A series of brutal sexualised killings are taking place in a remote European village; the locals claim they are vampiric in their origin, although investigating officer, Inspector Ptsuschko (Alberto Dalbes), dismisses such 'superstitious' mumblings. The murders happen to coincide with the arrival of the beautiful Luisa Karlstein (Britt Nichols), who has been summoned by the imminent death of her dear mother, Baroness Karlstein (Carmen Carbonell). Before she finally expires, the Baroness manages to convey to Luisa that she is the direct descendent of the original Count Karlstein, and therefore has inherited the right to knowledge of a great family secret that lies hidden in the vaults of the great Karlstein castle, which towers over the rest of the huddled village. Descending the ancient stone steps to the cobwebbed lower depths, Luisa is shocked and fascinated to discover the tomb of Count Dracula (Howard Vernon)!
Taking its title from the 1936 Universal sequel to Todd Browning's "Dracula", "Dracula's Daughter" (1972) is the third of Jess Franco's early seventies tributes to the roster of classic movie monsters he grew up admiring so much. Although using many of the same cast members, and shooting in the same picturesque Portuguese locations that featured in his earlier much less explicit tributes, "Dracula Prisoner of Frankenstein" and "The Erotic Rites Of Frankenstein", the film sees the director moving closer to the unique blend of sex and horror suffused with existential loneliness that characterised the recently shot "Vampyros Lesbos" (1971) and would reach its zenith in the following year's "The Female Vampire" (1973). It is also obvious that the lesbian undertones to Lefanu's classic vampire tale "Carmilla" had by now found their full expression after the trend tentatively initiated by Hammer's "The Vampire Lovers" (1970). Franco's lead starlet Britt Nichols (whose Euro-Trash career started with Amando de Ossorio's "The Tombs of the Blind Dead" ), if anything, makes an even more ravishing doyenne of sapphic pulchritude than Ingrid Pitt: her full-lipped, curvacious blonedness beautifully complimented by her partner in lesbian love, Anne Libert, whose willowy raven fragility gives her a strangely similar look to the lovely Soledad Miranda, here.
All the hallmarks of Franco's erotic cinema are present and correct: the languid air of tragic longing; mildly erotic yet intense lesbian love scenes; the strangely disjointed plotting -- all filmed in Franco's characteristic rudely constructed style, with its jumpy zoom shoots and impressionistic out-of-focus camerawork. Some thoroughly lovely Portuguese locations add a sense of bucolic calm and dark mystery to an otherwise rather basic tale, and this could well be one of the most successful Franco flicks for conjuring atmosphere out of virtually nothing, standing alongside "A Virgin among The Living Dead" (1973) and "Venus In Furs" (1969) with its odd, surreal, fever-dream dynamics.
The problems with the film come about because there are just too many elements thrown in the pot to cohere successfully: the story of Luisa's emerging vampiric tendencies and her lesbian relationship with one of her first victims (Libert) sits uncomfortably with a tiresome police procedural element in which both Franco himself (as the Karlstein's gardener, Jefferson) and Franco's regular musical collaborator, Daniel White (as the current Count Karlstein) are suspects in the murder investigations of Inspector Ptuschko. This is all rather pointless, since we know the killings are the work of Luisa from the very first scene of the film; and although the inclusion of many giallo motifs (the black-garbed killer, the sexualised violence) add something different to the usual brew, none of the various red herrings and plot points are ever resolved, giving the impression that the film has been assembled from various sources scooped from the cutting room floor (knowing Franco, this wouldn't be too far fetched!). The Dracula element, again, just seems inelegantly bizarre: Howard Vernon spends the whole film lying in his coffin, occasionally rising stiffly, wide-eyed and caked in white make-up; it is never explained why he can't leave his crypt, and why Luisa has to supply him with the occasional victim (amusingly, they're stripped and then slammed into the coffin with the starchy Count!) -- again, it seems like Franco started off making one film and ended up making several others which were then just joined together higgledy-piggledy. This certainly lends the film an air of trashy innocence but detracts from the overall dreamy ambience. There is still enough classic Franco material here though to give Horrortica fans their fix of sexy otherworldness.
The new-look Redemption Films have given the film a very presentable DVD release here: the print that has been used has appeared before on the German 'X-Rated' label, and although it is rife with print damage in the form of constant speckles, the image is actually quite sharp and colourful. The muted colour tones seem natural and reflect the intended palette of the original film (rather the standardised look of many 'restored' films) so in that regard this is quite a pleasing print. Thankfully, Redemption have presented the movie in an anamorphic transfer -- something that has often been an issue with Salvation/Redemption releases in the past. The French soundtrack is clear and hiss free, with the colourful musical soundtrack (a strange but effective blend of classical and jazz) coming over well, without distortion. The English subtitles are clear but unobtrusive. Extras are rather thin on the ground, and consist of a stills gallery and a trailer; but fans of Redemtion's musical output will be pleased to discover taster tracks from a whole slew of albums released by the label -- mostly consisting of Death-Metal and pounding 'Goth'- inspired tracks!