An amateur archaeologist tracks down the location of a supernatural ring to Dracula’s castle, but his irresponsible twin brother sets out to reach it first. When he arrives, he finds the estate owned by a beautiful Countess, but it turns out that she remains immortal by bathing in the blood of seven virgins every 30 years…
Somewhat underpowered Euro-Horror from director Luigi Batzella (credited as Paolo Solvay) which looks pretty good but lacks both a compelling plot and interesting characters. The story focuses on twins Karl and Franz Schiller (Mark Damon), one a serious academic, the other a suave ‘man about town’ who already looks a bit like a vampire with his black cloak and pale complexion. Karl has been hitting the (dusty) books and has tracked down the legendary ring that was the subject of Wagner’s famous music cycle. Apparently, it originally arrived on Earth as part of a meteorite and has been in the possession of every famous warlord in history; Atilla the Hun, Ivan the Terrible, Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, among others. And now it’s fetched up at Castle Dracula. How he knows all this is a bit of a mystery, but, you know…books!
Anyway, Franz fancies a bit of this as the ring endows the owner with unearthly and superhuman powers, so he hotfoots it for the Carpathians with the hapless Karl in eventual pursuit. Franz gets the usual cold shoulder when he mentions ‘Castle Dracula’ at the local inn, but things seem to be looking up when he finds the Castle in the possession of the Countess De Vries (the luminous Rosalba Neri) who asks him to stay for a dinner that may include her for desert. Vampires! A supernatural ring! Rosalba Neri! It’s enough to make any cult movie fan start having palpitations!
Unfortunately, what the film delivers is a rather lacklustre remake of the opening chapters of Bram Stoker’s original novel followed by an underwhelming climax. Franz is just a stand in for solicitor Jonathan Harker; finding himself locked in his room at the castle, climbing out the window, creeping down cobwebbed passages, finding cofﬁns in the crypt and stumbling across a vampire bride. Eventually, he’s attacked by some psychedelic visuals (as well as Neri, which was probably a lot more fun) and it’s up to ‘good twin’ Karl to try and save the day. This is all fine as far as it goes but the pace is very slow and the ﬁnal action isn’t helped by some truly dreadful SFX, which would have been best left on the cutting room floor.
As per most Euro-horrors of the period, the castle is appropriately gothic and there’s rich colour cinematography from Aristide Massaccesi (later to direct dozens of exploitation pictures under many aliases, the best known being Joe D’Amato). Neri looks as amazing as ever and her performance is perfectly adequate but it lacks the spark of her best work. Perhaps she was getting a little tired of the generic roles coming her way at the time.
But the main problem here is the script, which is credited to three separate authors. After the first act, the story never really develops, becoming simply a series of predictable events padded out with occasional trippy visuals and a smattering of nudity and gore, including Neri writhing about naked in a bath of blood (which is nice). Even at less than 90 minutes, proceedings seem remorselessly padded.
Damon retired from acting in 1997 but was far better known as producer by then anyway. Beginning in the 1970s, he began hitting his stride with family science fiction pictures in the following decade, including ‘The NeverEnding Story’ (1984), ‘Short Circuit’ (1986) and ‘Flight of The Navigator’ (1986). Since then his name has been attached to a variety of projects; everything from the tame erotica of ‘Wild Orchid’ (1989) to hopeless horror ‘Feardotcom’ (2002) to real-life drama ‘Monster’ (2003), which snagged an Oscar for Charlize Theron.
So, is the film just an excuse to see some tried and trusted horror tropes spiced up with a little bit of blood and some beautiful women with no clothes on? Yes, of course, it is. But it’s not really anything more.