26 September, 2006

NASCHY'S DRACULA RIDES AGAIN

COMMENTARY BY ROBERT MONELL: My favorite Spanish Dracula film, Javier Aguirre's EL GRAN AMOR DEL CONDE DRACULA (1972)in my opinion beats out Jess Franco's strained EL CONDE DRACULA (1969) and Leon Klimovsky's parody LA SAGA DE LOS DRACULA (also 1972) in terms of personal vision and idiosyncratic atmosphere. Written by and starring the legendary Paul Naschy (rn: Jacinto Molina), it presents an original, detailed and alternate mythology for the Count Dracula character and has as much to do with local ethnology, Molina's subterranean positioning as a genre historian and 20th Century history as Bram Stoker. In other words, I take it seriously. Perhaps too seriously. I really can't be happy with the new DVD, hosted by "Elvira, Mistress of the Dark!", which presents this fascinating and macabre work as of secondary value to the popular 1980s TV scream queen. This is yet another fullscreen 83 mn version which some references list as originally over 90m. I'm not here to argue that point. Aguirre, who also had a career as an experimental filmmaker, creates one coup de image after another and much of the bold visual quality, a unique mood drenched in a fantastique that is at once 19th Century, 1972 Spain and eternal, is lost when seen panned and scanned. Even the entrance of Molina's Dracula is elided offscreen.

I actually almost purchased this at a local Best Buy before regaining my senses. Something told me to WAIT. There was a 2002 fullscreen DVD from an I.S.Filmworks/Yes Video: "Totally uncut! Nudity." Is that all there is to this? No. It's a rather important film not only in the career of Molina/Naschy but in the chronology of Spanish horror and in the catalogue of cinematic Draculas. One sales site for this new DVD categorizes it as either HORROR or CAMPY. It becomes an object of ridicule and an automatic "bad" movie in our present popular culture, which is obsessed with appearances and labels. I have no interest in lining the pockets of this disc's makers and distributors and while I don't want to deny the lady a living her "humor" and appeal are totally lost on me. Some might even enjoy it playing in the background of a loud party at 4am. All well and good. Maybe I'm out of touch but I find it an intense, poetic film.

Some hope is given on the Latarnia Forum's Paul Naschy topic area where Mirek Lipinski reports that a new commentary has been recorded in Spain including Molina and Aguirre and that it could be a future R1 release from the BCI label. I hope. In the meantime, I bet the Elvira DVD version will have more than healthy sales.



COPYRIGHT BY ROBERT MONELL: 2006

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