Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein – Spain/France/Portugal, 1972

Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein is a 1972 European horror feature film written and directed by Jesús Franco. The movie stars Dennis Price, Howard Vernon, Paca Gabaldón and Alberto Dalbés.

Plot:

Dracula kills another innocent victim and Dr. Seward decides it’s time to wipe the fiend off the face of the earth. Armed with a hammer and a wooden stake, he arrives at Castle Dracula and duly dispatches the vampire Count.

Next day, however, Dr. Frankenstein arrives with his assistant, Morpho, and a large crate containing the monster. Using the blood of a pub singer who has been abducted by his creation, the doctor brings Dracula back to life and uses him for his own ends.

The Count and a female vampire continue to terrorise the town, so Dr. Seward once again sets out for Castle Dracula. Unfortunately, he is attacked by the Frankenstein monster and left for dead. Amira, a gypsy, rescues him and summons up a werewolf to do battle with the forces of evil…

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Review:

What do you get when you combine competent directorial technique, a solid script, and a clearly delineated narrative? Not this. Jess Franco’s Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein is on par with most of his other early ’70s productions. That is to say, it’s stodgy, painfully slow, cheap, gratuitous, embarrassing, and essentially an unwatchable, coma-inducing sledgehammer.

Franco’s filmmaking skills come dangerously close to the incompetent here, with his visual style summed up simply as: zoom, zoom, zoom, with the occasional insertion of extreme long-shots, claustrophobic close-ups, and soporific slow pans. His boggling narrative execution is hallucinatory at best, but not in an interesting way; scenes float into the air, unattached to anything else around them until an innocuous and brief pseudo-grounding is provided via an equally innocuous action or galumphing explication later on, giving the viewer headaches while trying to piece it all together.

Thematically and conceptually, Franco’s on the level of a lurid, feeble-minded child playing with his newly acquired, and tattily-made, monster action figures; for example, in the climactic scene where Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man are slapped together in order to duke it out Three Stooges-style, the monster nearly loses his toupée. This would all be quite funny if it had been planned or at least done with some enthusiasm, but it wasn’t; the whole thing is simply bloated and indifferent, dragging itself to a conclusion that Franco doesn’t seemingly even care about. This movie is a cinematic creature best left un-revived.

Ben Spurling, HORRORPEDIA

Other reviews:

“A Brillo-pad werewolf. Bubbling sex that never boils over. Four-star, no budget vampire attacks. The expected Jess Franco Nightclub Sequence. A strange focus on frantic bats (both rubber and real). Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein is, quite literally, a pleasant dream. Upon regaining your wits, you’re left half-asleep, yet ready to conquer the world. Or, at the very least, your insomnia.” Joseph A. Ziemba, Bleeding Skull!

“Only Britt Nicholl’s elegantly erotic Lady Dracula comes off as a credible, original creation. In fact, the actresses here, Josiane Gibert as the doomed cabaret singer, Genvieve Deloir as the gypsy and Paca Galaban’s mentally disturbed Maria are much more defined and interesting characters than the male leads. They have to react to the mad scientists and monsters, who are pretty much one-dimensional menaces in Franco’s raggedy mise-en-scene.” Robert Monell, El Franconomicon

” … has laughable make-up and special effects but offers rich surrealistic moments lightened by a corny nightclub act with sub-sexy songs […] it is an enjoyable piece of fun for people with a good sense of humour.” Lucas Balbo, Obsession: The Films of Jess Franco, 1993

“It’s like a dream that seems to tell a logical and coherent story while you’re in the midst of it, but appears utterly nonsensical under the scrutiny of the waking mind. Franco did that sort of thing a lot in the early 70’s, of course, but to see the narrative sensibility of A Virgin Among the Living Dead applied to the old House of Frankenstein template somehow feels so counterintuitive.” Scott Ashlin, 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

Cast and characters:

  • Dennis Price … Doctor Frankenstein
  • Howard Vernon … Dracula
  • Paca Gabaldón [as Mary Francis] … Maria
  • Alberto Dalbés … Doctor Jonathan Seward
  • Carmen Yazalde [as Britt Nichols] … Female vampire
  • Geneviève Robert [as Genevieve Deloir] … Amira
  • Anne Libert … Dracula’s first victim
  • Luis Barboo [as Luis Bar Boo]… Morpho
  • Brandy … The Wolf Man
  • Fernando Bilbao… The Monster
  • Josyane Gibert [as Josiane Gibert] … Estela

Filming locations:

Estoril, Cascais, Sintra, Lisbon, Portugal
Alicante, Comunidad Valenciana, Spain

Alternate titles:

Drácula contra Frankenstein
Dracula contro Frankenstein
Dracula prisonnier de Frankenstein
Die Nacht der offenen Särge
The Screaming Dead

Image credits: El Franconomicon

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