Being a long-time movie buff and horror fan, I’ve heard and read about director Jess Franco for decades, yet I’ve never seen a single film from his prolific career … until now. And it begs the question: why is this guy so revered? Daughter of Dracula is definitely one of his lesser efforts, but it certainly makes one wonder what some of his other films are like.
The story, such as it is, centers around a young woman who learns a family secret from her dying grandmother … they are descended from Dracula himself and she is a vampire. Now how she got to her 20s and never knew she was a vampire already stretches belief. This was before the days of sunscreen, so one would assume she’d burst into flames walking around in daylight. A vague murder mystery plot and lesbian romps follow but none of it makes a lick of sense. And there are few laughable scenes with Howard Vernon laying in a coffin as Uncle Dracula, eyes and mouth always agape for some reason.
This really is one of the silliest vampire movies I’ve ever seen, and in fact, according to the audio commentary by film historian and editor of Video Watchdog Tim Lucas, the film didn’t even begin life as a vampire movie. The vampiric elements were added as an afterthought when the film’s actual genre, the Italian giallo films, began to wane during production (sort of like when the first 3D fad ended before Hitchcock released Dial M for Murder resulting in that film not being seen in 3D for the first time until the early 1980s). What was really supposed to be a murder suspense film became a lesbian vampire movie (based on the “Carmilla” story), aping the same basic storyline that Hammer films had begun two years earlier with their “Karnstein Trilogy” in 1970. Franco supposed he could fool people by changing the last name of his vampire family to “Karlstein.” Even the title is misleading because Luisa isn’t even the daughter of the count in the crypt! (And, this film also became part of a trilogy including The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein and Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein.)
The new Blu-ray release of the film from Redemption and Kino Lorber doesn’t go the extra mile as far as restoring the film, but it looks probably as good as it ever will. The image as a nice amount of film grain and colors are vibrant for the most part, especially the bright, bright red of the blood of Luisa’s victims — maybe a bit too bright to be believable, especially when there are never any puncture wounds (in fact, you’d be hard pressed to actually see Luisa’s or the Count’s fangs actually make contact with anyone’s skin). The expected wear and tear is visible for a film of this vintage (and budget), but nothing too off-putting. The audio is fine but a bit crazy as the movie was filmed in Spanish (I think) and then dubbed in French so none of the spoken dialog actually matches the actors’ lips. Simplified English subtitles are provided.
The Blu-ray’s extras include the aforementioned commentary, a theatrical trailer, and “Safe” footage which was used to replace some of the film’s more graphic nudity. The already awkward love scene between Luisa and another woman is made even more hilarious in the safe footage with one participant now fully clothed … and in a turtleneck!
Film commentator Lucas tells us there are three types of Franco films: his true passion projects (to which he gave the most attention), the “quickies” (which used sets and actors from whatever passion project he was working on), and the “for hire” jobs that gave him no real input into the production. Daughter of Dracula, not to be confused with Universal’s classic Dracula’s Daughter, falls into the “quickie” category with Lucas pointing out sets and actors from previous Franco films. Unfortunately, with a lack of tension, a laughable vampire and careless storytelling, this film is for Franco completists only.
Kino Lorber generously provided Hotchka with a Blu-ray copy of the film for reviewing purposes.