Friday, December 04, 2015

017. The Alpha Incident and 018. Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride

Jump to Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride (1974)

017. The Alpha Incident (1977)
Director: Bill Rebane
Writer: Ingrid Neumayer
From: Cult Cinema and Chilling

Scientists studying a dangerous Martian microbe have a sample transported by train where it infects one of the staff leading to a quarantine.

Much of this movie hinges on our hero being bad at his job. He's supposed to be guarding the sample as it travels by train across the country, but he's going somewhat undercover, posing as a railroad marshal or quality control person (I don't fully remember) and is called out, jovially, by the train's handyman. The guard goes to sleep—far from the sample and without securing his keys—and the handyman, naturally curious, possibly hoping to steal something valuable, investigates the cargo. As he does, one of the vials breaks. He panics, tries to clean it up, and then puts the keys back hoping he won't get in trouble.

What's it say about the place I am in my life that I feel so bad for the guy who sets all the trouble in motion when he says, “I just wanted to have a look”?

They arrive at a junction where the cargo will be switched over to another train. There, the guard finds out something broke, calls his government handlers, and a quarantine is enacted locking in the handyman, the guard, and the three staffers at the station. The staffers chafe at being held there against their will, one tries to run so the guard shoots him, and the guard never tells them the little that he knows throughout the entire situation. He's always just telling them to shut up and follow orders. Were this a hostage situation and he trying to steal the material, the dialogue wouldn't be much different.

Which is one of the big problems of the movie. The guard is supposed to be the hero and the bloviating misogynist that blows up at every new wrinkle is supposed to be the source of all the trouble. Only, nearly every objection he raises is right. Here's a quick writing tip: don't make your jackass the voice of reason. The movie literally has a moment where, after the jackass has been shot by the guard, one of the other characters tells the jackass, “He hasn't done anything to you.”

The movie's not painfully dull, but we spend all our time with people who aren't that interesting worrying that they may be infected. The results of infection are pretty nice—your head swells up and explodes—but otherwise the movie is largely without incident. The audio is worth noting because it gets really bad at points and the two versions I have are different lengths. One is longer by two minutes and has both sides of the guard's first phone call to his superiors. That call is nearly unlistenable, but without it there, the shortened version has a real continuity issue.

At the end of the film, it's not clear if they're ripping off Night of the Living Dead or if they just ran out of ideas. There's debate on about whether this is public domain but my copies, in very blurry, very hard to make out text, seem to have copyright notices on them.

018. Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride aka The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
Director: Alan Gibson
Writer: Don Houghton
From: Cult Cinema and Drive-In

Scotland Yard infiltrates a Satanic cult that seems to be drawing in the richest and most powerful members of society. What none of them know is that Count Dracula himself is running the cult and manipulating its members to his own purpose.

I was so excited about this movie and it was so dull. A Hammer production starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as Dracula and Van Helsing, respectively, promises so much and this, apparently, is the least, and last, of those pairings. The go-to puns are to refer to this as “anemic” or “bloodless,” but it's very hard not to go there. The movie itself just doesn't have any vim.

For example, the first twenty minutes of the movie include the cult performing one of their rituals and a British Intelligence agent escaping their compound only to be shot at the last minute. He manages to deliver his report to his superiors just before dying. Dramatic enough on its face, but it shouldn't take twenty minutes and the whole situation is dragged out by cutting from the agent's escape and report to the ritual, and I'm not sure some footage from the ritual doesn't get repeated in the agent's report.

The name of the game is padding and the film just drags everything out. Dracula doesn't even show up until maybe the last third of the movie and it's more than a little frustrating that the filmmakers twiddled their thumbs for so long. I mean, the characters bring in Van Helsing, the title of the movie has “Dracula,” why don't we just get to Dracula? Why this long, long delay? And, in the end, Dracula is defeated by a brier patch. You just have to roll your eyes.

I've seen this movie before, which didn't help, possibly several times. Apparently the British version that's titled The Satanic Rites of Dracula was public domain, but was pulled back into copyright by GATT. I may have seen it as part of The It's Alive Show. I know I saw the version from 2010's Elvira's Movie Macabre (available on Hulu here).

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