Phillip Marshak’s loose (and I mean that in the most unchaste sense of the word) 1978 adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula is one of the Golden Age of Porn’s more intriguing productions. With a veritable who’s who of the industry’s stars, a genuine sense of atmosphere, a goofy sense of humour, and much enthusiasm for the period surrounds and behaviour from the cast, the movie performs as one of the better adult movies of the time.
The bare plot is thus: at Dr. Arthur Seward (John Leslie)’s Sanitarium the patients are acting strangely. The visiting professor, Van Helsing (Reggie Nalder, famous for playing the head vampire in Tobe Hooper’s adaptation of Salem’s Lot) is convinced there is vampirism at work. Then Count Dracula (Jamie Gillis) arrives, and it all goes beautifully pear-shaped as he sets his sights, teeth, and his erection on the ravishing beauty, Mina (Annette Haven).
Other notables in the cast include Kay Parker as Seward’s sister Sybil, Paul Thomas as Jonathan Harker, Serena as Lucy, with Richard Bulk as Renfield, Seka (in her American screen debut) as a nurse, and John Holmes as John Stoker, one of the sanitarium’s horny doctors. Like I said, more high-powered industry cock and pussy than you can shake a stick at.
The movie was cut as two distinct versions. One is most commonly known as Dracula Sucks, and this features all the kills and none of the hardcore sex (think blood, not cum). The other version is this one, also known as Dracula’s Bride(s), and is the one popular with the adult movie fans. It opens with the dark prince of porn (Gillis) bypassing the jugular and going straight for the vulva, giving Mina some serious cunnilingus. She returns the favour with fellatio to die for.
John Holmes threatens to steal Jamie’s thunder, and let’s face it, when you’ve got the package that Holmes has, any thunder is usually yours for the taking. Still, while Holmes had size, Gillis had style, and as we all know it’s not so much the size of the boat that counts, but the motion of the ocean, and Gillis had serious swagger to sway.
It makes sense to do a vampire tale as a porn movie. For cynical starters, the whole industry is about sucking souls, but more importantly vampirism has an innate sexuality. There is a kinky sensuality about the undead biting the neck of the living and thirsting on the warm blood. Not that you really see any of the bloodletting in this version. I’m reminded of the various incarnations of Jess Franco’s cult fave Female Vampire, also known as The Bare Breasted Countess, with three versions available, a straight horror, one mixing horror and softcore romping, and one featuring just hardcore sex.
The adult movie industry has been making adaptations of popular movies for a couple of decades, but rarely do they adapt classic novels, and certainly it wasn’t as common in the late 70s. I’d like to see raunched-up adaptations of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and Perfume, a modern classic, with its epic orgy sequence.
Oh, and it must be noted that if there is ever a biopic made on the wild and wicked career of legendary Jamie Gillis, who died in 2010, then Eli Roth must definitely play him.
NB: You can purchase a recent restored DVD release of Dracula Sucks – which includes the Lust at First Bite version – at rare retro trash champions vinegarsyndrome.com, featuring commentary and bonus material.
—- film review by Bryn Tilly of cultprojections.com