Dracula in Vegas

| August 31, 2017

Slasher Video’s collaboration with Olive Films has certainly been interesting. After releasing a Blu-ray of Satan’s Blade and reissuing the pre-Olive Films Slasher Video catalog on DVD, they have released DVD and Blu-rays of films that were transferred from rough video masters. It’s great to have releases of Deadly Prey, Killer Workout, Mankillers, Shock ‘Em Dead, and Victims! in print but there’s absolutely no reason to produce a Blu-ray of these or any other films from a 1″ tape master. Bucking this trend, their latest release is DVD-only. Dracula in Vegas is a 1999 shot-on-video horror/comedy from Nick Millard, whose 1980s films Death Nurse 1 & 2 and Cemetery Sisters were also previously released by Slasher Video.

Max (Maximillian Grabinger) is a youngish vampire from Transylvania who wants to study at Harvard or Yale, but when the University of Nevada Las Vegas accepts him his father (Sam Gartner) orders him to go there instead. Max wants to take his studies seriously, but Dad thinks Max should focus on the bustling nightlife and all the nubile showgirls. Max’s mom (Flora Myers) is terrified that Max is going to get AIDS because American girls are all loose, and insists he find himself a nice 14-year-old who isn’t diseased. Max arrives in Las Vegas and buckles down on his studies, much to his parents’ dismay. He also befriends a gravedigger at the cemetery where he hangs out and gets a part-time job there, and before long he meets a nice girl. Christine (April Leigh) is in his literature class and is only slightly weirded out when Max takes her to a picnic in the same cemetery. But once Max’s parents arrive in Vegas for a visit and really put the pressure on, will Max cave to their demands? Or is his mysterious double Igor (also Grabinger) correct in thinking Max is doomed by his love for Christine?

This plot synopsis makes Dracula in Vegas sound much more coherent than it actually is. Like Millard’s other films released by Slasher Video, this one was shot on video and whatever surviving materials were not in great shape. The picture is bright and clear for the most part, but there are a few scenes where the audio drops out entirely for a while and some of the shots have more tape noise than others. Unsurprisingly, Millard sneaks some footage from one of his 70s erotic films in here as well when Max visits his porn director uncle. However, it does not include several minutes of footage from either Satan’s Black Wedding or Criminally Insane, so that’s a relief. It looks and sounds like a home video, which is exactly what it should look and sound like, so the audiovisual presentation is as good as it could possibly be.

The film itself is intermittently amusing, even sometimes on purpose. The bite of a vampire in this world is highly sexual, so Max’s victims start off by shrieking in pain before transitioning to moans of pleasure. Part of his parents’ disappointment in Max is that he has a reputation to uphold as a vampire: a virile, romantic creature of the night. Apparently a large part of the film is shot “day for night,” although this is not clear until very near the end, and while Max is clearly visible in his room’s mirror when he first arrives at the dorm there are some gags later where he can’t see his reflection. The cast mostly consists of people who only ever did this one movie or who made appearances in some of Millard’s other work, so their performances are about what one would expect knowing that fact. The blood is thick and garish 70s-style “Kensington gore,” and all the vampire teeth are plastic fangs. Millard claims in the commentary on this release that the film cost $150,000 to produce, but if that’s true one has to wonder where exactly all that money went, because it sure as hell doesn’t look like much of any of it made it onto the screen.

Thankfully the film never takes itself seriously at all, which lends it a sort of handmade charm. If you’re already familiar with Millard’s oeuvre, you know whether or not you need or want a copy of Dracula in Vegas in your collection. And if you’re looking for a good place to jump into his work for some reason, this is as good a place to start as any. Kudos to Slasher Video for saving another SOV horror obscurity from disappearing into the mists of time, and for not trying to sell it on Blu-ray!

Olive Films and Slasher Video released Dracula in Vegas on DVD on 29 August 2017. Special features include a nearly 18-minute interview with Nick Millard and his wife and producer Irmgard Millard, a trailer cut by Slasher Video for this release, a photo gallery, and a full-length commentary track with Nick and Irmgard and Slasher Video’s Jesus TerĂ¡n.

About the Author:

Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He is author of "The Unrepentant Cinephile," and a regular contributor to Daily Grindhouse and Film Monthly as well as a member of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. He is co-director of the Chicago Cinema Society and proud owner of 35mm prints of Andy Milligan's "Guru, the Mad Monk." Follow his long-form film writing on Medium: www.medium.com/@rabbitroom
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