DRACULA’S DOG (1977)
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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. Its 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 its 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!
Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) hounds of Dracula.