Blood for Dracula (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Sep 08, 2021
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Blood for Dracula (4K UHD Review)

Director

Paul Morrissey

Release Date(s)

1974 (October 26, 2021)

Studio(s)

Bryanston Distributing (Severin Films)
  • Film/Program Grade: A+
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: A-

Blood for Dracula (4K UHD Disc)

Buy it Here!

Review

Blood for Dracula was the second of two retellings of classic horror stories that Paul Morrissey directed back-to-back for producers Andrew Braunsberg and Carlo Ponti, using many of the same cast and crew members, on location and at Cinecitta Studios in Rome. The films were released in some countries as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein and Andy Warhol’s Dracula, but the famed artist had little to do with either production, even though Morrissey had been previously associated with him. Warhol seemed happy to lend his name to projects with which he had scant involvement (witness his producer credit on the Velvet Underground’s first album despite the fact that he wasn’t even present when it was recorded). Both films initially received “X” ratings, and while they may seem relatively tame by contemporary standards, needless to say they still aren’t for all tastes.

The threadbare screenplay for Blood for Dracula was written by Morrissey with an uncredited Pat Hackett, and while most of the dialogue was improvised, the script provided one crucial twist to the Dracula legend. In this telling, the Count (Udo Kier) requires the blood of virgins to keep him from withering away, so at the behest of his assistant Anton (Arno Jurging), he travels to Italy in search of maidens. The pair end up at the estate of Il Marchese di Fiore (Vittoria de Sica), where their plans for his daughters are constantly frustrated by a Marxist handyman (Joe Dallesandro) whose has his own particular appetites for young women.

While the concept of virgin blood is indeed vital to the story, it’s easy to imagine that Morrissey added it just so that he could have Kier say the word “wirgin” repeatedly. The whole film operates at an intersection between serious Euro-horror and the theatre of the absurd, with the most ridiculous elements played straight. Kier’s accent may be incongruous to the character’s Romanian origins, but it’s so tonally perfect for the film that it deserved its own listing in the credits—as does Dallesandro’s equally incongruous New York accent. The acting is suitably histrionic without ever quite going too far overboard. Kier and Jurging are even better together in this film than they were in Frankenstein, with Jurging’s manic intensity providing a perfect balance to Kier’s. Nearly everything in Dracula achieves that same balance, with only a few minor missteps along the way.

Despite the original “X” rating, Dracula isn’t quite as gruesome as Frankenstein. Morrissey had shot the previous film using the Space-Vision 3-D process, but he abandoned that for Dracula. Many of the gore effects in Frankenstein were created to take advantage of 3-D (you’ve been warned), so that may be why he didn’t include as many such effects in Dracula. Yet the film does end with a suitably appropriate Grand Guignol moment, one which likely influenced a certain troupe of British comedians who borrowed the concept for their own film the following year. It’s a thematically appropriate scene as well, since it shows the triumph of the proletariat over the landed aristocracy—in Dracula, young women are the capital, and this unique dialectical clash can have only one winner.

Blood for Dracula was shot in 35 mm by cinematographer Luigi Kuveiller using spherical lenses, framed at 1:85 for its theatrical release. (Flesh for Frankenstein had been framed at 2.39:1, but that was necessitated by the over/under Space-Vision format.) For Severin’s new Ultra HD version, the original uncut negative was scanned at 4K resolution, meticulously cleaned up, and graded for HDR (only HDR10 is included on the disc). The results are extraordinary, and not just relative to all previous home video versions of the film either—this is a gorgeous transfer by any metric. The image is spotless, with no signs of visible damage, but all of the grain and fine detail is intact. It can’t compare to large format productions such as 70 mm, but fine textures like hair, clothing, grass, and stonework all display an abundance of detail (even anachronistic ones like the vaccination scar on Dallesandro’s shoulder). The grain is prominent but never obtrusive, and there’s little in the way of noise or other artifacts related to it. The HDR grade provides a wonderful contrast range with truly deep blacks, but never at the expense of subtle details within the darkest areas of the screen. A few of the highlights may be just a touch blown out, such as the glow on the skin of Jurging and Kier when they stand by the fireplace in Dracula’s estate near the beginning of the film, but moments like that are infrequent. While Blood for Dracula is not a particularly vibrant film overall, there’s more detail in the subtle gradations of color here, with rich greens and reds where appropriate, as well as natural-looking flesh tones—even the way that Kier’s skin changes throughout the film has been accurately reproduced.

Audio is available in English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio, with optional English subtitles. Everything sounds clean with clear dialogue—there’s some awkward ADR in a few places such as during de Sica’s scenes, but those are inherent to the original production. Claudio Gizzi’s score sounds robust and full despite being presented in mono.

Severin’s release of Blood for Dracula is a 3-Disc set including a UHD, a Blu-ray, and a CD. With the exception of the two trailers, all of the extras are limited to the Blu-ray. Everything is housed inside of a rigid slipcase which also includes a single card with a reproduction of an Italian poster on one side, and the track listing for the CD on the reverse. All of the extras are in HD (the second trailer is upscaled):

DISC ONE: UHD

  • Trailer #1 (3:23)
  • Trailer #2 (1:55)

DISC TWO: BD

  • Trans-Human Flesh and Blood – Interview with Director Paul Morrissey (35:35)
  • Rubinia’s Homecoming – Interview & Location Tour with Actress Stefania Casini (17:59)
  • Blood for Udo – Interview with Actor Udo Kier (18:56)
  • Little Big Joe – Interview with Actor Joe Dallesandro (28:14)
  • Conversation with a Vampire – Audio Interview with Actress Milena Vukotic (18:50)
  • Bloodthirsty – Interview with Assistant Director Paolo Pietrangeli (14:38)
  • Black Cherry – Interview with Art Director Gianni Giovagnoni (26:56)
  • The Blood of These Whores... – Interview with “Murderous Passions” Author Stephen Thrower (20:02)
  • Sad, Romantic Dracula – Interview with Soundtrack Composer Claudio Gizzi (19:43)
  • The Roman Connection – Interview with Producer Andrew Braunsberg (23:26)
  • Trailer #1 (3:23)
  • Trailer #2 (1:55)

