Friday, October 25, 2013

La dinastía de Dracula (1980)

... aka: Dracula '87
... aka: Dracula Dynasty, The
... aka: Dracula: Dynasty of Fear
... aka: Dynasty of Dracula, The

Directed by:
Alfredo B. Crevenna

In 1595 during the Holy Inquisition, a caged Doberman pinscher is led through a village to the base of a crumbling convent. After a monk throws holy water on it, the dog transforms into a man; Duke Antonio de Orloff, who's been condemned to death for practicing demonic acts and vampirism. Antonio is stretched out on a table, gets a wooden stake driven through his heart and is then buried in a shallow tomb inside a cave. Antonio's female disciple, who can also transform into smoke and then a dog, shows up and prays to Satan to reunite them in three centuries so they can reign together in darkness. 300 years pass and the creepy, regal Madame Kostoff (Erika Carlsson) arrives in Mexico via ship from some unspecified country in Europe. She brings along a coffin that she refuses to let be inspected by the port authority but her intermediary manages to get her past them. The wealthy Madame rents a large mansion out in the country, lets go of the entire staff save her nosy coachman Andres (Roberto Espriu) and then sets about achieving her true objective: getting possession of the Sycamores Estate and being reunited with Antonio (his tomb is on their property).

The Sycamores hacienda and surrounding land have been passed down from generation to generation for the last 300 years so the current owners; the Solorzanos (Rubén Rojo and Magda Guzmán), aren't going to budge when it comes to selling it. Still, Madame Kostoff insists on seeing it and claims her companion Baron von Helsing will be there in a few days to see it, too. Inside the coffin Madame Kostoff brought along there is, of course, a vampire. And not just any vampire, but Baron Dracula (Roberto Nelson), who needs to feed on the surrounding villagers to rebuild his strength and shows no real preference on victims. Men, women and little children alike all fall prey. The Solorzanos' attractive young daughter Beatriz (Silvia Manríquez) happens to be dating village doctor Ramiro Fuentes (top-billed Fabián Aranza), who has a mystery to solve when bodies start turning up drained completely of blood and with puncture wounds on their necks.

Dracula shows up at the home under his Van Helsing alias and charms the family with his intelligence and class. Still, it's not enough to get them to sell the property. He then decides to hypnotize Mrs. Solorzano, lures her out to the garden and then bites her. She dies and is entombed, but manages to escape as a vampire herself, while Dracula sets his sights on Beatriz. He and Madame Kostoff are actually there to revive the Duke of Orloff on Walpurgis Night. Meanwhile, Dr. Fuentes and initially skeptical local priest Padre Juan (José Nájera) try to get to the bottom of things. In a touch likely influenced by The Exorcist (1973), the doubting priest ends up having to save the day at the finale; entering Orloff's cave tomb not armed with a stake, but with a crucifix, holy water, his faith and prayer.

La Dinastía de Dracula takes a very old school and restrained approach to its time-worn vampire themes and it could easily play on TV with no cuts. There's no nudity or sex, no profanity and very little blood and violence. The special effects - rubber bats on strings; reversing the film for the smoke and fire sfx, etc. - are also pretty primitive, making it all the more clear why this never merited a release on VHS in America during the 80s where it would have had to compete with the likes of The Hunger (1983), Fright Night (1985), The Lost Boys (1987), Near Dark (1987) and numerous other big-budget films. The editing's a bit janky at times and the story line is certainly nothing new or original either. Still, it's made with reasonable production values and general competence and gets some mileage from its settings, some decent camerawork and a strong cast. All of the lead actors are pretty good; with Aranza and Manriquez likeable leads and Nelson making for a pretty decent bloodsucker. Best of all though is Carlsson; who's terrific as the vampire's stern, oddball black-clad companion.

German-born director Crevenna was extremely busy in the Mexican film industry from the 1940s until his death in the mid 1990s and amassed over 150 directorial credits during his career which puts him up there with William Beaudine and Jess Franco as one of the most prolific directors of all time. Some of his other genre films include Yambao (1957), The New Invisible Man (1958), Bring Me the Vampire (1963), House of the Frights (1963), Adventure at the Center of the Earth (1964), The Beasts of Terror (1973), The Whip vs. Satan (1979) and numerous entries in the El Santo wrestling series. He had even been nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes for his drama Talpa (1956).

Various online sources list this as being either a 1980 or 1981 release, though the copyright date is 1978. The VHS copy I viewed was from Eagle Video out of Mexico.


Sorority Girls and the Creature from Hell (1990)

Directed by:
John McBrearty

Distracted by the firm ass and bouncy tits on a spandex-clad female bicyclist, some policemen escorting a half dozen chain gang members unwisely turn their backs on the dangerous criminals. A shovel to the head, a pick-axe through the chest and a machine gun fight later, one of the thugs - Gerome Desenso (Glen Vincent) - manages to make his escape into the woods. Meanwhile, Denise the bicyclist (Stacey Lynn) returns to her college campus where she proceeds to whine and complain to her sisters about getting stuck with Sara (Lynette McBrearty), "the ultimate geek," for the entire weekend. After all, the year before she'd been stuck dealing with a bunch of "Oriental exchange students." God forbid! The semester's over and the Alpha Phi girls are planning a trip to sister Kristina's (Gloria Hylton) family's mountain cabin to party and celebrate. Also going along with the aforementioned ladies are slutty rich bitch blonde Belinda (Dori Courtney) and giggly Mary Anne (Deborah Dutch), who's so dumb she has to ask her friend whether or not she'd failed her exams because she herself hasn't a clue. But rest assured patient viewers, it's not just the ladies who'll grate on your last nerve: The handful of frat guys who will be joining them at the cabin are just as irritating, if not even worse. Well actually, they are much worse.

