The Spooktacular Eight #3: Evil Of Dracula (1974)

We gotta have a vampire film in here, but i’m not feeling like talking of Vampyros Lesbos, the old Hammer Dracula films have been done to death, and Yakuza Apocalypse is pretty well known, so let’s compromise and by that i mean feature something not quite from left field, but close enough.

So let’s take a look at a 70s japanese vampire movies clearly going after the western depiction and aesthetic, with Evil Of Dracula, which is actually the last piece of the so called “Bloodthirsty Trilogy” (later rereleased worlwide by Arrow Video) of vampire movies, beginning with Bloodsucking Doll/Vampire Doll, continuing with Lake Of Dracula, then Evil Of Dracula.

I should have done the entire trilogy, i guess that’s what happens when you pick a movie for a random Halloween selection without doing any proper research on it beforehand.

That’ll learn me.

All produced by Toho, directed by Michio Yamamoto, also co-writer with Ei Ogawa, with unrelated plots revolving about vampires, and further connected by recurring actors like Tadao Futami (playing a minor role in all of the films), Shin Kishida (Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo, Shogun Assassin and Godzilla VS Mechagodzilla) that played the vampire in Lake Of Dracula, and with some familiar faces like Kunio Tanaka, here playing a doctor versed in the old legends about demons, who acts as a quasi-Van Helsing figure, makes sense since the movie really tries to copy from Hammer’s playbook, as there is a very western looking with a gothic look in an isolate place in Japan, and the familiar look of the vampire as a man in cape, which feels out of place and offbeat.

But wait, there’s also a legend that acts as backstory to explain how the hell did a western vampire even arrived in 1800s’ Japan, as in a missionary ship wrecked there, they tortured him because Christianity was not allowed at the time, he “did a Coppola” by rejecting God, and he started sucking blood of people and turned into a demon.

Yeah, it’s a bit weird to try and mash these two styles together, even more since most of the scenes involving vampires jumping out and scaring people are done in a more typical kaidan eiga manner ( fittingly enough), but everything else is clearly trying to imite the Hammer look and feel (the way many events are executed or displayed makes the western influences even more obvious), even the music is trying to ape the ones found in Terence Fisher movies, with a generally slower pace and admittely some slow moment where plot points are discussed in a drab way, but there is some good atmosphere, some tense moments the plot has some surprises and creepy moments.

The plot follow a psychology teacher, professor Shiraki, that is called upon a girls’ school to perform his duty, but suddendly the school’s principal calls him and asks to take over his role, and the teacher grows more suspicious when he learns that the principal keeps his recently deceased wife in the house (which is most likely a reference to a plot point in Count Yorga, Vampire), in according to a very old local religious custom that might make her come back to life.

Shiraki starts investigating, soon learns of the vampire legends, alongside three girls from the school that get caught in the whole mess.

Apparently the english dub is terrible, i wouldn’t know as i did see it with subtitles.

My only major gripe is that the fighting and struggling it’s a bit hockey, not in a notable way since you can find pretty much the same type of “combat arts” in the old Hammer movies themselves, but here some of the confrontations (including the final one) really feel a bit silly, unintenionally so.

Some cheap gore effects (aside from the decomposing montage of the vampires bodies), some obvious day-for-night shots, a tiny bit of nudity, and there’s some arguing about it being the worst of the three, but at this point in time i can’t really say.

If you’re on board with the Hammer inspired vampire formula translated to a Japanese context, there’s a decent-to-good, entertaining movie here, with decent acting and some good photography. Interesting to say the least.

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