The Quarantine Stream: 'Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned' Nearly Defies Description
(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned
Where You Can Stream It: YouTube
The Pitch: Furious at Satan for turning him into a vampire hundreds of years earlier, Dracula plots an elaborate revenge against the devil and steals Satan’s would-be bride from a cult ceremony. Later, an old man in a wheelchair (a descendant of Van Helsing) wildly attacks a young guy with a sword in a public park in an attempt to see if the guy has what it takes to become a vampire hunter. Later still, that same young guy tries to use martial arts moves in a fight against Dracula. (It does not go well.) And I’ve barely scratching the surface of the insanity that happens in this movie.
Why It’s Essential Viewing: You read the pitch, right? Yeah, that’s why.
Released in Japan in 1980 and arriving on U.S. shores three years later, Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned was evidently the first animated movie based on a Marvel Comics property, which may explain why it has almost nothing to do with Bram Stoker’s vision for the character. Instead, everything is much, much goofier – but much of the humor is unintentional, because the voice actors and the script seem to be taking this material deadly seriously. All of the emotions are so incredibly high-pitched and over the top, but that gives the whole thing a sense of charm that it wouldn’t otherwise have.
Some of it is actually genuinely funny – like a scene where a bunch of Boston-based Satanists arrive late at a sacrificial ceremony and blame their tardiness on traffic, and the ringmaster shrieks, “No excuses! You know we can’t begin the service until you carve the altar, so bring your tools here and get to work!” and then the movie just holds on these guys constructing an altar while everyone looks on in silence for a full minute. Or a scene in which Dracula, in full vampire garb, wanders into a New York City diner, pays for a hamburger, and scarfs it at a table alone, in silence.
Don’t get me wrong: this is not some unheralded masterpiece. It’s an extremely poorly made movie – but I still found it to be highly entertaining. It’s only 90 minutes long, but there are several sections in which it was clear that the animators didn’t have enough money to actually animate a scene, so instead the camera just sits on a still image while a narrator talks over it. It’s also the type of movie where it’s much more fun to write out the bonkers things that happen in it than it is to actually watch those things take place – but again, I’d say it’s worth watching just to bear witness to the fact that something so weird ever got made. And if you’re worried that this piece ruined all of the absurd moments, don’t worry – there are plenty more that I saved for you to discover yourselves.
Special thanks to /Film’s Chris Evangelista for bringing this film to my attention.
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