Color, 1972, 83 mins. 16 secs.
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Howard Vernon, Dennis Price, Alberto Dalbés, Britt Nichols, Geneviève Robert, Anne Libert, Luis Barboo
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Alive (Blu-ray) (Germany R0 HD), Image Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Divisa (DVD) (Spain R0 PAL) / WS (2.35:1: (16:9)

Following his Dracula, Prisoner of Frankensteinambitious but troubled 1970 version of Count Dracula, wild man Jess Franco decided all bets Dracula, Prisoner of Frankensteinwere off when it came to classic monster lore. In quick succession he delivered a slew of borderline abstract vampire films including Vampyros Lesbos, Daughter of Dracula, and Female Vampire, while The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein pushed the familiar tale into territory Mary Shelley could have never imagined. Wedged right in the middle of these is Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein, a dialogue-light monster rally filled with Franco's quirky visual trademarks and woozy pacing. There's no Lina Romay to be seen here, but many of Franco's favorite repertory players are on hand here (plus a Bruno Nicolai soundtrack consisting of recycled tracks from Justine and Count Dracula) as the director indulges in bizarre experiments in time and locale that have left more than a few viewers scratching their heads.

Dracula, Prisoner of FrankensteinIn a country village, Count Dracula (Vernon) emerges from his castle at night to prowl among the citizenry and drain any beautiful women he might spy on his journey. However, Dracula, Prisoner of Frankensteinone victim's father, Dr. Seward (Dalbés), decides enough is enough and takes care of the Count for good. Or so it seems, as the arrival of Dr. Frankenstein (Price) and his henchman Morpho (Barboo) bring an insidious new plan to take over the world with monstrous beings. The opening salvo in Frankenstein's plan involves reviving his monster to abduct a blood donor who can revive Dracula, and that's not even mentioning the werewolf who shows up or the nameless female vampire played by Franco staple Britt Nichols.

A fever dream fusion of Universal horror, Al Adamson, Paul Naschy, and pure Franco delirium, Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein pulls out all the stops monster movie-wise including crackling laboratory equipment and skulking bats. Of course it's always fun to see Price and Vernon strutting their stuff in a Franco film, and they don't disappoint here with the latter in particular cutting a fun vampire figure in his fairly limited screen time. The film gets off on the right foot as well by providing a cameo by Franco siren Anne Libert as a vampire victim in swanky boots, and while the loopy plotting and zoom-happy cinematography will confound newcomers, anyone accustomed to Franco's delightfully singular approach to monster yarns should find this essential viewing.

Dracula, Prisoner of FrankensteinMany U.S. viewers of a certain age first encountered this via an unwatchable, brutally cropped Wizard Video VHS in 1986 as The Screaming Dead, which as eventually rendered obsolete by a nice widescreen DVD of the Spanish version in 2006 from Image Entertainment with Dracula, Prisoner of FrankensteinEnglish subtitles (as part of a batch that also included Devil's Island Lovers, Night of the Skull and the clothed version of The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein). The first Blu-ray out of the gate came from Germany in 2017 featuring German, Spanish, and Italian audio with optional German or English subtitles (the latter matching the German track). Clocking in at 83m43s, it was the best presentation of the film to that point from an Italian film source. However, it was marred by extreme noise reduction and some gritty digital noise. Extras on that release include a German featurette on Franco and Lina Romay (10m3s) showing them visiting Munich in 2001, an alternate VHS-sourced prologue with voiceover explaining who Dr. Frankenstein is and what he's planning, a restoration demo (4m40s), and a 2m7s gallery.

In 2024, Severin Films premiered the film on U.S. Blu-ray featuring English, Spanish, Italian, German, and French tracks; all are sparse on dialogue but differ wildly in spots with some adding voiceover in a few spots to beef it up. That means you get English SDH subtitles and separate translated subtitles for each of the four tracks as well, a nice gesture. Image-wise this is a huge improvement with actual cinematic texture here including grain and a few blemishes, with much better detail and the restoration of the correct day for night color timing when Dracula is supposed to be up at night. (See the fifth frame grab comparison below.) In "Prisoner of Franco-Stein" (42m12s), Stephen Thrower provides another insightful overview including a detailed look at Price's career and sexuality, the confounding clash of anachronistic elements throughout the film, and the rapid flood of daring works the director was churning out during this period. "In the Land of Franco Part 10" (18m26s) is another charming addition to the ongoing series, with lots of crafty location detective work as Thrower and Alain Petit guide you through various familiar spots from Shining Sex and Midnight Party, including the story behind one memorable song performance. Also included are a (very red) Spanish title sequence, that VHS prologue, and a fun Italian trailer.

Severin (Blu-ray)

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Alive (Blu-ray)

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Reviewed on February 27, 2024