TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DRACULA’S DOG (1977)

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DRACULA’S DOG (1977)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Also known as Zoltan: Hound of Dracula and based on the book Hounds of Dracula by Ken Johnson, this 1977 horror features the legendary vampire’s mutt trying to recreate his master. After being accidentally revived by Romanian soldiers excavating a tomb, Dracula’s manservant Veidt Smit (Reggie Nalder) and his dog Zoltan, set off to America to find Michael Drake (Michael Pataki) who is the last surviving member of Dracula’s bloodline. Once they find him, they plan to turn him into a bloodsucker and their new master. In hot pursuit is Van Helsing-like Inspector Vaclav Branco (José Ferrer) who plans to stop them and their fiendish plot.

Canine-centric vampire flick is written by Frank Ray Perilli, based on Johnson’s book and directed by Albert Band, father of Full Moon Studio’s Charles Band. It’s a silly movie for sure, though played very straight and if there is anything that actually works here it’s that Zoltan and his pack of vampire dogs are kinda fierce and spooky thanks to trainer Karl Miller. There are some fun goof-ups, along the way, like the opening scene that takes place in Romania, with the Romanian army, where a military jeep clearly says “U.S. Navy” on the hood. It’s low budget is no better illustrated than by the fact that it mostly takes place outdoors during a Drake family camping trip, reducing the need for sets. The make-up and gore FX are by Stan Winston, so at least they are done well and director Band does give the silly proceedings a bit of atmosphere. The fact that it’s a film about Dracula’s dog and is taken as seriously as it is, at the very least gives it’s makers some audacity points.

As for the cast, the doberman playing Zoltan is definitely the standout. He is a spooky pooch. Reggie Nalder (Salem’s Lot) is creepy as Smit, but Nalder always did nail creepy in his performances. Pataki plays it straight as the clueless last heir to Dracula’s coffin and José Ferrer takes the material very seriously as the valiant Inspector Branco. The supporting players are a mixed bag and the other dogs in the film prove the most effective actors in their roles.

This is a silly flick, though taken very seriously by the cast and crew. It makes it all the more watchable, but it still is about Dracula’s best friend, after all. There is some decent make-up and gore courtesy of a young Stan Winston and it does have some atmosphere to go along with the unintentional chuckles. Worth a look. Only in the 70s, folks!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 hounds of Dracula.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1981)

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BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1981)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

1981 slasher may not be a good movie in the traditional sense of the word, but is a fun little flick about a pack of diabolical and homicidal ten year-olds. Flick opens in 1970 where three children are born at the exact same time during a solar eclipse. We jump to 1980 where their birthday draws near and the three have started on a murder spree in their small town. Curtis (Billy Jayne), Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy) and Steven (Andy Freeman) will kill anyone who stands in their way or just for kicks, including Debbie’s sheriff father (Bert Kramer) and her hot sister (Julie Brown). It’s up to classmate Timmy (K.C. Martel) and his older sister Joyce (Lori Lethin) to stop them…if anyone will believe them!

Co-written, with Barry Pearson and directed by Ed Hunt, this is a fun 80s slasher flick. It’s not an overly well made movie, it’s quite cheesy in terms of dialog and acting, but there is some fun from watching the over-the-top trio of murderous tykes. These kids are quite bloodthirsty and quite happy with themselves for their bloody acts. That’s what takes this horror delightfully into camp territory, the absolute glee these three kids show in planning and executing their kills. Just the sight of a ten year old packing a revolver with a deranged smile on his face is worth watching it for. That and how easily these ten year-olds continue to outwit adults and police, even in the killing of the town sheriff and one of their stricter teachers. It’s a lot of fun to watch them take out innocents and members of their own families, not to mention trying to finish off Timmy and Joyce, who are the only ones to figure things out. On a filmmaking level, there is little or no suspense, the dialog is laughable at times and the bloodshed is fairly minimal, but watching this pre-teen Murder Inc. is just a lot of cheesy 80s fun.

The cast make this fun too, especially the kids. As our three homicidal maniacs, Jayne, Hoy and Freeman all perform with over-the-top glee as they plot and carry out heinous acts for their own pleasure, or to hide their evil doings. Jayne and Hoy give their characters a true diabolical malice, though Freeman’s Steven comes off more as a lackey to the other two tykes. Lori Lethin makes a solid and pretty heroine as big sister to Timmy, who has been targeted by the sinister trio. Martel is good as Timmy who is just trying to make someone believe his classmates are literally out to get him. In support, we have a pre-MTV Julie Brown (the white one) showing lots of welcome skin as Debbie’s older sister Beverly and soon to be Cannon Films action icon Michael Dudikoff as Beverly’s boyfriend Willard. Veteran actors José Ferrer and Susan Strasberg have small roles as the kids’ doctor and ill-fated teacher respectively.

In a film making sense it’s not a very good movie, but as entertainment, this one is a lot of fun. We get three really evil bad seeds who gleefully kill with little provocation and do so often. We have an innocent kid caught in their crossfire with only his big sister to believe him, while adults and police remain oblivious. The gore and bloodshed are moderate, but there is some abundant nudity from a young Julie Brown before she became an MTV darling with her music videos and Just Say Julie show. It’s also very 80s and simply very entertaining all the more for taking it’s ridiculous story seriously.

Personal Note: Was it just me or was Debbie’s oblivious mom (Melinda Cordell) kind of a MILF?

-MonsterZero NJ

3 weapons of choice for a homicidal ten year-old.

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