An excavating Romanian army accidentally unleash Dracula’s hound Zoltan, who in turn revives manservant Veidt Schmidt (Reggie Nalder). After an unsuccessful attempt at reviving their master, they venture to the US to indoctrinate the last remaining Dracula heir, family man Michael Drake (Michael Pataki). Drake is currently on a camping trip with his wife, kids, and their dogs. Meanwhile, Romanian police inspector and vampire expert Inspector Branco (Oscar winner Jose Ferrer!) investigates the dead bodies left back at the tomb when Schmidt and Zoltan made their escape, and quickly heads to the US to hopefully warn Drake of what is to come.
AKA “Dracula’s Dog”. Yeah, both titles are equally awful, aren’t they? There’s an interesting idea in this 1978 horror offering from director/producer Albert Band (father of Charles and director of Full Moon’s “Doctor Mordrid”) and writer/co-producer Frank Ray Perilli (“Laserblast”, the curious “Little Cigars”) with Dracula essentially infiltrating or invading a typical American nuclear family. Unfortunately, most of the film is concerned with a fucking vampire-dog who is only tangentially related to the family and who pretty much single-handedly reduces the film to a curio at best. The film barely does anything with Pataki’s dual role, at the end of the day. Presumably because Pataki makes for a craptacular Dracula.
Sure, it’s entirely watchable (amazingly), but not in the way likely intended. Pretty poorly made, it’s one of a kind for sure, but there are elements here that suggest it could’ve been something a little less ricockulous. Certainly character actor Jose Ferrer does his best to not look down on the material, in a rock-solid Van Helsing-esque characterisation. His refusal to put on even the hint of an accent, however, leads to confusing when he tells Pataki they come from the same country. One almost thinks he’s talking about the United States. Speaking of ricockulous, though, early on we see a tombstone that reads: ‘Mikhail Dracula’. OK, so it’s perhaps geographically plausible, but no less stupid. ‘Count Igor Dracula’, meanwhile, just gives me a freakin’ headache. Igor (or is it Eye-gor?) of course was a character in “Young Frankenstein”, spoofing the kind of servile imp character from Universal Studios’ “Frankenstein” films.
But back to the dogs. If you ask me, the German Shepherds in this are scarier than Zoltan, especially before they join the undead. The little Scrappy-Doo vampire dog to go along with Scooby-esque Zoltan doesn’t help, either. Zoltan is the runt of the litter, the red-headed stepchild of the Dracula family. Well, you know what I mean. He’s also the most hesitant, wimpy vampire-dog you’re ever likely to see. The worst thing about Zoltan, though, is that he has fangs. Think about it. He’s a canine. Why have they given him special vampire fangs? They’re awfully cheap-looking too, which is surprising given Band looks to have chosen the cheapest location possible to make the film (Romania?), so surely he could afford better makeup/FX, right? Shockingly, Stan Winston (“Aliens”, “Predator”, “Pumpkinhead”) gets credited with FX and makeup creation in the film. Why, Stan? Why? I certainly hope Winston’s contribution wasn’t shining a torch into the dog’s eyes to make him look more evil (read: Stupid).
The 70s pop-like score by Andrew Belling is particularly awful and inappropriate, belonging rather to a 70s cop show than something like this. The camerawork by Bruce Logan (“Big Bad Mama”, “Crazy Mama”, “Jackson County Jail”), meanwhile, provides some of the best and worst moments in the film. There’s some nice fog, but for the most part it has a dreary, 4:30 PM look to it, whilst at other times it’s too brightly lit at times when it supposed to be dark or the lights are meant to be turned off. Then again, there’s a surprisingly good scene where Pataki and Ferrer are in a small cabin besieged by Zoltan outside where the camerawork and sound FX make Zoltan seem almost “Cujo”-esque. This is followed by a pretty decent “Cujo”-esque scene involving Pataki struggling to put up the roof of his car whilst Zoltan and his blood-sucking minions are nearly descending upon him. It’s clearly not a film for animal lovers, and probably not anyone else either, really.
Pataki isn’t bad as the Judd Hirsch/Roy Scheider-esque family man, but his cameo at the beginning as Dracula is terribly unconvincing (Also, what kind of idiot goes camping with two dogs and a seemingly newborn baby in tow?). Much more believably evil is the instantly recognisable, peculiar-looking Reggie Nalder. Poor fella, like Michael “The Hills Have Eyes” Berryman, his looks ensured a career of monsters and ghoulies. Cast essentially in the Renfield role, Nalder would’ve been a much better Dracula, and certainly more menacing than Zoltan.
This film does contain elements that aren’t awful, but with a terrible central idea and a pathetic title character, it was never going to work. It is however something to see if you’re morbidly curious. Or curiously morbid.