Who let the vampire dogs out?
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 04/22/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ah, those Communists; it's all their fault, you know. In Zoltan, Hound of Dracula, the forces of Communism unleash a mean, lean, killing machine in the form of a huge, fanged vampire dog on the good old USA. Sure, the film makes it look like it was accidental, but I have to ask: why was the Red Army going around blowing up holes all over Romania? There can be only one explanation: they were trying to find an ancient vampire tomb so they could bring a vampire back to life and enlist him in their cause. And that comrade who sacrificed his life for the cause? Clearly a ringer. Let's say I'm guarding a newly discovered Dracula family tomb when the earth starts quaking and a coffin slides out of the mausoleum onto the floor? Do I open the coffin? Do I then, seeing a stake projecting from the innards of the shrouded corpse inside, reach right in and pull the stake out just for the heck of it? No. Nobody would do that - unless they were acting under orders (or were just born stupid). What soon emerges from the coffin is a huge black dog (code name: Zoltan) who sates hundreds of years of blood hunger on his benefactor. The vampire canine quickly frees his old buddy, one of Dracula's servants, from another coffin, and the two reunited friends scurry off into the night. The servant is only a partial vampire; the sun doesn't bother him and he has no craving for blood; all he has is a fervent need to serve a master and a really silly expression on his face whenever he supposedly concentrates. Inspector Blanco, played by Jose Ferrer, knows all about the Dracula family, and he knows that the risen servant will go looking for a new master - and there is only one surviving member of the ancestral Dracula bloodline remaining (which is strange when you realize the guy has a son and daughter of his own), a perfectly normal human fellow named Drake living in California. Drake and his family have just begun a two-week camping vacation - it's not one they will soon forget. The family keeps being bothered by and eventually attacked by great big dogs, losing their own dogs in the process. Dracula's servant's master plan is to use his ever-growing number of vampire dogs to get the family out of the way and then take Drake's blood, thereby turning him into the Dracula heir and master he is seeking. The film completely goes to the dogs by the time Inspector Blanco finally finds Drake to warn him about the whole vampire thing. If you think your neighbor's dog barks loudly in the middle of the night, wait until you hear a constant cacophony of huge dogs whooping it up for a full half hour. This isn't a bad thing, though; I rather liked the way the dogs were used in this film, doing all of the dirty work for the weird undead servant. The ending of the film gets a little bit hokey, and then it gets even a little hokier, but I actually enjoyed this film a great deal.I must warn fellow animal lovers out there that some dog characters meet with an unhappy fate in this film. Worst of all, a litter of cute little adorable puppies gets dragged into the whole mess. Personally, I don't care what happens to human characters in horror films - the more gruesome the death, the more I like it. But to bring pain and misery to poor little puppy characters is hard for an animal lover like me to watch. You know, a number of really talented canine actors and actresses basically carried this movie on their backs; they acted their hearts out, looked more like fanged vampire killers than most humans ever do, and for what? For no credits whatsoever, that's what. Sure, the trainer gets his name listed; even the person who supplied the dogs gets to see his name up in lights; yet not one canine actor was given any credit in the making of this movie. You name the movie after a canine vampire, but you won't even list the dog's real name? Where is the justice in this? This is a good horror movie, and credit should be given where credit is due."
Listen to them. Canines of the night. What music they make.
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 09/15/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"In 1931 audiences witnessed the horror of that which was Bela Lugosi's Dracula...in 1936 we met the Daughter of Dracula...1943 brought us Son of Dracula (also again in 1974 if you count the comedic musical starring Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, Freddie Jones, Peter Frampton, Keith Moon, and John Bonham, but few do)...in 1960 we finally met the Brides of Dracula...well, you'd think that would pretty much cover it, right? Wrong...brace yourself for the horrifying terror of...Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1977) aka Dracula's Dog...that's right, apparently the old bloodsucker had a dog, and it too, had an unnatural taste for the precious hemoglobin...oh bruther...written by Frank Ray Perilli (The Doberman Gang, End of the World) and directed by Albert Band (Hercules and the Princess of Troy, Ghoulies II), the film stars Michael Pataki (Dead & Buried, Rocky IV), Reggie Nalder (The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage), and Academy Award winner José Ferrer (Cyrano de Bergerac)...it's a good thing they don't' retract those awards for poor career choices, as José most surely would have had to forfeit his after appearing in this dreck. Also appearing is Arlene Martel, whom trek fans will recognize as Spock's bride T'Pring, from the episode `Amok Time'.
The film starts with a bang, literally. Seems some Eastern European (Romania, I suspect) army regulars are detonating charges in the countryside (Why? Who knows? Who Cares?) and they end up blasting into a spacious, cobwebbed tomb, populated with crypts all bearing the surname Dracula...this can't be good...the army officials decide to call in an archeologist, and, in the meantime, they leave a guard behind. An aftershock (I suppose) shakes loose one of the coffins, and the silly guard opens it, revealing a shrouded figure impaled with a wooden stake, which he removes...and from yon box springs forth...a dog...but not just any dog, you see...this is Zoltan, hound of Dracula...oh bruther...after the guard gets his due, we're taken into a flashback (notice the fuzziness around the edges of the screen?) and we learn the startling (by startling I mean stoopid) origin of this vampire dog. Afterwards the dog pulls down one of the many, remaining caskets, opens it, and removes a stake from another shrouded figure (smart dog), which revives a character named Veidt Smith (Nalder), apparently a half vampire (he can go out in the sun), who used to serve Dracula, and is now looking for a new master. The two take off, and the next day Inspector Branco (Ferrer) arrives on the scene to investigate the strange happenings. His investigation does, in fact turn up the disappearance of the half vamp Smith, and Blanco believes Smith, in desperate need of a master, will seek out the last, living descendant in the Dracula bloodline who happens to be Los Angeles resident Michael Drake (Pataki)...oh man, this is stupid...anyway, Drake and his family (and their German Shepherds, one of which just had puppies) are packing up the Winnebago for a two week camping extravaganza (complete with lengthy driving montage), but little do they know that hot on their heels are Smith and Zoltan....with Inspector Branco bring up the rear, wooden stakes and all...
As I watched this film last night, I couldn't help but wonder one thing...was there a time when some movie guys were sitting around, trying to come up with concepts to turn into celluloid magic, the result being this film? If so, what in the heck were the ideas that got rejected? And how would you go about selling something like this with a straight face? The performances weren't too bad, and the direction mediocre, at best. The real, obvious weaknesses here lay in the stupidity of the material and the script. You wanna know how a dog became a vampire dog? Seems Dracula was about to feast on a female victim, got interrupted, turned into a bat, flew away, and landed on a nearby dog (apparently blood is blood to vampires). Thus came forth the world's first undead Doberman pinscher. As the movie wears one, we see Zoltan `turning' other dogs to assist him and Smith (who communicates with Zoltan telepathically) in acquiring their new master, Drake, who doesn't even know his lineage, so, I guess, vampirism isn't a genetic trait passed from generation to generation, but a disease transmitted...whatever...you know, had they just decided to turn this into a horror film about a family terrorized by a pack of wild dogs while camping I think it would have worked out a lot better, and would have fit in with the themes of the time, specifically when animals attack (the 70s produced a particularly rich vein of this type of material). As far as the actors, they were so-so...Pataki, who did the voice for the character George Liquor on the Ren & Stimpy Show cartoons, comes across pretty tepid, especially during the sequence when Ferrer's character informs him he's the last in the Dracula line, which he seemed accept with little, or no problem. Nalder, who played the half vampire, really didn't do much of anything except stand around and stare at the camera (these moments where meant to be when he was communicating telepathically with Zoltan)...and by the way, if you're wondering about his face, which looks as if it had been gnawed on by rats, the appearance is due to burns he apparently suffered earlier in life. And then there's José Ferrer...perhaps his distinctive voice and mannerisms were meant to add a little class to this production, something which didn't happen...talk about miscasting...I like Ferrer and think he's appeared in a number of really, good films, but his attempt to portray a Van Helsing character here comes up seriously short. In his defense, he might have pulled it off a little better had the material been better. All in all the story is pretty boring as there's little interest generated in the characters (who were constantly doing dumb things), so I really didn't care what happened to them...there were a couple of really funny scenes (unintentionally so), one featuring one of the puppies. I won't tell you what it is, but you'll know it's coming because the story, along with being stupid, is so very obvious, including the idiotic, open-ended finale. If you love dogs, you may want to skip this one as the canines in the story don't do too well by the end. It seemed clear no animal were hurt in the making of this film as the sequences where they appear to suffer injury featured obvious prop dogs (the human/dog fight sequences consisted of the actors holding on to the dogs collars as so they wouldn't run off). One thing the film does have is lots of typically bad, funky 70s pop disco-like music, like the kind you'd find in a softcore feature of the time. All in all a forgettable, moronic film few would probably cop to on their resumes...one interesting credit, Stan Winston, perhaps best known for his work on such films as The Thing (1982), Edward Scissorhands (1990), and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) is listed as the makeup designer...
Anchor Bay Entertainment provides an excellent widescreen (1.66:1), enhanced for 16X9 TVs, picture on this DVD, along with clear, Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Included is a theatrical trailer, and a 5X7 insert card featuring a reproduction of an original poster for the film, the flipside listing the chapter stops.
In case you're wondering, Zoltan did has his own, wee little dog coffin...Smith hauled it around in a hearse he stole...great way to be all inconspicuous dude, in a purloined deathmobile...