The Film (4/5)
I will admit that for a fan of EuroCult and Eurohorror I was significantly late to the Paul Naschy party only getting into his work in the last 4-5 years. However, the takeaway from watching most of his riffs on the great Universal monsters seems to be that Paul Naschy (as a monster) wants to love, and wants to be loved. It seems that if there is any sort of template to these films, it is that Paul Naschy's various characters are always looking for love, and it ends up destroying them. Count Dracula's Great Love is a beautifully tragic example of this.
Some filmmakers and actors use the horror genre as a springboard for things with more mainstream appeal. Naschy, it can be said had a genuine passion for horror, and spent his entire career finding ways to work within, and playing variations on the Universal monsters. He was most well known for his werewolf character Waldemar Daninsky, but played the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Frankenstein's Monster, and in Count Dracula's Great Love he took his one and only crack at playing Bram Stoker's most infamous creation.
Count Dracula's Great Love opens in a way that is very similar to many 1960's Hammer films. A carriage containing a man and 4 women is going through the Carpathian mountains and past a sanitarium allegedly owned by a descendent of Count Dracula. The carriage driver is killed, and the group go to the sanitarium for refuge. The sanitarium is now under the care of Dr. Wendell Marlow (Paul Naschy). One by one the girls fall prey to Dracula, who turns out to be Marlow, and turned into his vampire slaves. Except for the pure Karen (Haydee Politoff), who Marlow falls in genuine love with and refuses to turn into a sacrifice in a plot to resurrect his vampiric daughter.
Count Dracula's Great Love was written by Naschy with frequent collaborator Javier Aguirre and Alberto S. Insua. It was made the same year that Naschy made his other classic the Hunchback of Notre Dame. The film has a solid atmosphere, but for the most part feels like something that one might see (and I actually might have) in an edited down version on late night local TV. That isn't a complaint, because the film is mighty charming for the most part.
Naschy is basically the same sort of character he usually plays, the sort of misunderstood loner that wants to be loved (and made love to). The performances are solid, especially from Naschy who basically has this stuff down. The film in the uncut international version presented here is also quite a sleazy affair chock full of nudity and lesbian sex throughout. The film has sufficient shocks, and some decent gore at times. The pacing is a bit off, with an opening sequence involving a pair of thieves that is fun, but after that it takes some time finding it's way before really letting loose about half way through. However, the film is an absolute fun ride, and a true Naschy classic.
Vinegar Syndrome have done an absolutely amazing job bringing Count Dracula's Great Love to Blu-ray. The film has been scanned in 2k and presented in a 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. Everything here looks quite natural, and well detailed. Colors are well reproduced, blacks are solid. There is some minor damage from the source, nicks, scratches, but nothing major.
There are 2 audio tracks both Dolby Digital Mono with optional subtitles and they are in English and Spanish. Both are quite good (I switched back and forth during my playthrough). The English track might have had a bit more weight to it, but dialogue and score came through solidly in both.
Vinegar Syndrome has provided viewers with an 8 page booklet by Mirek Lipinski. We also get a commetary track featuring Naschy and Javier Aguirre, and a new on camera interview with Mirta Miller.
Count Dracula's Great Love is not a film frequently mentioned among Paul Naschy's great classics though it should be, and Vinegar Syndrome's new Blu-ray edition might help correct that. The Blu-ray looks and sound incredible, and comes with a solid extras package. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.