ZOLTAN: HOUND OF DRACULA. (1977) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

reggie nalder face

ZOLTAN: HOUND OF DRACULA. (1977) BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘HOUNDS OF DRACULA’ BY KEN JOHNSON. DIRECTED BY ALBERT BAND. STARRING MICHAEL PATAKI, REGGIE NALDER AND JOSE FERRER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a very strange film; I’m not honestly sure if I’ve ever seen a stranger. I’m reviewing it, though, because of two things. One, it’s referred to on the DVD box as ‘the infamous midnight movie gem, ZOLTAN: HOUND OF DRACULA,’ which harks back to an earlier, possibly much cooler and more exciting era of cinema-going.

And two, because it co-stars Reggie Nalder, who, a year or two later, went on to star as Mr. Kurt Barlow, in other words the vampire, in the television dramatisation of Stephen King’s superb SALEM’S LOT, one of the best vampire books ever written. It’s right up there with DRACULA itself, Anne Rice’s INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and Whitley Strieber’s THE HUNGER. Mr. Barlow is an extremely sinister character, maybe one of the scariest ever screen vampires.

ZOLTAN: HOUND OF DRACULA starts in modern times, with a bunch of soldiers back in ‘the old country,’ i.e., Romania, blasting open a tomb that contains the coffins of dozens of dead members of the Dracula family. That’d be quite the find for us vampire lovers, wouldn’t it?

The dopey soldier ordered to guard the tombs overnight thinks it might be a good idea to pull the stake out of the body of one Dracula family member. It’s the last bright idea he ever has, poor lad.

The corpse he’s unwittingly re-animated is that of Zoltan, Count Dracula’s faithful big black hound, a Doberman Pinscher, and Zoltan’s first task in his new life is to kill the dopey soldier who unintentionally gave him that life again. That’s gratitude for you, eh?

The clever doggie then pulls the stake out of his beloved master, not Count Dracula himself but a part-vampire called Veidt Schmidt (Reggie Nalder), a servant of the Count’s like himself. Together, Zoltan and Schmidt served the Count faithfully back in the day, but now all the Draculas have expired and there’s no-one left for the pair to work for. Or is there…?

The last of the long line of Draculas was apparently smuggled out of Romania years ago for his own safety. Name of Michael Drake, he now lives in California, America, and apparently has no idea he’s a vampire. Schmidt and Zoltan travel to California to find Michael, pursued hotly by an Inspector Branco from ‘the old country,’ whose job it is to stop them.

In the meantime, Michael, a typically American middle-aged married man with a family, has piled his wife and two kids, their two German Shepherd dogs and a box of adorable newborn puppies into their gigantic Winnebago camper van for a holiday by an isolated lake. How long will it be before Veidt and Zoltan, and then Inspector Branco, catch up with them there?

What I didn’t really get about the movie is this: if Veidt and Zoltan want to find Michael to beg him to be their master again, why are all their overtures towards him murderous? Why are they constantly trying to kill him, then?

Some of the scenes featuring dog attacks are very vicious, especially the one where Zoltan is attacking a lonely hitchhiker, and another one where several dogs are keeping Branco and Michael, now fighting fiercely together to defeat the representatives of the house of Dracula, under siege in a fishermen’s cottage.

The dog attacks look so real, and by this stage Zoltan has recruited some local doggies to his cause as well, including Michael’s big mutts Annie and Ramsey. We even see the adorable missing black puppy being vampirised and turned into a puppy of the Un-dead. It’s too cute and weird, but then I mentioned that it was a strange movie, didn’t I?

It’s a very odd little film indeed, but worth at least one watch for Reggie Nalder’s tremendously creepy made-for-horror face and also for all the doggie action, both cute and spooky. Bow-wow, Zoltan old friend, bow-wow. The Meaty Chunks are under the sink.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE HUNGER. (1983) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

hunger catherine

THE HUNGER. 1983. BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE HUNGER’ BY WHITLEY STRIEBER. DIRECTED BY TONY SCOTT. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY STEPHEN GOLDBLATT.

STARRING CATHERINE DENEUVE, DAVID BOWIE, CLIFF DE YOUNG, SUSAN SARANDON, BETH EHLERS, DAN HEDAYA, WILLEM DAFOE AND BAUHAUS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

(First published here in 2016.)

I took this film out of the library recently (yes, there are still those of us who do that, like cave-people who’ve never heard of Netflix…!) and the librarian laughed as he checked it out and remarked that the director really had ‘a thing for billowing curtains.’

