Blood of Dracula (1957)

This is a vampire film, but it’s probably not a good idea to check it out for that reason alone, as the vampire material takes up relatively little screen time, it’s probably some of the weakest material in the film, it’s relatively passionless, bloodless and free of violence, and it often verges on the ridiculous, partially due to Phillip Sheer’s “Halloween kit”-styled make-up, which is surprising, given that Sheer did the make-up for I Was a Teenage Werewolf, I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and How to Make a Monster, which are all far more impressive.

But this Herbert L. Stock vehicle (Stock also directed I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and How to Make a Monster) isn’t at all a bad film. It’s better to think of it as a fairly twisted girls school tale. As an amusingly and darkly caricatured study of interpersonal and social dynamics, the unfortunately titled Blood of Dracula is almost a hidden gem.

Nancy Perkins’ (Sandra Harrison) mom has just passed away, and a mere six weeks later her father has remarried presumably a younger wife, and they’re sending Nancy off to a boarding school to get rid of her for a while. Understandably, Nancy isn’t too happy with this, but more than that, while the family is driving to the boarding school during the opening scene, Nancy grabs the wheel and tries to send the whole family plummeting to their deaths off the side of a cliff. She’s a passive-aggressive on megadoses of steroids.

While she’s at the school, she learns the hard way of the gang mentality of her fellow students. There are also unusual relationships with teachers and administrators, including some fairly-heavy-for-1957 lesbianism subtexts. Another element that’s a bit unusual for 1957 is the fact that the entire girl “gang” of Nancy’s dorm is taking turns dating the school groundskeeper/maintenance-man, with one of them even secretly engaged to him, and okay with him sleeping around, as long as he cuts his dates short to make it back to her.

The chemistry teacher, Miss Branding (Louise Lewis), who is the pivot of much of the lesbianism subtext, is an amusingly absurdly twisted megalomaniac–there are some wonderful “did she actually say that?” speeches–and something like a witch; she’s the fuel for the vampirism that occurs. Even more interesting and very subtle and surprising, the headmistress of the school seems to be aware of most of these facts at the end of the film.

This is unashamedly a B movie from the 1950s, and there’s even an obligatory party scene with a character singing a swingin’ song called “Puppy Love”. If you watch it expecting that and not expecting intense vampire material (although Stock does give us a couple Lugosi-styled googly-eyes shots, if you think that’s intense), you should find enough to enjoy here.