“In the night, the silence of death will surround us, just interrupted from time to time by screams of terror and horror.”
Not to be confused with the 1936 Universal horror film Dracula’s Daughter, the 1972 film Daughter of Dracula (aka La fille de Dracula) is yet another Eurosleaze effort from director Jesús “Jess” Franco, the king of that particular subgenre. Revisiting much of the same ground he covered more artfully one year prior with Vampyros Lesbos, Daughter of Dracula exists primarily to showcase a good deal of nudity, taking a break every once in a while for some stilted talk about vampires or a cutaway to an aged Dracula sleeping in his coffin. The movie, like a number of Jess Franco efforts I’ve seen, is a chore to get through.
The plot, such as it is, finds a young woman named Louisa (Britt Nichols, The Demons) returning to her family estate to care for her dying mother, the baroness Karlstein (Carmen Carbonell). The baroness confides in Louisa that their family are the descendants of Count Dracula and that he remains hidden in the basement of the castle, weak and unable to rise from his coffin. Naturally, Louisa goes looking for him while at the same time entering into a torrid affair with a woman I believe is her cousin? Meanwhile, a policeman and a reporter investigate the murder of a young woman whose body was discovered on the beach. Do these threads connect? Barely.
See, we know who the woman found on the beach is because the movie opens with her getting naked and taking a bath. Yep, this is a Jess Franco movie. But if her murder is meant to be blamed on Dracula, I don’t get it because the movie suggests he can’t get out of his coffin. The character of Dracula, actually, is pretty much an afterthought, as is most of the movie’s vampire imagery and mythology. The real reason for the film’s existence is to display the naked female form early and often. I do mean early; the opening scene has a woman getting naked and taking a bath in what appears to be real time. Characters disrobe unprovoked throughout the movie, and Franco’s none-to-subtle photography will literally zoom in on their bathing suit areas. In another movie, maybe some of this stuff would be erotic. In the context of a Franco film, however, it just feels perfunctory. The shamelessly clunky way he approaches sexuality and disguises it as high art is essentially his auteurist stamp. I get it. I just don’t much care for it.
For a time thought to be lost, Daughter of Dracula arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber’s Redemption label. Presented in a 1080p HD transfer in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, the movie has its problems but looks as good as it probably ever will. Detail is ok and colors have that washed-out ‘70s look, plus a fair amount of scratches and print damage is visible. The only audio option is an LCPM stereo track in French with English subtitles. Jess Franco scholar and fan Tim Lucas has recorded one of his characteristically thorough and thoughtful commentary, raising the pedigree of the film with his comments and offering some insight into its production. Also included is the original trailer and some amusing “alternate footage,” which removes some of the sex and nudity and replaces it with shorter, more TV-safe scenes. One long lesbian love scene has been removed entirely, replaced by the same characters wearing clothes and achieving the same resolution in a much shorter amount of time. Sure the storytelling is much more concise, but it basically defeats the movie’s reason for being, no?
Jess Franco is nothing if not prolific, in some years directing seven or eight films. Daughter of Dracula is one of nine movies he’s credited as directing in 1972. Because I’m a fan of trash and exploitation movies, I keep giving him chance after to chance. At this point, I no longer think it’s ever going to click for me the way Italian horror films did after a few attempts. I know what his movies are and, for the most part, they just aren’t for me. That said, Daughter of Dracula seems particularly lackluster even by Jess Franco standards. It lacks the entertainment value of something insane like Bloody Moon or the attempt at respectable artfulness like his Count Dracula. Even the double bill of Vampyros Lesbos and She Killed in Ecstasy, both released one year earlier, do a better job of showcasing Franco at his best; there’s nudity and softcore sexuality, sure, but also the attempt at telling an actual story and better formal elements. Daughter of Dracula is the kind of movie that may have worn out its usefulness once its audience discovered the internet.