I had to laugh too. There certainly are a lot of billowing curtains in this visually beautiful and arty erotic vampire film, along with classical music and classical statuary and paintings. The director was definitely trying to create something artistically eye-catching and in this he’s succeeded, but the film’s not without its problems or, indeed, its stern critics.

Despite its being obviously sexy and stylish, film critic Roger Ebert described the film as ‘an agonisingly bad vampire movie.’ That’s one way of looking at it, I suppose, but it’s found itself a cult following amongst the goth subculture so the news isn’t all bad.

Me personally, I love this film and think it’s one of the best non-Dracula vampire movies ever made, along with INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and SALEM’S LOT, based on the internationally bestselling books by Anne Rice and Stephen King respectively.

Now to the plot. Miriam Blaylock, played by well-preserved French actress Catherine BELLE DE JOUR Deneuve, is one hot momma. In one way. In another, she’s a stone-cold bitch who also just so happens to be a vampire. That’s right, she’s an ageless and beautiful vampire who is hundreds, maybe thousands of years old.

She lives in Manhattan in a fantastic old house filled with the aforementioned priceless objets d’art. She doesn’t need to go out to work because she’s as rich as Croesus, although she poses as a teacher of classical music along with her handsome younger husband. By the way, did I forget to mention that this classy lassy with the bottomless bank account is married in the film to the Thin White Duke…?

Yep, her hubby John, an eighteenth-century cellist, is played by musician-actor David Bowie, who sadly passed away earlier this year and- as some people maintain!- unintentionally sparked off a chain of celebrity deaths that had us reeling and railing against the Grim Reaper till midsummer at least. It’s been a bad year for celebrity deaths.

He’s a vampire too like his missus but he’s a very tragic figure in this film. When we come in, he’s unfortunately started to age at the rate of knots, even though Miriam, that lying, manipulative bitch, had promised him eternal life and also eternal youth when they first got together back in the eighteenth century.

She may have been telling porkies about the eternal youth thing, but it seems that she was telling the brutal truth about his living forever, which is extremely bad news for her hubby John who’s now so ancient in his appearance that he makes Grampa Simpson from THE SIMPSONS look young…!

Before long, Miriam is callously locking him away in a coffin in a room at the top of the house where, incidentally, she keeps the rotting corpses of her other lovers. She’s pledged eternal love to all of them but we quickly learn that ‘eternity’ for Miriam can end in a heartbeat the minute she tires of you or you can no longer satisfy her. The corpses are doomed to lie there, awake and aware, for all eternity because she’s too goddamn selfish to let them die. That bitch. I told you guys she was cold…!

Things start to get really gruesome after poor, poor old David Bowie has been put in his ‘forever’ box in a heartbreaking scene that would make you feel very angry with Miriam on behalf of John and the other boxed lovers.

The sexually insatiable but horrifically selfish Miriam then turns her attentions to Dr. Sarah Roberts, the author of a dreary but terribly worthy tome called SLEEP AND LONGEVITY who carries out ageing experiments on monkeys, of all things.

Dr. Roberts, a gerontologist consulted by an agonised David Bowie before his incarceration in Miriam’s attic, is played by a freakishly young-looking Susan Sarandon with a painfully ‘Eighties hairstyle. Poor David Bowie thought that maybe she could slow down or even stop altogether his dreadful ageing process but it was no dice, sadly. Science hasn’t advanced that far yet, if it ever does.

Sarah can’t help being mesmerised by Miriam, who is quite simply the last word in feminine allure. The two have lesbian sex in Miriam’s gaff. (Well, what other kind could they have…?) Yes, you do see boobs; Sarah’s, but not Miriam’s…!

The sex is all very artistically-shot and stylish, and by the end of it, Miriam has co-mingled their respective bloods, in a disgustingly non-consensual act of what we’d today probably refer to as rape, and Sarah is on her way to becoming a fully-fledged vampire.

Sarah gets as sick as a dog as her body comes to terms with its new situation. I love the scene in which Miriam tells her new lover that she’ll sleep for six hours out of every twenty-four and she’ll need to ‘feed’ once a week. Just give the girl the instructive pamphlets entitled SO YOU’RE A VAMPIRE NOW or VAMPIRES 101 or VAMPIRES FOR DUMMIES or even SO YOU’VE RUINED YOUR LIFE and let her figure it all out for herself, lol. 

Sarah becomes so desperate for blood when ‘the hunger,’ as Miriam puts it, is upon her, that she kills her own scientist lover when he comes looking for her at Miriam’s place, and she joins in the gory fun when Miriam rips a young male pick-up limb from limb.

Sarah’s scientist friends are alarmed when they examine her blood medically and discover that her bloodstream has actually been invaded by a foreign, non-human blood strain, which is winning the battle for dominance over Sarah’s own normal blood.

