Dracula vs Frankenstein/Brain of Blood (1971)

MAY 25, 2020


I saw my first Al Adamson movie (Blood of Dracula's Castle) in 2010, and was so delighted I instantly knew I had to seek out more of his work. And now, over a decade later, I've finally done that, thanks to Severin's incredible new boxed set of pretty much the filmmaker's entire filmography. A whopping 31 films are included on the set, which includes a new documentary about his life (and very weird death) and more extras than even a supplements junkie like myself could probably get through in a reasonable amount of time. Just on the first disc I picked out, which includes Dracula vs Frankenstein and Brain of Blood, there are two commentaries, interviews, a 55 minute video essay about the former, and more - so you're talking 7-8 hours' worth of content on a single disc, and there are fourteen of them!

It's amusing that a filmmaker like Adamson would be the subject of such a lavish set (one that took Herculean efforts from the Severin folks) to pull together, because the films themselves are cheap, quickie productions that allowed Adamson and frequent collaborator Sam Sherman to cut corners (some of the films have the same score, for example). But that sort of "let's get it done" attitude is a big part of their charm, in my opinion, and the bonus features actually shed some light on how/why the films are the way they are. Dracula vs Frankenstein, for example, started life as a film that didn't include either character and simply focused on a hulking killer picking off people on/near the beach. But for business reasons the two legendary monsters were added in, and now we have a film that lives up to the Adamson gold standard.

And by that I mean it's a kitchen sink-type affair, just as Blood of Dracula's Castle and (as I'd discover the next day) Brain of Blood were. The films come off like something being described by Stefon from SNL; DvF has the two title characters, a mute murderer (played by Lon Chaney Jr!), hippie protests, a Vegas act, a carnival dwarf, evil bikers... and, if anything, Brain of Blood has even more packed into it (a possible government coup, for example). As I get older and see more movies it gets harder to truly surprise me anymore, as I recognize the beats and sleight of hand attempts at misdirecting the audience, but I can truly say that with these movies I never in a million years could have predicted where they'd end up based on their first few minutes. Good or bad doesn't really matter - long as I'm engaged and surprised, then I call it a win.

Dracula vs. Frankenstein has a notoriously low rating on IMDb to give it some "worst movies of all time" type exposure (being Chaney's last film doesn't help either; it probably generated some interest from Wolf Man fans that would have otherwise skipped such fare), but I found it to be a fun little flick. I assume that the shoddiness of Dracula's costume and performance (the "actor" was Sherman's stockbroker, from what I understand) is to blame for the poor reviews, but I've seen worse incarnations of the character (Dracula 3000, for example) and knew not to expect anything on par with Lugosi or even Butler. Plus he's not in the movie all that much (makes sense since he was added in later), and his scenes are ridiculous enough to be enjoyable in their own weird way, like when he first encounters Frankenstein (the doctor, not the monster) and proceeds to explain the man's own backstory to him.

Plus at its core is a "looking for a missing family member" subplot, which is something I always take a liking to - everything from The Seventh Victim to the Friday the 13th remake has some version of this story and it tends to keep me invested when we're finding things out along with the hero (which is why it doesn't fully work in F13 '09 - we know his sister's alive long before he does). Her journey is what gives the film many of its more random elements (LSD trips! Biker run-ins! A cop that looks like David Lynch!) so in addition to not knowing if her sister is alive or not, we also never have even the slightest idea of what she might get mixed up in next as she tries to find out.

Brain of Blood, featuring many of the same cast members (including the stockbroker guy again, albeit in a far less crucial role), somehow manages to be even wackier, since the plot concerns the fictional Arabian nation of Kalid and how its dying leader's brain will be placed in a healthy body (and then given plastic surgery to make sure no one can tell the difference!), which goes horribly wrong and the brain ends up inside a hulking brute, who has some of the leader's brain but retains some of his own, murderous instincts as well. There's almost a mild Bond (or, at least, Bond ripoff) kind of vibe here - amidst all of the murders there's a big car chase and a rooftop fistfight, not to mention "stop a crazy man from taking over a foreign country" sounds more like a spy movie plot than one for a horror movie from the Dracula vs Frankenstein team.

Whether these are the best, worst, or merely "average" Adamson films is something I look forward to finding out as I go through the boxed set, though these two more or less match up to my take on Dracula's Castle, which is that they're kind of stuffed to the gills with random elements that somehow ultimately work together. None of them are what I'd call "great", but that's sort of besides the point, because (especially at this moment in history) they held my attention and made me smile for 90 minutes, which is what I'm sure anyone involved was hoping to achieve in the first place. And besides, they were made for drive-in audiences 50 years ago, not exhaustive special edition Blu-rays, so the fact that they can still entertain a guy by himself at home is proof of their enduring success. Obviously the boxed set itself is kind of expensive for your average blind buy, but if you're unaccustomed to Adamson's style, I highly encourage seeking out one of his movies and seeing if you too can appreciate his vibe. And if you ARE a fan, then I can't imagine not wanting this on your shelf, if the presentation and accompanying extras just on this one disc are any indication of the quality of the rest of the set.

What say you?


  1. Amazingly, these two films were both shown on Saturday night horror film programs on NY area independent TV stations back in the 1970s. The book "Fright Night on Channel 9" by James Arena, which is essential reading for those who loved such programs, has three chapters that provide a very lengthy interview with Sam Sherman. Great stuff, plus the book will give you more viewing ideas (there are reviews of every film ever shown on Fright Night, which totals roughly 300 or so).

  2. Trivia note: The blonde who looks like she has a sprayed-on tan, actress Regina Carrol, was Al Adamson's real-life wife. She was in a bunch of his films, including both of these.


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