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The Rights of Vampire Hunters

My award for "Most Adorable Dracula" goes to young Udo Kier in Paul Morrissey's 1974 Blood for Dracula, also called Andy Warhol's Dracula, but most reviews I see for the movie mention Warhol contributed little beyond his name. It's a far better film than I expected for its reputation as pure exploitation. It's a bittersweet, effectively funny and sexy comedy that also offers a view free of moral or political bias of a transitioning class system.

The movie bears little resemblance to the novel except it explores at great length a thematic aspect, Dracula as a representative of old aristocracy in conflict with modern civilisation. In this case, it's not sexually repressed Victorian England Dracula transports himself to in an effort to conquer the new era, but to 1920s rural Italy and the enormous estate of the noble Di Fiore family. The Di Fiores are falling into poverty, no longer able to afford servants, they retain only one, Mario, played by Joe Dallesandro--though he insists he's not a servant but "a worker". He has regular threesomes with two of the Di Fiore's four beautiful daughters.

This eventually presents a problem for Dracula, who's travelled to Italy under his servant's assumption that the devoutly Catholic country would be filled with virgins and Dracula needs the blood of a virgin to survive.

The opening shot shows Dracula painting his hair black while staring into a mirror which of course shows no reflection of him. Although he genuinely is a vampire, the movie has a great deal of fun showing how a number of Dracula's classic attributes are here aristocratic affectations, like his aversion to sunlight and need to sleep in a coffin. He has few useful powers, lacking any shape shifting ability and super strength, in fact he spends much of the film getting about in a wicker wheelchair, though how much this is due to genuine weakness or to affectation is left unclear.

He inspires only disgust in Mario, a communist who sees Dracula as a useless bloodsucker even before he finds out he's a vampire. Mario has no problem having sex with the Di Fiore girls but he sees their lifestyle and fundamental nature as repulsive, speaking to them always with undisguised disgust.

The ones he has sex with, Saphiria and Rubinia (played by Suspiria's Stephania Casini) don't seem to feel much motivation to do anything beyond have sex and are equally happy to use the handsome Mario for this purpose, despite his disdain for them. Mario says he'd also like to rape the youngest daughter, Perla, who's fourteen but played by an actress who's very obviously in her twenties.

The fourth daughter, the eldest, is Esmeralda, who's talked about as though she's already doomed to spinsterhood. However, after disastrous attempts at drinking from Saphiria and Rubinia, Dracula finds in Esmeralda a soul mate--the two understand and respect each other, and her notorious ineligibility has left her a virgin.

The Di Fiore parents wish to marry one of their daughters to Dracula to give their family a fresh infusion of wealth, and it seems almost as though everyone might be heading for a happy ending, since in drinking Esmeralda's blood Dracula makes her a vampire too. But of course, Mario won't stand for the aristocracy having its way. He rapes the fourteen year old after he finds out Dracula needs virgin blood, and one sees in this a metaphor for the Marxist revolutionary appropriating the homes and possessions of the aristocracy to use them with less sensitivity. Mario would rather destroy and abuse what he values, incidentally enjoying himself at the same time, than allow the aristocracy to perpetuate.

Yet, one can't argue when Mario says that Dracula is useless and that he exploits others. In taking Dracula as a representation of the absolute worst of the aristocracy and actually making you root for him a bit, the movie shows how the political struggles of the twentieth century were never morally simple.
Tags: andy warhol, capitalism, class, communism, dracula, joe dallesandro, marxism, movies, paul morrissey, revolution, silvia dionisio, udo kier, war

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