Released in 1969 by Crown International Pictures (but actually shot a few years prior, in 1966), Blood of Dracula’s Castle, as one might assume from the title, is a horror film about vampires. That’s right, I’m reviewing another Al Adamson film. I wouldn’t set my expectations too high, if I were you.
As home video releases for the film are presented in standard definition and were sourced from a heavily damaged print, Blood of Dracula’s Castle opens looking like total shit! Large green lines run through the entire image and, unfortunately, remain there for a notable time. The image does eventually clear up, but is never anything that one could consider “quality” condition. Thankfully (or maybe not), there really isn’t much to see during the film’s opening moments, so you really aren’t missing anything of significance. Then again, there’s arguably not much to see during the film’s entire runtime. We’ll get to that in just a bit.
The film opens to find a young woman (Vicky Volante, who would later appear in Adamson’s Horror of the Blood Monsters, Brain of Blood, and a few others) enjoying a cruise down a desert road. The woman, “Ann”, experiences some undisclosed issues with her car and is forced to walk the nearby hills in search of help. Instead, she discovers a large disfigured man. She faints, quite exaggeratedly, at the sight of the brutish man, a simpleton named “Mango” (Ray Young – Coffy, Hunter’s Blood), giving him the opportunity to pick her up and carry her off. All that said, the highlight of this sequence is the song “Next Train Out”, which is prominently played for its entirety during the opening. As sung by Gil Bernal, the song is just awful and gets annoyingly repetitive rather quickly, but will surely be stuck in your head for the full duration of the film. Take that as a condemnation of the film’s overall quality!
Mango carries Ann to a nearby castle, which also serves as the home of an older wealthy couple named the Townsends, played by Alexander D’Arcy and Paula Raymond (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Adamson’s Five Bloody Graves). As implied by the film’s title and poster image, the Townsends are actually vampires who obtain their necessary dose of human blood from victims abducted by Mango. Also in their employ are a psychopathic killer named “Johnny” (Robert Dix, who previously appeared in Forbidden Planet, and would later also appear in Horror of the Blood Monsters), whom the film will introduce to us shortly, as well as a “Moon God”-worshiping homicidal butler (horror legend John Carradine, who was starring in just about anything offered to him by this point in his career).
We are next introduced to fashion photographer, Glen (Gene O’Shane), and the model he has chosen to be his new bride, Liz (Jennifer Bishop, who ALSO appears in Horror of the Blood Monsters, as well as Mako: Jaws of Death with Richard Jaeckel). Glen receives a telegraph informing him that an uncle he barely knew has passed. In his will, the uncle has left his castle in Arizona to Gene! However, the castle has been rented out by a couple named the Townsends for the last 60 years!! Liking the idea of living in her own castle, Liz convinces Glen to make it their new home, but he will first need to evict the older couple! And yes, you did read that correctly! These vampires pay rent!!
The Townsends are informed that their home has received new ownership and are prepared to make an offer to buy the castle. Then again, they are also prepared to kill Glen in case he decides differently! Thankfully for them, their “assistant”, Johnny, is being busted out of prison that very evening, and can help dispose of their “problem”, if needed. However, Johnny is far from reliable… or sane… and kills a few people on the way to the castle. Oh, and (depending on which version of the film you watch) he may also be a werewolf! Even if he is, it plays no real importance to the overall plot.
Meanwhile, Ann remains chained to a wall in the castle cellar, along with a few other unfortunate women. The butler draws some of her blood with a long syringe, which will be used to feed the Townsends. Regrettably (or maybe not, due to her acting ability), Volante is given little else to do in the film than to wait around for her promised impending demise and do a piss poor job of “fainting” on multiple occasions.
At around the 33-minute mark, Glen and Liz finally make the trip out to the castle. So, what has been happening in the film during these first 30-plus minutes while we wait for these two to actually advance the plot? Not much, really. You get a few scenes featuring Glen photographing Liz in various outfits while they hang out at (the now-defunct) Marineland California. You also get to watch Johnny kill a few folks as he works his way from the prison to the castle. There’s also a few scenes of the women who are being kept prisoner in the cellar looking more bored than terrified. What you don’t get, however, is anything with any real importance to the plot.
Upon reaching the castle, Glen and Liz are told that they must wait, as the Townsends are “unavailable”. In truth, they are in their coffins (also located in the cellar), waiting for sunset. The couples are eventually introduced, and the Townsends officially informed of their impending eviction. Mrs. Townsend does her best to discourage the new owners from taking over the castle, citing cold drafts and a rat infestation as reasons why they wouldn’t want to live in such a dilapidated old building, but Glen and Liz remain convinced. The Townsends convince the other couple into spending the night, hoping that it will change their minds. That said, they also keep them nearby in case they don’t change their minds and the Townsends are forced to have them killed the following morning!
As they lay in bed that evening, Glen and Liz are woken by the sound of a woman screaming. We, the viewer, know this to be one of the women in the castle cellar, but they are told by both the butler and Johnny the following morning that what they heard was the sound of the Townsend’s toucan screeching in the early hours. They doubt this explanation and begin a search of the castle, quickly discovering the cellar… and the women kept prisoner within! They attempt to free the women, but are promptly stopped and detained by Johnny, Mango, and the butler. They are both placed in chains themselves.
Now trapped, Glen is given an ultimatum: Sell the castle to the Townsends or be used as their blood supply while he watches Liz being butchered by Johnny. Actually, it’s not much of an ultimatum as they inform Glen that they are going to do just that whether he sells or not. The film eventually ends in predictably unspectacular fashion. There was, arguably, some attempt to leave the film open for a sequel, but it’s difficult to consider such a proposition when so little actually happens in this film.
Blood of Dracula’s Castle was written by Rex Carlton, who also wrote and produced The Brain That Wouldn’t Die and Nightmare in Wax. Sadly, in my opinion, Blood of Dracula’s Castle is nowhere as well made, cohesive, or entertaining as those other films. The film plays as more of a dark comedy than a true horror film, although I can not say that was fully intentional. There are still some rather grim moments to be found, such as Johnny’s brutal drowning of a young woman as he makes his flight from prison, or the fiery sacrificial death of one of the women kept in the cellar.
Despite some fun performances from D’Arcy, Raymond, and Carradine, poor editing (made worse by home releases being further poorly edited) and even worse pacing prevent Blood of Dracula’s Castle from ever…. well, from ever doing much of anything! Honestly, this one’s not even much fun to laugh at. Overall, Blood of Dracula’s Castle is a pretty bloodless affair. Even by Al Adamson standards, this vampire sucks!
As with most films, Blood of Dracula’s Castle is available for purchase on Amazon. Unless you are buying it as part of a Mill Creek multi-movie pack (such as this one, LINK: https://amzn.to/2vL4u7l), you’d probably be better off just watching it for free on Youtube. As such, I have included the full film below!
Agreed, this is a pretty dull one — Al was no filmmaking genius, but he made some far more energetic movies. One of the reasons might be that he was intrigued by the location — Castle Ranch (aka Shea’s Castle) in Lancaster, and in wanting to use its cool interiors, made the film much too staid and lifeless. It is a very cool location — a modern “castle” built by a wealthy American developer who lost all his money in the ’29 stock market crash. Since then, it’s been the location for several films and TV shows.
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Thanks for the additional info, Brian!! I can’t say I knew much about the location, so that’s interesting to learn about. I’d be hard pressed to call any of Al’s movies “good”, but at least they are usually entertaining. This one, as you said, is just dull.
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Ah, this is one of those films of youth. Yeah, it’s awful, but from experiencing it via a late night weekend UHF-TV showing, it holds a place in the heart.