A confusing, flat, and utterly misguided attempt to blend horror, comedy, and rock 'n' roll, this bizarre curio offers nothing to the average moviegoer and extremely little to the most ardent fans of its two leads, Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson.
Count Downe (Harry Nilsson), a vampire whose father, Count Dracula (Dan Meaden), was killed one century earlier, is brought to London to be crowned king of the Netherworld at a precise moment to be astrologically selected by Merlin (Ringo Starr). The coronation will take place at the Museum of the
Occult, where visiting denizens of the Netherworld are masquerading as exhibits. After strolling around London and sitting in with a rock band, Downe retires to his suite in the museum. As he sleeps, Downe dreams of a blonde woman beckoning to him. Her crucifix burns his hand; he awakes to find
his hand bearing a cross-shaped mark. Downe discusses his growing human qualities with his chauffeur and servant, Brian (David Baillie), and decides he wants to be human, if only to feel emotion and be freed from a world of darkness.
Baron Frankenstein (Freddie Jones) tells Downe he can perform an operation that will not only humanize him, but keep him immortal. Unbeknownst to Downe, the immortal Baron had driven the stake through Dracula's heart. After Downe leaves, the Baron exults in his plan to make the operation "fail,"
thereby killing the last heir to the throne. Downe seeks a second opinion from museum consultant Van Helsing (Dennis Price) after meeting his assistant Amber (Suzanna Leigh)--the same blonde from his dream. Downe agrees to get the operation from Van Helsing, who promises him not immortality, but
the capacity for love.
As Merlin's predicted astrological time draws near, Downe confesses he's a vampire to Amber; she kisses him and agrees to help complete the operation by offering him a transfusion of non-vampiric blood. The Baron goes to Van Helsing's makeshift lab to warn Downe that because Amber is human and
under Van Helsing's power, she may not remember Downe after the operation. Downe is willing to take that chance. The transfusion of human blood and emotion takes place; both Amber and Downe survive. Downe announces his humanization to the denizens of the Netherworld, who attack him; Brian pulls
the curtains from a cross-patterned skylight, neutralizing them. Van Helsing releases Amber from his powers and reveals himself to be Merlin. Aware of the Baron's plans to kill Downe, Merlin assumes power of the Netherworld and sentences the Baron to a century of seclusion in outer space. Downe
approaches Amber; she remembers him, and they walk hand in hand through a sunny field.
Yet another resounding failure from the unfocused minds at Apple Corp., the entertainment conglomerate formed by the Beatles, SON OF DRACULA is confounding not only for its reason-free plot and for being bereft of direction, but for its sadly lackluster musical performances. While devoted fans of
Nilsson (are there any other?) should rejoice at seeing their notoriously camera-shy hero perform, little excitement is generated in his three musical sequences, due largely to poorly lit sets and lip-synching. Nilsson's piano-banging nightclub performance of "Crazy Little Mama" comes off best,
but the most energy--in the entire film, really--is supplied by the Who's drummer Keith Moon during "Jump Into the Fire." Moon, like many of the musicians cameoing here--among them pre-superstar Peter Frampton, Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, Beatle associate Klaus Voormann--didn't appear on the
film's soundtrack album, making the decision to not preserve these sessions all the more disappointing.
Former Beatle Starr doesn't sing here; he doesn't really act either, though he does look adorable in his celestial robes, fuzzy white wig and beard, and tall cone-shaped hat. Nilsson seems an odd choice for the lead; a good friend of Starr's, he had dressed as a vampire on the cover of his 1972
album Son of Schmilsson, though reportedly Starr offered Nilsson the part before seeing the cover. (In one smirky take, Downe admires the album in a record store window.) His only previous cinematic appearance being a cameo in Otto Preminger's astounding psychedelic failure SKIDOO (1969)--for
which he also supplied the redeeming soundtrack--Nilsson is rough-edged, teddy-bear cute, but he doesn't register much emotion, and he certainly doesn't inspire fear. In the liner notes to his anthology Personal Best, Nilsson admits he thought the script was "awful," but he wanted to work with his
pal Starr. "We laughed, we drank, we got crazy....The best part was just hanging out together." Obviously. (Violence, sexual situations, adult situations.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1974
- Rating: PG
- Review: A confusing, flat, and utterly misguided attempt to blend horror, comedy, and rock 'n' roll, this bizarre curio offers nothing to the average moviegoer and extremely little to the most ardent fans of its two leads, Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson. Count Dow… (more)