Evil of Dracula

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Evil of Dracula
1974 / Colour / 83 m. / Japan / Chi o suu bara
Starring: Mori Kishida, Toshio Kurosawa, Mika Katsuragi, Kunie Tanaka, Katsuhiko Sasaki, Moriko Mochizuki, Oota Mio, Aramaki Keiko
Cinematography: Kazutami Hara
Production Designer: Kazuo Satsuya
Film Editor: Michiko Ikeda
Original Music: Riichiro Manabe
Written by: El Ogawa and Masaru Takesue
Produced by: Fumio Tanaka
Directed by: Michio Yamamoto

Reviewed by Lee Broughton

Synopsis:

Shiraki (Toshio Kurosawa) takes up a teaching position at the remote Seimei School for Girls. His first night there is disturbed by the appearance of two female vampires, who he later identifies as being the Principal’s (Mori Kishida) recently deceased wife (Mika Katsuragi) and a pupil who was reported to have run away from the school a few weeks earlier. As such, Shiraki is forced to assume that he dreamt the whole thing. When another pupil, Kyoko (Aramaki Keiko), goes down with vampiric malaise, the school’s physician, Dr Shimimura (Kunie Tanaka), tells Shiraki about the region’s popular vampire legend. When fellow pupils Kumi (Moriko Mochizuki) and Yukiko (Oota Mio) volunteer to stay and nurse Kyoko while everybody else goes home on vacation, Shiraki and Shimimura decide to stake out the school in the hope of catching themselves a vampire.


Critique:

Evil of Dracula features all of the key ingredients that made director Michio Yamamoto’s previous vampire flick, Lake of Dracula (1971), such an enjoyable romp. The earlier film’s focus on an emotionally isolated individual who is trapped within an equally isolated location is cleverly reworked here and a skilful mix of suspense-laden scenes and jolt-inducing ‘boo!’ moments serves to further enhance the show’s inherently spooky atmosphere. There’s still a slightly campy feel to the proceedings at times but the ante is upped somewhat by the employment of a much faster pace and the involvement of more supporting characters this time around.

Evidently somebody at Japan’s Toho Studios had been doing their horror movie homework during the years following the release of Lake of Dracula because the vampires in Evil of Dracula have progressed to biting bare breasts as opposed to necks. Indeed, the Principal’s wife’s interactions with her female victims gently hint at the type of erotica that Hammer Films’ lesbian vampire flicks had been foregrounding a few years earlier.

Mori Kishida’s fearsome vampire looks, dresses and acts just like the vampire in Lake of Dracula but he appears to be a different character here. There’s no actual mention of Dracula or the Dracula bloodline in Evil of Dracula (despite the count being referenced in the show’s English title) but the film’s back-story does blame another Westerner for introducing vampirism to Japan.

It seems that two hundred years earlier a shipwrecked European traveller was persecuted because of his religious beliefs and driven into the wilderness where he was forced to drink his own blood in order to survive. He eventually formed an unholy alliance with a local Japanese girl and it is inferred that the pair have survived to this day (1974) as vampires, evading detection due to their ability to literally steal the physical identity of their victims. One particularly graphic and disturbing sequence shows just how they actually do this.

Toshio Kurosawa’s Shiraki is a fairly typical hero figure but he does have a number of flaws. Certainly Shiraki’s training as a psychology teacher seems to have made him somewhat judgmental of others and just a little bit aloof. Equally interesting foibles and character traits are also found in the film’s supporting characters. Kunie Tanaka does good work as the school’s slightly eccentric, folklore-obsessed doctor while Katsuhiko Sasaki is very effective as the creepy Yoshii, a Baudelaire-quoting French language teacher who becomes the Principal’s Renfield-like servant.

When compared to Lake of Dracula, it seems evident that concerted efforts were made to increase the gothic air and up the action quotient of Evil of Dracula and the final showdown between the Principal and his wife and Shiraki and Kumi is really quite superb: it’s an epic and intense struggle that brings to mind Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee’s titanic confrontations in Hammer’s Dracula films. Played out to the backdrop of a raging thunder and lightning storm, the fight naturally ends with the mortally wounded vampire lovers rapidly ageing until only their skeletons remain.

Evil of Dracula’s production values are almost as good as those of the slightly smarter looking Lake of Dracula. The film features some generally good camera placement and framing, even pacing and pleasing set designs. In addition, the quality of Riichiro Manabe’s soundtrack music is more consistent here and it utilizes some interesting electronic sound effects in places. As with Lake of Dracula, Manabe’s score still contains the odd cue that plays just a little bit incongruously but Evil of Dracula remains a highly entertaining genre film that should be recognised as a worthy addition to the idiosyncratic body of modern day vampire flicks that were produced during the first half of the 1970s*.

Psychotronic Cinemas rating: Very Good

© Copyright 2003, 2017 Lee Broughton.

* Other examples include Count Yorga, Vampire (Bob Kelljan, USA, 1970), Blacula (William Crain, USA, 1972), Dracula A.D. 1972 (Alan Gibson, UK, 1972) and The Vampires’ Night Orgy (Leon Klimovsky, Spain/Italy, 1973).

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