Since Christopher Lee’s passing, I’ve been wading through his overwhelming back catalogue to find something interesting to review — a film that isn’t often discussed. Lee made so many movies. The films he starred in were of an extraordinary variety — made in continents all of the world, some with high budgets, others with staggering low ones. Needless to say, not everything Lee featured in is great, but he was always great in them. Hidden within the mountains of his cinematic oddities, there’s several gems. This is just one of them…
DRACULA AND SON
original title: Dracula père et fils
France, 1976, Édouard Molinaro
After a brief session of coffin sex, Ferdinand (Bernard Menez), son of Dracula, is born. Dracula has turned Herminie into a vampire, but vampirism doesn’t necessarily equal eternal life. Herminie is held up during a night out on town and doesn’t make it back to the Count’s castle in time. The sunlight reduces her to dust.
Fast-forward several hundred years. It’s the 70s. Dracula’s son is all grown up, but he’s not the bloodthirsty Dracula Jr. his father hoped for. Ferdinand can’t even bring himself to suck the blood of a helpless old lady. He also hasn’t mastered the art of a threatening stance.
After their castle is infiltrated by a horde of unruly communists, Dracula and son find themselves evicted and separated at sea. Dracula winds up in London where he falls into a successful film career playing to type as a vampire. Ferdinand has less luck and winds up living a destitute life in Paris where he fails miserably in sucking the blood of pretty ladies and instead resorts to stray cats and damaging his fangs on rock solid bodies at morgues.
Eventually father and son are reunited when Dracula shows up in Paris for the premiere of his new movie. Dracula is delighted to see his offspring but is horrified to see how he’s living. He buys Ferdinand a lovely new coffin and invites him to be part of his lavish lifestyle. Their relationship is soon torn apart by the beautiful Nicole (played by Breillat’s sister, Marie-Hélène Breillat), a woman who reminds the Count of his deceased wife.
Dracula and Son, in its true, original, subtitled French form — Lee speaks (what sounds like) perfect French in this — is a funny film. I was concerned that it would be an all-out ham fest, but Lee continues to take the role of Dracula very seriously. His performance has every bit of grandiose as his appearances in Hammer’s series. That said, he’s not above some genuinely hysterical moments, like this…
Bernard Menez is also perfectly suited to the role of the goofy son of Dracula. Ferdinand is utterly pathetic, but, outside of a Revenge of the Nerds-esque surprise sex scene, likeable. Marie-Hélène Breillat is excellent as the film’s family disrupting love interest. It was also quite a mind-fuck to see her famous sister Catherine playing a small but important role.
Visually, the film is very nice to look at. Édouard Molinaro and crew embody this with all the class of a classic Gothic horror tale, particularly in its excellent opening act. The score is equally good and surprisingly infectious.
The story of Dracula and his disappointment of a son is, at its core, pretty hilarious, and the film does the concept justice. Also, following Dracula as he enters a career as an actor playing himself is a welcome stroke of genius.
At first it surprised me that Dracula and Son wasn’t more of a cult favourite, but, from the sounds of it, the butchered English dub version is quite the disaster. While it’s no masterpiece, in its original form, Dracula and Son is a breezy and enjoyable viewing. And though it’s not exactly the send-off one would expect for Lee’s most famous role, it’s an unexpectedly satisfying one.
Frustratingly, Dracula and Son is only available in its original form on DVD sans English subtitles. However, there are very good fan subs floating about on the web.