[a.k.a. Blood for Dracula]
If there's a yin to the yang of Tod Browning's 1931 Dracula, it might just be Andy Warhol's Dracula—which, as you probably expect from any film bearing Warhol's imprimatur, doesn't blunder accidentally into campiness but rather sets out with that destination in mind. Although the film is approximately in English, the cast includes only two native English speakers, prototypal 'beefcake' Joe Dallesandro and former British model Maxime de la Falaise. Vittorio de Sica, Italian director of cinematic classics Shoeshine, Bicycle Thieves, and Umberto D., turns in an almost completely undecipherable performance as an impoverished aristocrat who wishes to marry one of his daughters to Count Dracula. (Also, watch for a cameo by a mustachioed Roman Polanski in the tavern.) But the primary role of the hapless vampire is taken up by perhaps the ne plus ultra of cult film actors Udo Kier, whose credits range from the films of Lars von Trier and Dario Argento to Madonna's 'Deeper and Deeper' music video and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
Apparently, a lot had happened in the world since Browning's lumbering classic; in 1974, tits and asses and hyperbolic gore were now fair game for the big screen—and thank you, sweet Jesus, for that!—because we sure as hell needed something to spice up this tired-ass, color-by-numbers vampire story. Director Paul Morrissey, who was responsible for just about all of Andy Warhol's full-length feature films, forsakes any attempt at genuine horror, preferring instead the comic-absurdist route, as we follow the twentieth-century Dracula's ill-fated quest to locate a virgin (or 'wirgin' as the actors have it) in this era of declining sexual inhibition. Whenever the count inadvertently drinks the blood of a non-virgin (or 'hoooor' as the actors have it), he becomes violently ill, vomiting blood and gasping for air. (Yeah, it's a strange kind of morality tale, ain't it?)
This is what happened. Andy Warhol was the hands-on creator of his films before the attempt on his life by Valerie Solanas in 1968—after which time he farmed out the cinematic works to Factory denizen Paul Morrissey. Here's Ron Edelman's punches-not-pulled take on Morrissey's talents and artistic merit (courtesy of filmreference.com):
The pre-Morrissey Warhol films may be far removed from the mainstream; nonetheless, Warhol attempted to commercialize his projects, but did so on his own terms. There is an art and integrity to these films. Morrissey, meanwhile, was more of a packager than an artist. He wanted to concoct a formula that would make the films more mainstream. That formula consisted of imbuing them with a more orthodox cinematic structure, creating more conventional plot lines, and capitalizing on the Warhol name by slapping it on the finished product. Morrissey's best films of the period may be absurdist classics and impertinent freak-show fun, but they are not art.Ouch, right? Anyone familiar with my many bugaboos knows that I hate when critics try to use the word 'art' as certification of merit, to be either earned by or stripped from a given artistic creation. Art is a value-neutral term. It's not yours to award or withhold, asshole. Anything produced, assembled, or arranged by a human being as an act of creative endeavor is art. Period. Let's spend our time, instead, talking about whether it's good art or bad art and not simply depriving it of the status of deserving to be discussed seriously to begin with. When we say that a work of art isn't art at all, we dismiss it without actually reckoning with it in any thoughtful way.
But let's leave all that aside for the moment, and draw our attention to the fact that this guy Edelman has (embarrassingly enough) missed the point of Warhol's art altogether. Commercialization, conventionality, and packaging were the very things that he was trying to get the world to notice as art! This isn't to say that Morrissey was good at what he did—which is a matter for a separate discussion—but it certainly underscores the absurdity of praising Warhol's 'art and integrity' while at the same time dismissing Morrissey's work out-of-hand for merely working toward the same ends.
In other words, THIS IS MOTHERFUCKIN' ART. And I kind of like it.