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“I thought ‘worker’ and ‘servant’ were the same.”
“Just don’t make that mistake again.”
Those words, exchanged respectively between the assistant of a wealthy count and a humble mansion handyman in Paul Morrissey and Andy Warhol’s Blood for Dracula, would in most contexts seem a triumphant Marxist retort. Here, where the bourgeois assistant is guiding his vampiric master towards murder victims and the handyman is a rapist, needless to say the message is muddled a tad.
Blood for Dracula has a vaguely satiric tone, but I was never sure what it was trying to say. The depiction of the upper class as bloodsucking fiends out to drain the life-force of the workers is as old as, well, Dracula. And we need look no further than modern thinkpiece culture to see far-left ideology declaimed as inherently misogynist. What, if anything, is this film’s perspective?
At first blush, it seems a parody of the era’s sex-positive counter-culture. The basic premise is that Count Dracula needs to drink the blood of virgins to survive, but he has trouble finding any in this modern free-love world. It’s more like a one-liner than an idea on which to base a film. Despite Morrissey’s reputation as a minor icon of the new culture (he’s perhaps best known for his work with The Velvet Underground), and despite the film’s copious displays of sexuality and bloody violence, I found Blood for Dracula surprisingly conservative.
This doesn’t have to mean it’s a bad movie, though. I loved Udo Kier’s lead performance. His Dracula is a spoiled child of privilege, a brat who whines that the countryside inn where he stays doesn’t have any of the food he likes. He possesses no menace or even malice. He’s just a rich baby. It’s a clever unraveling of the mystique of Dracula, and an intriguing take on the character’s inherent class commentary. Kier is just a lot of fun in the role, too. He nails that feeble, childlike temper.
To be fully honest, Blood for Dracula may just have caught me in the wrong mood. A film this gleefully sacrilegious should be right up my alley. For some reason, I just wasn’t feeling it. I found its ironic tone grating more than entertaining, and its politics totally inscrutable.