(El Gran Amor del Conde Dracula)
Director – Javier Aguirre, Screenplay – Javier Aguirre, Alberto S. Insua & Jacinto Molina, Story – Jacinto Molina, Photography – Raul Perez Cubero, Music – Carmelo Bernaola, Special Effects – Pablo Perez, Makeup – Emilio Puyol, Art Direction – Cubero-Galicia. Production Company – Janus Films, S.L.
Paul Naschy (Count Dracula/Dr Wendell Marlowe), Rosanna Yanni (Senta), Haydee Politoff (Karen), Mirta Miller (Elke), Vic Winner (Imre Polvi), Ingrid Garbo (Marlene)
Imre Polvi is travelling from Bistritz in the company of four women. They travel through the Borgo Pass where Count Dracula was reputedly killed. Their coach loses a wheel only for the coachman to be struck by the horse and killed while trying to repair it. The five of them seek refuge at the disused sanatorium nearby. They are welcomed in and granted shelter by Dr Wendell Marlowe. However, Marlowe is the resurrected Count Dracula and begins to prey on his guests, drinking their blood and turning the girls into vampires. He realises that Karen is the virgin that has been foretold who will willingly give herself to him in love and allow the resurrection of his daughter Radna.
Paul Naschy (1934-2009) gained fame as a horror actor during the 1970s. Naschy first appeared in Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror (1968), which is about a werewolf despite the title. A lifelong horror fan, Naschy also wrote the script under his given name Jacinto Molina (which he would always use when writing or directing) but was persuaded by the producers to take the lead role of the wolfman Waldemar Daninsky. Naschy went onto play the wolfman in nine other films – Dracula vs. Frankenstein (1970), The Werewolf vs the Vampire Woman (1971), Dr Jekyll and the Werewolf (1972), Fury of the Wolfman (1972), Curse of the Devil (1973), Night of the Howling Beast (1975), Return of the Wolfman/The Craving (1980), The Beast and the Magic Sword (1983) and Licanthropus (1996) – and this became his signature role. Naschy went onto play a number of other horror roles, appearing in films such as Jack the Ripper of London (1971), Horror Rises from the Tomb (1972), The Hunchback of the Morgue (1972) and Vengeance of the Mummy (1973), among others, most of which he also wrote. He also began to direct with Inquisition (1976) and made fifteen films as director, almost all in the horror genre.
Count Dracula’s Great Love has been intended as a copy of the Hammer Dracula films that began with Dracula/The Horror of Dracula (1958) starring Christopher Lee. These were at a peak of popularity from the point around 1968-72. This film does make some effort to tie its Dracula in with Bram Stoker, namedropping characters and locations from the book like the Seward Asylum and Borgo Pass, and is (as far as I am aware) the first film to merge Count Dracula with the historical Vlad the Impaler.
Paul Naschy has an undeniable dashing handsomeness as Dracula. The problem with the film is that director Javier Aguirre builds no mystique up around the character – Naschy’s Dracula is simply a man in a tuxedo and cape who bites necks, rarely a supernatural figure. The film does have the novelty of being the first time that Count Dracula is seen committing suicide, overcome with heartbreak and pushing the stake into his own heart at the end.
If anything, Count Dracula’s Great Love resembles one of the softcore vampire films of Naschy’s countryman Jesus Franco that were being made around this period – see Count Dracula (1970) with Christopher Lee, Vampyros Lesbos (1970) and The Daughter of Dracula (1972). The unedited version of the film runs to 85 minutes (although is cut of thirteen minutes of the sex footage in some US prints) and is filled with copious nudity as Dracula seduces the various women. In this sense – the long softcore erotica scenes, the elegant chateau location – the film can easily be mistaken for a work by Franco (and has been), although what is lacking are Franco’s arty pretentions.
The main complaint one has is that the film seems to have no particular plot – it is just scenes of people wandering around the sanatorium and lots of nudity. The story is never given the dramatic push it would in say a Hammer film, while director Javier Aguirre has a flat and prosaic approach (something endemic to almost all Naschy films). The other main problem is the title – all four girls look identical and have no distinction as characters beyond that, meaning that they are often difficult to tell apart. All whip their tops off regularly, thus Dracula’s supposed ‘great love’ with Haydee Politoff never amounts to anything more than just one in a series of interchangeable softcore tumblings that take place at regular intervals.
Director Javier Aguirre made several other genre films including:- the Space Mission comedy The Astronaut (1970); Paul Naschy’s The Hunchback of the Morgue (1972); the psycho-thriller The Killer is One of Thirteen (1973); and The Unusual Pregnancy of Martinez (1974), a comedy about a pregnant man. Most of Aguirre’s work is in documentaries, while during the 1970s he discovered himself in domestic Spanish comedies, musicals and later the sex film.