As the Christmas zoo- and horror-philia starts with a giant ape climbing the Empire State and Lassie making a comeback to the screens (not to mention Werner Herzog’s upcoming Grizzly Man – but that’s a different story), fans of cult director Paul Morrissey should not miss the opportunity to catch the screenings of the hard-to-come-by Blood for Dracula (also known as Andy Warhol’s Dracula) and made as a companion piece to Flesh for Frankenstein, which is playing as part of of a season of cult/horror/trash movies called Psychotronic Cinema at the ICA in London. Morrissey, of course, is famous because of his films with Andy Warhol and later in his life he became a bit villified because of his supposed conservative views (he said he made Trash because people who take drugs are, well, trashy).
But conservatism is not to be found in this superb rendition of the Dracula story, which even has a cameo by Roman Polanski. Camp, sexiness and amazing cinematography are on offer here. Morrissey takes the fanged count to the beautiful, soft-lit pastures of the Italian countryside, where he is put up by the aristocratic De Fiore family, headed by no one less than Vittorio de Sica’s (yes, he who made Bicycle Thieves!) Marchese de Fiore.
As it happens, the De Fiori are short of money and see in the count a money-grabbing opportunity since they have two daughters to marry off. Dracula headed to Italy thinking he could find virgin blood in the Catholic country. But how wrong he was and he gets sicker and sicker as he tries different girls only to almost puke his guts out (that’s the reaction to non-virgin blood, apparently). With elements of farce, physical comedy, melancholy, art-house-meets-trash cinema aesthetics, Blood for Dracula is an exhilarating experience.
Like all ‘period’ films – and especially this type of period film that adopts a very Brechtian method of distanciation and deliberately artificial acting – Blood for Dracula is a very seventies film (it was made in 1975), with all the tongue-in-cheek eroticism that was en vogue in those days. But Morrisey had very good taste and the film is always stunning to look at. Kier, with his homme-fatale, chiseled looks, was born to play the role and, like Dracula, will live eternally in our memories with the image of blood dreeping from his craving mouth.
Blood for Dracula plays at the ICA, London on 17, 23 and 28 December