Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Blood of Dracula [aka Blood Is My Heritage] (1957, Herbert L. Strock)

Another of the teen monster fests knocked out by Samuel Z. Arkoff's American International Pictures in the 1950s under the auspices of producer Herman Cohen (whose credits envelop Bela Lugosi meets a Brooklyn Gorilla [1952], through Horrors of the Black Museum [1959], the Holmes vs Jack the Ripper romp A Study in Terror [1965], the quite amazing Trog [1970] to the Italian giallo Watch Me When I Kill [1977]).  Like its stablemates I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957), I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (also 1957) and Teenage Werewolf - meets - Teenage Frankenstein How To Make A Monster (1958) we have a heady blend of teenage rebellion, rock 'n' roll and a teenager turned by an adult preying upon their inner demons into a literal monster.

The perils of puberty, eh?
 We open the film with teenage Nancy (Sandra Harrison) being driven by her father and stepmother to Sherwood - not the hideout of the Prince of Thieves but a private girls' prep school run by the benevolent Mrs Thorndyke (Mary Adams).  The fact that Nancy's father has remarried a mere six weeks after her mother's death, and is now in the process of foisting her off into the stifling environment of private school has quite obviously got the poor girl in an emotional whirl, as evidenced by her petulantly attempting to grab the wheel and drive the car off the road to preppy hell.

 'You've taken away my life!', cries Nancy.
'Oh, those beach parties and rock 'n' roll?!?' sneers her wicked stepmother, proving that we are most definitely in the age of a sarong-bedecked Jon Hall in Aloma of the South Seas.

After her first night of torment and taunting by the five girls with whom she is doomed to dorm, Nancy encounters science teacher Miss Branding (Louise Lewis), who has had an eye out for an emotionally conflicted and angry young girl to take part in her nefarious nosferatal experiments.
 'We live in a world ruled by men for men', she says. 'They'll blow up the world with their experiments... isotopes and fall-out... Reckless fools - they search in the wrong place!'  So far, so '50s SF nuclear age paranoia, but Miss Branding has a plan.  'I can unleash the destructive power within a human being!' she claims, and states that Nancy is 'an A-Bomb all by herself'.  And so this overambitious educationalist decides to detonate our sweet hormonal and emotional nuclear device, by submitting her to extra classes of 'special treatment' wherein the troubled teen is hypnotised by an amulet from 'the mountains of Carpathia', an amulet with a cat's eye emblem (harking back to Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur's seminal Cat People (1942), its 1944 sequel The Curse of the Cat People, and the 1957 British Barbara Shelley-starrer Cat Girl, all of which portrayed lethal feminine power and sexuality as feline).

Once Nancy has unleashed her nascent nocturnal self and gone on a blood-drinking spree that takes the lives of her teen tormentors, Miss Branding seems proud of her pet monster.  'How pretty you are after the night... the night belongs to you!' she purrs over her unwilling vampiric victim, who bears an almost post-coital glow after her kill.  Nancy has 'become a woman' through a ritual of blood.

That's just needlessly Freudian, isn't it?

So after more night-time kills, and more OTT nuclear holocaust metaphors courtesy of the local plod ('One wrong word could have the effect of dropping an A-Bomb on Sherwood!') we come as we must to the trite moralistic ending wherein Miss Branding cannot cage the monster within Nancy that she has unleashed (this genie whom you may have nightmares about won't go back in her bottle) and both doctor and monster wind up dead.  'There are powers greater than science, and some things that man is not meant to know!'  Blah blah blah.  That aside, though, a nice little example of the teen monster genre with some decent performances (especially Sandra Harrison as our horrific heroine).

I was a teenage viewer of teenage monster films.  Confession over.


  1. If the whole 'nuclear arms race and threat of global annihilation' thing hadn't happened in real life, and if someone had then published a work of science fiction about it, nobody would have believed it.

  2. How on earth was one vampire girl going to counteract a nuclear bomb?!