Friday, September 12, 2008

Blood of Dracula

Greetings Sporefans. I know that its been some time since the last post, but I needed some time to recover from the horrible beating I took at the hands of the Baltimore chapter of the Sisters of Mercy.

This week we'll be reviewing the 1957 classic, the Blood of Dracula. Like most horror movies from the 1950's, Blood of Dracula is about fear and social issues. Sure, there's blood, and there's a sort-of vampire, but what this movie is really about is lesbians. Or more precisely, how people fear lesbians.

Let me say that again. This movie is about lesbians. And fear.

The starts by depicting a troubled teen, Nancy Perkins (played by Sandra Harrison), who is being driven to the Sherwood School for Girls by her father (played by Thomas Browne Henry) and the woman he married six weeks after his wife passed away (played by Jean Dean). Was it not Hamlet who said "the funeral baked meats, did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables..." (Hamlet Act 1, Scene 2). There was no scene where Mr. Perkins proposed to his new wife over the coffin of the late Mrs. Perkins, as it would have made the movie run a little long. Also, by 1957 morals and standards, it would have been considered ever so slightly scandalous.

But enough about the old codger and his sexy new wife. This isn't their story! This is the story of a teenage girl, sent away to a boarding school miles from home who is exposed to strange new things. Like an all girl campus, female chemistry teachers, and hypnosis. Also vampirism, but that comes later and is also mostly a metaphor.

While enrolled in the Sherwood School for girls, Ms. Nancy Perkins makes the acquaintance of the chemistry teacher Ms. Branding (Louise Lewis) and her lovely assistant Myra (Gail Ganley), who do "all sorts of experiments". Ms. Branding claims that her work will never be taken seriously in the academic world because it is dominated by men; and claims that they will destroy the world with their reckless experiments before they would ever accept her work. Ms. Branding is experimenting with the limitless power of the mind through hypnosis, and is experimenting fairly recklessly in her own right, just without all the physics and isotopes and atomic bombs.

After all, isn't it much safer to experiment with an ancient Carpathian amulet than it is to experiment with physics? What could possibly go wrong?

Oh, right. Vampires.

Myra and Nancy enjoy some breakfast tea together before they jump into bed... er, I mean, go to class.

Now I should mention that the scene where Nancy and Ms. Branding have their first meeting is a pivotal scene in this movie. The dialogue is dripping with subtext which creates a metaphor for Ms. Branding's experiments with girls. Don't believe me? Then read it for your self. The following is actual dialogue from Blood of Dracula.

Ms. Branding: ...Whatever you do should be done under guidance.

Nancy: But who's?

Ms. Branding: I'll tell you that too.

Nancy: Soon?

Ms. Branding: Perhaps soon.

Ms. Branding checks Nancy's hand injury

Nancy: It still hurts.

Ms. Branding: Well now I'll take the pain away. But I'll need your cooperation.

Nancy: What do you want me to do?

Ms. Branding: First I want you to answer a question.

Nancy: All right.

Ms. Branding: Nancy, do you trust me?

Nancy: I think so. I hardly trust anyone except... well Glenn, that's my boyfriend. And of course I did trust my mother. But you? Nancy smiles I think so.

Ms. Branding: I'm glad. Because if you didn't, I couldn't help you at all. And because you do, I naturally trust you. In other words, what happens in this room must not go beyond this room.

Nancy: You can depend on me. What do you want me to do?

Ms. Branding: I'll tell you.

At this point Ms. Branding closes the blinds, whips out her amulet and hypnotizes Nancy. She spends the rest of the movie making Nancy do stuff. You know. Stuff. That she does. Think about it. Also, there's that whole line about how Nancy trusts her boyfriend and her mother, and naturally trusts Ms. Branding as she takes on aspects of both roles.

Boy, this movie is sure is messed up!

You want me to do WHAT Ms. Branding?

During the rest of the movie, Nancy starts to get "urges". First she feels sick when some boys come over to play music and dance with the girls. Later she turns into a vampire and attacks one of her housemates. In fact, the only time that Nancy ever attacks a man in the movie its because she was caught while drinking the blood of another girl. It becomes clear that Nancy only craves the blood of other girls.

And remember dear, this is our secret.

As the movie wraps up, Nancy gets a visit from Glenn, the boyfriend. When Glenn tries to talk to Nancy in the car, she feels odd and leaves him there. She searches out for Ms. Branding and propells the movie into its climax. The movie, not the girls. Pervert!

Eddie Munster called. He wants his hair back.

Of course, you can't have a 1950's horror movie with a subtext about social issues that scare the majority without some cathartic ending. Nancy turns on Ms. Branding in a fit of rage and attacks her. Ms. Branding, no longer able to control Nancy, grapples with her in the lab until they knock over some chemicals and both of them die. I have to admit, I've never seen a vampire destroyed by chemical fumes before, but it does fulfill the requirement that Ms. Branding gets killed by her own experiments. Ah hubris, thy home is in science. With Branding and Nancy both dead, the threat of spreading lesbianism to the other girls is extinguished and good ol' 1950's values reign supreme.

If you have the time, I strongly suggest watching The Blood of Dracula. This movie is a shining example of 1950's horror and really, really funny to boot. Granted, its not funny on purpose, but you'll laugh all the same. Why not check it out? Here's the theatrical preview for Blood of Dracula!


esuarez said...

Any blackulas here? Nope no blackulas.

Spored_to_Death said...

Nope. Not this time. Maybe next time. We only have sexually confused female vampires this time.