Friday, August 19, 2011

Son of Dracula

Son of Dracula is a musical comedy film released in 1974 by Apple Films, starring Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr. It is also the title of a Harry Nilsson album released in conjunction with the film. It includes Nilsson songs that were showcased in the film as well as portions of dialogue, used as bridging sequences. All song tracks with the exception of "Daybreak" are from Nilsson Schmilsson (1971) and Son of Schmilsson (1972), albums previously released.

Ringo Starr appears as Merlin the Magician, who follows the birth and rise of young Count Downe, played by Harry Nilsson. Starr and Nilsson were longtime friends, and Starr had played drums on Son of Schmilsson, which had spoofed horror movie motifs. A year or so later, Starr decided to make a rock and roll Dracula movie, and invited Nilsson to come on board. Nilsson thought at first the whole idea came from his recent album; as it turned out, Starr hadn't followed its release, and until then-wife Maureen brought him a copy, he didn't even know Nilsson had already used a similar theme.

Making the movie, both Nilsson and Starr came to realise it wasn't going to be a great piece of cinematic art, though they still enjoyed their time on the set. After its release, not even wooden stakes were needed to put the movie in its coffin, seemingly once and for all. Showings over the years have been limited to midnight movies and similar outlets, no official home video release has ever been made, and reviewers including Leonard Maltin have little positive to say about the film.

The LP release of the soundtrack album included a T-shirt iron-on advertising the movie, and a companion songbook included a reproduction of the movie poster. The single version of "Daybreak" edited out the words "it's pissing me off" (referring to daylight), repeating the lyric "it's making me cough" instead, and the fadeout is longer than in any LP or CD release of the song. ("Daybreak" was covered later by Nilsson friend and former Monkee Micky Dolenz.)

Keith Moon, legendary drummer of English rock band the Who, as well as John Bonham, legendary drummer of Led Zeppelin, make appearances in the film, drumming in the Count's band. Among the notables credited on the album were George Harrison and Peter Frampton, the later appearing courtesy of A&M Records. Klaus Voorman, who worked frequently with The Beatles, also played bass on many of the songs.

The story follows a motley group of characters, including Count Downe, who is a vampire dreaming of immortality. Just when he think it's safe to be a living dead fiend, he is approached about getting his life changed from a vampire to normal life by Dr. Van Helsing (Dennis Price), who claims he can help the Count become human. Other characters include a rock band, Baron Frankenstein (Freddie Jones) and a girl named Amber (Suzanna Leigh).

It is unknown if the film will ever come out officially on DVD. Harry Nillson brought a VHS copy of the film to show at the 1982 New Jersey Beatlefeast convention to be shown only at a special Friday night party that Convention host Mark Lapidos gives for the convention guests and vendors. Most party attendees ignored the film. According to journalist Peter Palmiere, Ringo has said in the late 1980s that he had a copy of the video lying on top of his TV set, but couldn't bear to look at it.

Soundtrack listing

1. It is he who will be king (Paul Buckmaster) – 3:07
2. "Daybreak" (Nilsson) – 2:43
3. "At My Front Door" (Ewart B. Abner, John C. Moore) – 2:40
4. Count Downe meets Merlin and Amber (Buckmaster) – 2:10
5. "The Moonbeam Song" (Nilsson) – 3:20
6. Perhaps this is all a dream (Buckmaster) – :47
7. "Remember" (Nilsson) – 4:09
8. Intro, "Without You" (Pete Ham, Tom Evans) – 3:47
9. The Count's vulnerability (Buckmaster) – 2:10
10. "Down" (Nilsson) – 3:07
11. Frankenstein, Merlin and the operation (Taverner) – 3:20
12. "Jump into the Fire" (Nilsson) – 3:16
13. The abdication of Count Downe (Buckmaster) – 1:10
14. The end (Moonbeam) – :49