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  Son of Dracula Music Of The Night
Year: 1974
Director: Freddie Francis
Stars: Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, Suzanna Leigh, Freddie Jones, Dennis Price, David Bailie, Skip Martin, Peter Frampton, John Bonham, Keith Moon, Rosanna Lee, Morris Bush, Shakira Caine, Ricki Farr, Bobby Keyes, Nita Lorraine, Dan Meaden, Jenny Runacre
Genre: Horror, Musical, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: An unseen vampire hunter arrives at the castle of Count Dracula (Dan Meaden) and after a welcome by the dwarf Igor (Skip Martin) is then set to battle with the infamous vampire himself. The use of a cross manages to keep him back and the Count flees upstairs, but the hunter will not be deterred and follows him into his bedroom where he flips the lid from the coffin and stakes him through the heart. Later, Merlin the wizard (Ringo Starr) surveys the damage, but sees a ray of hope for the Dracula line as his vampire bride is pregnant - and a hundred years later the son, Count Downe (Harry Nilsson), is in Britain for a special occasion...

The nineteen-seventies had a tendency to throw up oddities like the star vehicle for decidedly non-cinematic star, and so it was here with musician Nilsson teaming up with ex-Beatle Starr for a horror musical all based around a mixture of nostalgia for old horror movies and Nilsson's back catalogue. It was written by actress Jennifer Jayne under the name Jay Fairbank, but never settled into one thing or the other: either it was a musical or a horror movie but it never made up its mind which and why Nilsson though this genre approriate for his m├ętier remains a mystery.

There are songs where Nilsson is accompanied by celebrity friends like John Bonham and Keith Moon on drums (more sensible than on tambourine, I suppose) and Peter Frampton jamming away in the background while he pounds away on the piano and belts out his tunes. It should be noted that this is nothing to do with the Lon Chaney Jr film Son of Dracula, although the thought of Lon interrupting the action to give us a heartfelt rendition of a work of his own composing would have certainly made that film more distinctive.

As it is, this Son is about to be crowned King of the Netherworld, but as he's not a proper vampire, not having been created through a bite in the neck, he actually has human qualities, and increasingly longs to be human. This is the main plot point, about how he will be able to revert from his bloodsucking state and join in romantic union with Amber (Suzanna Leigh), the assistant to a wheelchair-bound Van Helsing (Dennis Price). Along the way we meet a werewolf, who the Count saves Jenny Runacre from in a crypt, and a Frankenstein's monster who does the bidding of the mad professor played by Freddie Jones.

However, this isn't much of a horror movie, preferring to take a romantic view of its protagonist's predicament, and the musical numbers could have been more numerous, simply because they're the highlights. Otherwise, Son of Dracula might have been an overpriced home movie, because that's exactly what it looks like, an indulgent vanity project. It may have been a comedy in inspiration except none of it is especially funny, and there's only two real jokes in it - a caption reading "Contretemps?" and Count Down's name (countdown, geddit?). Recall how natural Starr came across in A Hard Day's Night? Well, here he wouldn't pass muster in your average school play, and Nilsson would have been recommended not to give up the day job. The Point would be a better film to remember him by, even if it was a TV special.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Freddie Francis  (1917 - 2007)

A much respected cinematographer for decades, British Francis made his way up from camera operator on films like The Small Back Room, Outcast of the Islands and Beat the Devil to fully fledged cinematographer on such films as Room at the Top, Sons and Lovers (for which he won his first Oscar), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, and The Innocents (a masterpiece of his art).

He then turned to direction, mostly in the horror genre, with familiar titles like Paranoiac, Nightmare, The Evil of Frankenstein, Dr Terror's House of Horrors (the first recognisable Amicus chiller anthology), The Skull, The Psychopath, Torture Garden, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, camp favourite Trog, Tales from the Crypt, The Creeping Flesh, Tales that Witness Madness, Legend of the Werewolf and The Ghoul.

Late in his career, he returned to cinematography with David Lynch's The Elephant Man, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Dune, Glory (winning his second Oscar), the Cape Fear remake and The Straight Story, his final work and one of his greatest.

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