An overlooked little gem
Back in the early 1970s, there was an increased interest in Dracula due, in part, to a book by Radu Florescu and Raymond T. McNally called IN SEARCH OF DRACULA. Looking at vampires in folklore, film and fiction, the book also raised public awareness of the real Dracula, Prince Vlad Tepes, the "Impaler." The multi-talented Calvin Floyd, and his wife Yvonne, put together a feature-length documentary based upon the book, and the result is a theatrical scrapbook of Dracula lore, exploring fact and fiction as well as looking at the impact of the character as a cultural icon. The film's modest budget is evident, but it doesn't get in the way of what the film has to offer. (One thing a larger budget might have helped with would be to have obtained permission to use copyrighted footage of Bela Lugosi's DRACULA. Instead, we see clips of Lugosi from more minor movies.) Among the many treats included here is the participation of Christopher Lee, who gained fame for his portrayal of Count Dracula for Hammer Films before moving on to other projects. In IN SEARCH OF DRACULA, we see Lee as himself, as well as in scenes from Hammer's SCARS OF DRACULA. In addition, we also see him portray the Count as Bram Stoker's novel described him in new sequences shot for the documentary and, to top it off, the actor also portrays the historical Dracula, Prince Vlad. (With the exception of 1970's non-Hammer COUNT DRACULA, which the actor made for Jess Franco, Lee has always lamented that most of the Dracula films he made had little to do with the actual character created by Bram Stoker.) And, in the English language print of the film, Christopher Lee also provides the narration. I had heard of this film for many years before actually catching a broadcast of it. (On a brisk Halloween afternoon, appropriately enough.) Now, thanks to home video and DVD, the film can finally find a wider audience and appreciation.
Calvin and Yvonne Floyd planned to follow this with IN SEARCH OF FRANKENSTEIN, based upon the book of the same name by the co-authors of IN SEARCH OF DRACULA. However, as they researched the project, the Floyds discovered Mary Shelley's classic had, up until that time, never really been filmed. (For those only familiar with the pre-1975 FRANKENSTEIN films of Universal, Hammer and television, few plot elements from the novel had ever actually made it onto the screen.) Plans for the second documentary were dropped in favor of doing an authentic adaptation of FRANKENSTEIN. Also made with a tight budget, the film was the most accurate presentation of its day...yet inexplicably scrapped the novel's title to be released as VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN (aka THE TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN). IN SEARCH OF DRACULA and TERROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (or even Jess Franco's 1970 COUNT DRACULA, with Christopher Lee and Herbert Lom) might make for an appropriate pairing.