. Throw in some solid extra features and it’s easy to give this one a thumbs up. Recommended!



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

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