It’s extremely frightening for Sarah (‘What have you done to me…?’), and it’s also almost impossible not to think of the way in which the AIDS virus is transmitted. This was, after all, the time when AIDS was rearing its ugly head for the first time. The passing of the vampire gene resembles the transmission of a blood infection. Christopher Lee never had this issue, lol.

In fact, when I first used to watch the devastatingly handsome and sexually dominant Christopher Lee as Dracula in the HAMMER HORROR films, I wanted nothing more than to be a vampire too.

I’d live with him in his crumbling Transylvanian castle and drink blood from a jewel-encrusted goblet brought to me nightly by my new husband’s naked, full-bosomed handmaidens. It was going to be sweet. This film put me off the idea of being a vampire for good.

All that sweating and being sick and looking as if you’re dying with the ‘flu while your body craves human blood changed my mind about it, along with the decidedly unsavoury sight of Susan Sarandon in her yucky grey sweat-socks sweating buckets through her old grey T-shirt.

I only ever wanted the glamour and the sex with Dracula, anyway, not so much the other stuff. I certainly never wanted to do my own killing, and I’d only ever be pushed about immortality if I had someone decent to share it with. But, when it comes down to it, isn’t that what Miriam wants for herself…?

So anyway, do Miriam and Sarah live happily ever after for all eternity, or is eternity just too long a time even for a vampire…? There’s a neat little twist at the end that I can’t tell you about, but I thought it was a strange ending to an already strange film. Apparently, some members of the cast were disappointed in the ending but some viewers will think it’s only right and proper.

There are some plotholes in the film, which is so painfully ‘Eighties it looks a bit dated now, but the plotholes, I suppose, are of secondary importance compared to the look of the thing. Willem Dafoe makes a brief cameo as a man who wants to use the pay-phone after Susan Sarandon’s finished with it and the violin-playing kid is really, really annoying. ‘Eighties band BAUHAUS make an appearance and the monkey experiments stuff gets quite confusing after a while. I didn’t enjoy that bit too much.

The first half-hour drags a bit and things don’t really get going until David Bowie is locked away in his coffin, but the hour or so after that is required viewing for fans of the vampire genre. Based on the novel by Whitley Strieber, there’s not one mention of the ‘v’ word in the film, however, which is interesting. Watch this if you enjoy vampire flicks. If you can overlook the flaws, it’s a real little cracker, I promise you.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

STEPHEN KING’S ‘PET SEMATARY.’ (1989) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

stephen-king-in-a-cameo-in-the-movie-version-of-pet-cemetery

PET SEMATARY. (1989) BASED ON THE BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. SCREENPLAY BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY MARY LAMBERT. STARRING DALE MIDKIFF, DENISE CROSBY, MIKO HUGHES, BLAZE BERDAHL AND FRED GWYNNE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Sometimes dead is better…

With a re-make of this film in cinemas fairly soon, I thought it might be a good time to re-visit it. It’s based on one of horror maestro Stephen King’s best books, and I hope I’m not alone in thinking this. It’d be right up there with THE SHINING, a tale of madness and ghostly visitations set in an isolated hotel that’s closed to the public in the winter, and SALEM’S LOT, possibly the best vampire novel of modern times. (Yes, yes, I’m aware of the works of Pablo Neruda, by which I mean Anne Rice…!)

CARRIE, the maestro’s first book, was also a terrific read and made a great film, starring Sissy Spacek as the telekinetic high school outsider who wreaks a terrible revenge on the teenagers who’ve made her life a misery, and who could blame her? They were proper little bitches to her, lol. They had it coming.

There are loads of other brilliant Stephen King books, short stories and novellas that were made into films too, like MISERY, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, THE LANGOLIERS, BAG OF BONES (a personal favourite starring the swoonsome pairing of Pierce 007 Brosnan and Melissa George from Antipodean soap opera HOME AND AWAY), THE DARK HALF, THINNER, CUJO, CHILDREN OF THE CORN, IT, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, STAND BY ME, SECRET WINDOW, SECRET GARDEN, THE STAND (which I adored), THE MIST (with the saddest ending of any horror film ever, bar none) and probably a few more which I’ve forgotten. You can remind me if you like!

He’s had a career to be super-proud of, anyway, the King, probably the most commercially successful career of any writer who ever lived, God bless him. If anything ever happens to him, and we hope nothing will (I’m personally hoping he might be immortal!), he’ll be leaving behind millions of devastated fans, that’s for sure. Yes, we have plenty of talented horror scribes writing away today, and that’s great, but there can never be another Stephen King.

