Written by: George Pacheco on November 3rd, 2016
BluRay released: September 27th, 2016
Approximate running times: 83 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD Mono Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish
BluRay Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.98
Count Dracula’s Great Love isn’t one of the best films from Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy, but it might be one of the most widely viewed, thanks to its enduring status within the public domain. Indeed, the film has languished with dark and muted prints for years now since its original release way back in 1973, a fact which makes this new restoration from Vinegar Syndrome a bit more exciting than the actual picture on hand.
This isn’t to say, of course, that Count Dracula’s Great Love doesn’t have something to offer horror fans, as director Javier Aguirre bucks his normal course for comedy in favor of some rich, Gothic atmosphere straight out of the Hammer playbook. There’s an abundance of foggy sets, mysterious characters and heaving bosoms to be had here in Aguirre’s film, yet at the same time there’s something nagging about Count Dracula’s Great Love which keeps it from being one of Naschy’s top efforts.
For one, the pacing is extremely slow during the first hour, as characters get introduced with very little personality, other than either providing window dressing or vampiric side notes to Naschy’s presence as a mysterious doctor hiding a sinister secret: that he is, in fact, the legendary Count Dracula. There’s a lot of back and forth between the characters, with very little of the dialogue amounting to anything substantial or interesting. It’s this first chunk of Count Dracula’s Great Love which nearly axes the film with its tedium
Thankfully, things do pick up a bit once the required damsels in peril begin falling victim to Dracula and his vampire slaves. It should be noted that Vinegar Syndrome have released the “international version” of the film, featuring a marked increase in violence, nudity and sexual content, and these sequences are nicely shot by Aguirre, with a suitably bombastic orchestral score to accompany all of the mayhem. It’s also interesting to note how the soundtrack seems to drop off every time a scene of this nature begins to ramp up, leading one to believe that these extended sequences were shot after primary photography, for markets which were less censored than Franco’s Spain was during this time.
The most original aspect of Count Dracula’s Great Love is the fact that the Count ends up falling in love with one of the visitors to his castle. Naschy does a great job at balancing the vampire’s inherent evil with this very human conflict, and it’s easy to become invested in the film whenever he’s on screen. There’s also some great photography on hand during the film’s final act, as the bodies pile up and ritualistic sacrifices finally deliver upon the promise of horror only hinted at during the first half.
Count Dracula’s Great Love is very uneven, but definitely worth a watch, particularly for anyone who’s viewed the film as a public domain feature, either under this title or its alternate moniker of Cemetery Girls. Paul Naschy is a certified icon of Spanish horror, and any time we can get some high definition proof of this fact is a very good one.
Vinegar Syndrome have gone above and beyond in their restoration process for Count Dracula’s Great Love. The company’s reputation for quality is secure here, as the formerly dark and muted colors for Aguirre’s film now pop nicely in full HD. There’s a modicum of print damage to be had, but it never gets in the way of any sort of enjoyment, making this by far the best Count Dracula’s Great Love will likely ever look.
There’s also an abundance of audio tracks on the film, as both the Blu-Ray and DVD discs feature the American dub and Spanish language tracks, both with English subtitles. It’s here where fans might be divided, as the English dub isn’t the most professionally or successfully rendered when it comes to context. The original Spanish version is a little dryer in tone, but appropriate to the on screen action, although there elements here contain more damage and hiss than the comparatively cleaner English dub.
There’s also a commentary track from both Aguirre and Naschy, which can be played during either audio track, in Spanish with optional subs of its own. The commentary ranges from production notes with the cast and crew, to how Francis Ford Coppola might have been inspired to write his own “romantic” version of Dracula based upon Naschy’s performance. It’s a bit stale sometimes in translation, but its rarity alone serves as a major selling point for this disc.
Finally, an onscreen interview with one of the film’s actresses Mirta Miller is presented here, conducted by Elena Anele of SpanishFear.com, as well as the film’s international trailer and a booklet of history, detailed by writer Mirek Lipinski. All of these extras make VinSyn’s version of Count Dracula’s Great Love the definitive one for fans of Paul Naschy and early Spanish horror.