Review of “Blood of Dracula” (1957)

From YouTube

This week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie offering is a black and white vampire tale set in a girls’ school that involves not even a whiff of Dracula. Forbidden topics include cigarette smoking. The trailer hints at lesbianism, but the movie was made in 1957—you know, before such things existed. An interesting ploy.

Plot:

Eighteen-year-old Nancy Perkins (Sandra Harrison) lost her mother six months before the start of the story. Her father (Thomas Browne Henry) and her shiny new stepmother (EEEW) (Jean Dean) are driving her to the Sherwood School for Girls. Nancy objects and shows it by grabbing the steering wheel from her father and forcing the car off the road. No one is hurt, but dad and stepmom raise understandable complaints. Dad slaps Nancy, then says that while he disapproves of her smoking, one last cigarette can’t hurt her now.

Mrs. Thorndike (Mary Adams), the head of the school, welcomes Nancy with understanding. She realizes this is a strange new environment for her and has placed her with five “very sweet girls.”

Uh-huh.

Those five girls call themselves the “Birds of Paradise,” and, as one of them—Myra (Gail Ganley) — puts it, “Just remember, there’s no such thing as a lone wolf here at Sherwood. We can make life awfully miserable for oddballs.” She goes on to give Nancy the lay of the land. For starters, Myra is the teacher’s assistant in chemistry. Another Bird of Paradise, Nola (Heather Ames), is an English assistant.

And then there’s the science teacher, Miss Branding (Louise Lewis), who’s working on a thesis about the evil capabilities of every human being. Once this is made known, she’s certain it will cause the nuclear scientists to put away their bombs. But she needs a test subject, someone with a little bit of fire, who does things like pulling a girl’s hair when a science demonstration in class goes bad, and she gets injured. All she needs to do is control this test subject with a cat’s eye amulet from the Carpathian Mountains.

Remember, this is for the good of all mankind. And to get Miss Branding’s thesis accepted.

Thoughts:

The Birds of Paradise are something between a sorority and a gang. Myra admires Nancy’s spirit and is a suck-up to Miss Branding. She sets Nancy up to lose her temper in a science class demonstration where she suffers a minor but painful injury. Miss Branding talks her into letting her hypnotize her with that amulet for the Carpathian Mountains. Not only does she no longer feel pain, but she also finds herself subject to Miss Branding’s control.

One night, while the girls are having a party (don’t they ever study?), they annoy Miss Branding as she works on her thesis across the way. She takes out the amulet and puts her whammy on an unsuspecting Nancy. Nancy starts feeling woozy all of a sudden. Housemother and art teacher, Miss Rivers (Edna Holland), breaks up the party. Did she hear men’s voices? Maybe she ignores the open window. She sends Nola down to the basement for supplies for class the next day.

Nola doesn’t make it to that class.

The viewer understands Miss Branding’s frustration with not getting her thesis accepted. The viewer also understands how tightly wound she is and how utterly bereft of ethics she is to use a student, especially a student she knows is troubled and vulnerable, in her “experimentation.”

Nancy doesn’t get much choice in the matter of anything. She lost her mother, her parents dumped her off at the Sherwood School over her protests, the Birds of Paradise pressured her into joining their gang, and now a mad scientist with a wingnut idea for world peace has hypnotized her into a vampire to kill teenagers—especially those who annoy her. It really is a lot for one person to handle. No one will stick up for her. Her story is sad

Her transformation is unconvincing. She gets a high forehead, a widow’s peak that would turn Lily Munster even greener with envy, and eyelashes that would keep the rain out off her face. And then there are the teeth.

Since this movie was made to appeal to teenagers, there is a musical number, “Puppy Love.” Jerry Blaine, who played Tab, one of the guys who crashed the party the Birds of Paradise threw, wrote and performed the song. He also wrote “Eenie, Meenie, Miny, Mo” for I Was a Teenage Werewolf, which has an eerily similar plot to the present movie.

The last line of the movie goes to Mrs. Thorndike: “There is a power greater than science that rules the earth, and those who twist and pervert knowledge for evil only work out their own destruction.” So what’s the next step? “I’ll call the police.”

As for a recommendation: there are no surprises in this movie. There are some reminders as to how long ago 1957 was, of course. It is a short movie, hardly more than an hour. But it’s not an unpleasant way to spend the time if one is not too demanding. There are unintentionally amusing moments. The movie itself is deadly serious. I liked it, but I’m not in a hurry to see it again. Poor Nancy. She didn’t have a chance.

The movie can be viewed on YouTube here.

Title: Blood of Dracula (1957)

Director
Herbert L. Strock

Writer
Aben Kandel (story and screenplay)

Cast:
Sandra Harrison…Nancy Perkins
Louise Lewis…Miss Branding
Gail Ganley…Myra
Jerry Blaine…Tab
Heather Ames…Nola

Released: 1957
Length: 1 hour, 9 minutes

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

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