DISC THREE: CD

  1. Old Age of Dracula (Main Titles) (3:06)
  2. In the Cellars of the Castle (1:53)
  3. Nostalgia (:51)
  4. On the Journey to Italy (1:00)
  5. First Victim (:56)
  6. On Journey Again (1:14)
  7. An Old Song (3:33)
  8. Dracula’s Theme (1:05)
  9. More Blood (1:04)
  10. At the Inn (3:23)
  11. Memories of Romania (:59)
  12. Dracula Is Unmasked! (2:11)
  13. A Regret (1:12)
  14. The Vampire Escapes (:57)
  15. The Last Victim (:52)
  16. Pursuit and Death of Dracula (2:09)
  17. Dracula’s Theme (End Titles) (1:21)
  18. In the Cellars of the Castle (#2) (1:55)
  19. Dracula’s Theme (#2) (1:12)
  20. On the Journey to Italy (#2) (2:11)
  21. First Victim (#2) (2:02)
  22. Dracula’s Theme (#3) (1:50)
  23. An Old Song (#2) (3:39)
  24. Dracula's Theme (#4) (:47)
  25. In the Cellars of the Castle (#3) (1:01)
  26. A Regret (#2) (:38)
  27. On the Journey to Italy (#3) (1:00)
  28. Dracula's Theme (#5) (1:03)
  29. The Last Victim (#2) (1:07)
  30. Old Age of Dracula (#2) (3:06)

Trans-Human Flesh and Blood‘s interview with Morrissey is... well, it’s interesting. He’s changed quite a bit over the decades, and has grown fairly bitter over time. He discusses his films prior to Frankenstein and Dracula, explains how he became involved with the two, and then covers details about their productions. He’s quite open about his contempt for Warhol, who Morrisey doesn’t consider to be an artist. (He also frequently digresses to show equal contempt for the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, and Dudley Moore.) He spends some time decrying modern society and popular culture, and it’s a bit disconcerting to hear Dracula’s seemingly ironic critique of “modern” Romanian culture in the film spoken in earnest by Morrissey. Rubinia’s Homecoming features actress and director Stefania Casini returning to Villa Parisi in Rome to show some of the shooting locations and then to sit down for an interview—it’s surprising to see how little the Villa has changed in more than four decades. Blood for Udo offers Kier in his own particularly prickly form—he clearly enjoys tormenting the interviewer and the crew. He talks about his involvement with the film, and then talks very reluctantly about the other vampire films that he has done. (Pro tip for future interviewers: bring cigarettes.) Little Big Joe has Dallesandro relating how he originally became involved with Warhol and Morrisey, including a breakdown of all the films that he did with them. He also explains why Dracula was the last time that he worked with either of them—he felt that they weren’t supporting his career. Conversation with a Vampire is an audio-only interview with actress Milena Vukotic, who discusses the other filmmakers with whom she has worked, and why she became involved with Dracula—she wasn’t interested in horror, but she liked works which defied convention.

Bloodthirsty offers an interview with assistant director Paolo Pietrangeli, who says that he thought of both Frankenstein and Dracula as comedies even though they really weren’t—a strange perspective on two films which are overtly comedic. He covers his own experiences making the film, and notes that he returned to the Villa Parisi for his own directorial debut. Black Cherry has art director Gianni Giovagnoni discussing his work on both films, the differences between working on set and working on location, and his encounters with Andy Warhol while watching dailies. He claims that the idea for the accident with the little girl and the blood-soaked bread came from Roman Polanski (who has a cameo in the scene). The Blood of These Whores is an analysis of the film by Stephen Thrower, who also spends some time looking at the way that Warhol and Morrisey’s paths diverged after their earliest work together. Sad, Romantic Dracula features composer Claudio Gizzi talking about his career, from working with Luchino Visconti, Polanski, and Morrisey, to being pushed out of the film business into making easy listening albums for EMI. The Roman Connection is a Zoom interview with producer Andrew Braunsberg where he states decisively up front that both films belonged to Morrisey, with Warhol’s credit only being added due to financial considerations. He gives a more detailed breakdown of the convoluted path by which Frankenstein and Dracula reached the screen, as well as the process of distributing both films. The disc has a single Easter egg accessible from the “Bonus Menu” to the left of the trailers: an archival interview with Antonio Marghereti, where he gives his own version of his involvement with both films. (He was credited as director on some Italian prints for tax purposes.)

To show just how much work went into cleaning up the film, compare the final feature presentation to the clips used in all of the extras. Those came from the same 4K scan, but prior to cleanup. In particular, watch the opening credit sequence included at the beginning of Blood for Udo. While the image is sharp, it’s plagued with speckling and other fine damage. All of that damage is eliminated in the final version, but with all of the detail and grain equally untouched.

With or without Andy Warhol’s name attached, Blood for Dracula does feel some of his influence, or rather it feels the influence that he had on Paul Morrissey (something that Morrissey would vehemently deny). It combines the melodramatic with the mundane, and grittiness with absurdist humor. But it’s Morrissey’s film from start to finish, and as a result it’s a very unique take on the Dracula legend. Severin’s UHD release is unquestionably the best possible way to view the film at home—even theatrical prints from 1974 wouldn’t have looked this beautiful. Highly recommended.

- Stephen Bjork

(You can follow Stephen on Facebook at this link)

 

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