Are you ready for one more slice of turkey? Some films are better left unknown. You have “classics” like Manos: The Hands of Fate that cross the line into the “so bad it’s good” territory. Then, you have those films that never cross the line. They just stay in the bad territory, leaving cinemaniacs wondering what the hell were they thinking. Such is the case with Tender Dracula (1974).
The initial thought of Peter Cushing playing a vampire is interesting. After so many Hammer films playing Van Helsing and fighting off the evil Count Dracula, it would be kind of cool to see him on the other side, right? Well, theoretically, the answer is yes. However, when all we get for our desires is a mess like Tender Dracula, the question is better off never being answered.
The plot is simple enough. Cushing plays actor MacGregor, best known for his work on a TV series as a vampire (think Barnabas Collins). Now, after countless episodes, he has decided to switch gears and go into romantic efforts. A producer sends two writers and their girlfriends to Macgregor’s home/castle in an effort to convince him to stay with the horror role. However, is it possible that MacGregor is really a vampire? As the tale unfolds, it becomes more and more likely that he is indeed a creature of the night.
I really have no idea what caused Cushing to agree to do this film. Maybe it was the chance to play something different. Maybe it was just a desire to continue to work as it is well-known that he never really recovered after the loss of his wife. However, surely even he regretted the decision to do this film once he made it to the set. The film rambles on for some 90 minutes with endless talking, odd musical numbers, poor acting and a general lack of common sense. Cushing plays MacGregor so over-the-top that it becomes laughable at times. Now, this was intended to be a comedy of sorts but it is never really funny. This one was a real struggle to make it through.
Is there anything redeemable in the movie? Well, you do have Cushing but even he isn’t enough to save this movie. This French film has never been commercially released in the United States and, honestly, I doubt it ever will. You can find it on YouTube for free, which is how I recommend you go. The print appears to be a VHS dub off a faded 16mm print, which adds to the overall experience (or lack thereof). If you love Cushing, see it once to say you did and then move on. Then, pull one of the Cushing Hammer classics off the shelf to cleanse your palate. Was this a turkey? Indeed, it was the whole damn bird.
With that, let me wish all of you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving! With Christmas inching its way ever closer, there will indeed be the 3rd Annual Countdown to Christmas next month. Some horror flicks, some really odd entries that will leave you with nightmares and more Scrooge to add to our previous year’s reviews of the timeless A Christmas Carol story. Until then, it’s time to go watch some good movies.