Anyway, PET SEMATARY is the story of a small family from Chicago who move to a lovely big house in a small American town in Maine. The Dad, Louis Creed, is going to work as the town’s doctor. His wife Rachel is strangely uptight, but then she had a really rough childhood.

She still keeps in touch with her parents, whom she seems to love, but her childhood experiences with her sick sister Zelda were truly the stuff of nightmares. It’s jolly decent of her to still maintain a relationship with her parents after the way they left her alone, at her age, with the dying girl. It was irresponsible of them at best, and cruel beyond belief at worst.

Louis and Rachel have two children, Ellie and Gage. Ellie is a little girl who’s got a bit of a ‘shining’ thing going on, or even a ‘shinning,’ if you’re a fan of THE SIMPSONS. She has disturbing, distressing dreams that accurately predict the future, although her parents don’t take her seriously at first. There’s also the aforementioned Gage, their adorable little baby son, and a cat rather coolly called Winston Churchill. That’s the Creed family, anyway.

Now, they don’t seem to realise that they’ve purchased a property that has no fencing around it and that gives on to the most dangerous road in the whole of the Western hemisphere. Trucks and lorries tear up and down this road day and night, and nearly the whole of the town’s population of cats and dogs has ended up as roadkill beneath the wheels of these diesel-guzzling monsters.

The Creeds’ new neighbour, the lovely old widower Judd Crandall, leads them down a worn woodland path on their property to a clearing known as the ‘Pet Sematary.’ It’s a place of burial for all the beloved pets of the town’s children.

I presume they were all killed prematurely trying to cross that damned road, lol. Anyway, it’s at least handy to know that there’s a place to bury old Church the kitty if he ever decides to get to the root of the old joke, why did the chicken cross the road…? It’s meant to be a place of peace and rest but it’s a wee bit creepy too.

Things get much creepier when Church in fact does get run over while Rachel, Ellie and Gage are away at Rachel’s parents for Thanksgiving, leaving Louis in charge of the house. Well, that’s what you get for leaving a man to hold the fort. Remember that auld fella from FATHER TED who tried to make a cup of tea and he ended up breaking his leg? That’s the kind of thing you’re up against.

Old Judd Crandall decides that this is the time to let a stunned Louis into a secret he’s known about for years, a secret about the strange little place in the woods the kids call the ‘Pet Sematary.’ It’s the original ‘Indian burial ground’ horror story. 

What happens after Louis becomes privy to the secret of Pet Sematary is so nightmarish, I won’t ruin it for you by dropping spoilers. Suffice it to say that Louis actually feels he’s in a nightmare from this point onwards, a nightmare from which he can’t wake up.

Stephen King makes his usual cameo appearance as the minister who presides over the funeral of the poor miserable Missy, and very handsome he looks too, with a full healthy head of thick black hair. What’s your favourite Stephen King cameo? The one in MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE where he says to his wife of the cash machine that’s behaving erratically: ‘Honey, the machine just called me an asshole…!’ Yeah, mine too!

The ghastly supernatural appearances of the decidedly dead Victor Pascow seem to make little sense at first but gradually his true purpose becomes all too clear. I love the bit where Louis wakes up in his bed after having a nightmare where he’s following a mutilated Victor through the woods and, when he wakes up, his legs and feet are covered in muck and debris. I love Victor’s dire warnings about how ‘the barrier’ shouldn’t be ‘crossed’ because ‘the ground is sour.’ It’s blood-chilling stuff.

The terrible story of poor old Timmy Baterman is a great addition to the movie also. The film as a whole, like the old cautionary story of ‘The Monkey’s Paw,’ proves without a doubt the truth of the adage: ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ And Judd Crandall (played by Fred Gwynne, Herman Munster from THE MUNSTERS) is right too, dead right, when he intones to Louis in sombre tones that ‘Sometimes dead is better.’

The thing is, will Louis take his wise old neighbour’s advice? Louis Creed is young and hot-headed and he still thinks he knows what’s best for his family. He doesn’t respect the old adages, which are there for a reason, to guard us against the urges of our less-than-better natures. He’ll have to learn the hard way so, and learn he must.

Oh and, by the way, before I watched this movie I didn’t realise that the word ‘Sematary’ was a deliberate childish mis-spelling on the part of Stephen King, I thought it was how the Yanks spelled the word. D’oh…!

Do try to watch or re-watch this old gem before you catch the re-make in the cinema next month, just to give you something to compare the newbie to. And always remember to be careful what you wish for, just like poor Louis Creed isn’t careful. And why be careful? Because you just might get it, that’s why…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor