With the aesthetics of a cheap seventies porno and the production values of an even cheaper seventies porno, Starting life as a biker gang movie before being having Frankenstein’s monster add and then finally having Dracula added as an afterthought in footage shot years later, “Dracula vs Frankenstein” is an even more patched together mongrel than its secondary title star.
When Judith (Regina Carrol) sets out to look for her missing sister Joanie, who has disappeared after falling in with the hippie community of Venice, California, she has no way of knowing that Joanie has fallen victim to Groton (Lon Chaney Jr), a mute, axe-wielding maniac in the employ of Dr Durray (J Carrol Naish). Nor is she aware that Durrey is, in fact, the last living descendant of Victor Frankenstein, but Dracula (Zandor Vorkov) knows this and visits the doctor to seek his help in reviving the monster, who is buried in a nearby graveyard.
How this movie was never selected for “Mystery Science Theatre 3000”, I’ll never know. It’s that bad/ good. The last film appearance by J Carroll Naish and Lon Chaney Jr’s last monster role hurrah, it brings both their horror track records to an ignominious end. This freaky shriek show can’t hide the scars from all the cruel and unusual punishment inflicted on it in the editing suite as director Al Adamson and producer Samuel L Sherman try in vain to make a silk purse out of the sow’s ear of footage from several disparate shoots.
Count Dracula, in this incarnation a curly-haired weirdo with an absurdly reverbed voice, a goatee and inexplicable lightning powers, is as ineffectual as J Carrol Naish’s mad scientist is pitiable. Naish obviously struggles to read the cue cards being held off camera for him and can barely keep his dentures in at times, his mouth obviously rebelling against the ridiculous dialogue. It’s particularly sad to see Lon Chaney Jr, puffy and ruined by years of alcohol abuse shambling across the screen, sacrificing his remaining reputation for this car crash of a movie.
There are sporadic moments which serve to remind you that everyone involved in this film was capable of so much more, but this film plays like someone edited together a lowlight reel of everything terrible that was filmed. If this was a sizzle reel, the stench of burning refuse would be overpowering. In its few brighter moments, it taps in to a colourful, groovy kind of free-spirited craziness but just as your hopes start to rise, someone throws more garbage onto the dumpster fire. Even if you’ve a masochistic taste for Z-grade exploitation trash cinema, “Dracula vs Frankenstein” is a grindhouse grind, suitable only for drive-ins where your mind is on anything but the movie or those very, very drunk nights when you’re going to wake up slumped in a corner with half a kebab spilled down your front and still have retained more dignity than anyone involved in this movie.