For some reason that defies clear explanation, it takes three different vehicles to transport five girls to the cabin. On the way there, a couple of them break down on the side of the road and are rescued by whiny country bumpkin Gerald (Wynn Reichert), who won't shut up about fishing and his beagle Old Blue. Belinda, who has recently dumped the dorky Skip (Carl Johnson) in favor of his fraternity brother JJ (Matthew Schiff), has decided to go early with her new boy toy to break in the bed. The rest of the girls arrive soon after. Following them is a ticked off Skip (who speaks in an extremely obnoxious and forced high-pitched pubescent voice) and his constantly-scowling buddy Steve (Eric Clark), who first made time to swing by a backwoods dive to piss off a bunch of rednecks. Meanwhile, Kristina's archaeologist uncle Ray (Doug Koth) is excavating some caves and uncovers Native American artifacts, a skull and finally a stone face on the wall, which lights up, possesses him and turns him into a rubber-masked creature. From hell? Sure, why not. The echo-voiced spirit then informs the monstrous Ray that he is now a "disciple of blood" and commands him to get blood to help him regain his power.

Sex, beer, junk food, dancing, hot-tubbing, bickering, metal music and apple juggling are the order of the day until the creature pops in to the cabin and begins killing everyone off one by one. One of the girls is thrown off the roof and there's a strangling, a neck snapping and a head ripped off, though just as many people are simply pulled out of frame to meet their demise off-screen. The bodies of victims are drug back to the cave, where the spirit orders the creature to get "More!... I must have more!" Some other people stop by the cabin to further complicate matters, including biker Chris (Shawn Player from Andy Milligan's THE WEIRDO) and the escaped convict from the opening scene. Top-billed Len Lesser, who'd achieve his greatest fame just a few years later as Uncle Leo on Seinfeld, shows up as Tex, a grumpy, toboggan-wearing backwoods hunter who likes to shoot bunny rabbits, keeps complaining about all the noise coming from the cabin and has a stockpile of firearms that figure in the finale.

I suppose one could say that Sorority Girls does what is asked of it. One would expect violence and nudity from a title like this and it does attempt to deliver on that promise. Unfortunately, it does everything so poorly that I can't even champion this as trash. There's not one aspect of this movie that they manage to pull off successfully. The direction, writing, editing, photography, acting, sound, continuity, lighting and special effects are all painfully, annoyingly awful. As a creature feature, this commits the biggest possible sin it could: a barely-visible creature. Shot on 16mm, the picture quality is often blurry and the lighting is so dark you can barely make anything out. The creature is primarily shot in semi-darkness or from afar so you never really even get a good look at it. For what is essentially a cabin in the wood slasher, the film also seriously lacks blood and gore. Aside from one head being ripped off (which - again - can barely be seen because it's so dark) and a bit of blood on the corpses, this is dry as a bone.

There's a sort of amateurish, sincere charm bad films like this can sometimes skate by on, but this film has none of that. Not only is it ineptly made, it's downright irritating. Could they have possibly made the characters any less likable? At one point, a guy hovers over his drunken, passed out friend and, completely unprovoked, starts screaming, "Wake up dip shit! Get up asshole! I don't even believe you, man. A good looking girl here is sitting right here and you're not even doing anything, man? You're a disgrace to all men! What are you, a fag?!" And that guy is this film's hero. Dutch, a sort-of second string Scream Queen some are familiar with, is probably the best known of the younger cast but she's extremely annoying here herself. When she's not running around saying "Party! Party!" for absolutely no reason, she's cackling in a whiny way Fran Drescher would find obnoxious and lisping her way through awful dialogue like "Well, she wasn't there and JJ wasn't there. It's really weird. I mean, first they were both there and then they weren't there." It frequently appears that this was filmed without sound and that it was all dubbed in later but I'm not 100 percent sure about that.

The one and only thing the director is smart about is getting maximum mileage from hot blonde Dori Courtney. Even though her character is one of the first to get killed off, she's nude no less than six times in the first half: in a shower, in a car, in a bed, in a hot tub, in ridiculous fantasy sequence and by a lake. Hell, she's even topless when she gets killed. Vicki Darnell (best known for her appearances in Frank Henenlotter movies like BRAIN DAMAGE) also shows some skin as a stripper at the bar. Whoever did the music ripped off the classic FRIDAY THE 13TH score. It was based on a story by the director / producer / writer and co-star Lynette (who is probably his wife). If you want a fun "Sorority" horror title, let me now direct you toward SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA (1988) or SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II (1990).

The VHS I viewed was from Complete entertainment.

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