A neon sign blinks "Hotel Transylvania." An aggressively deadpan young woman in a flowing gown strides down the corridors of a Gothic castle. In the background, a particularly repetitive disco song is insisting that "love is just a heartbeat away." (It's a Gloria Gaynor tune, and you can watch the whole opening here).
Welcome to the world of Nocturna, Granddaughter of Dracula (1979). The lovely but expressionless title character tells us up front that she's "in no hurry to get married." Wow, even vampire chicks get the pressure from their families! She's busy running the tourist trap hotel at the ancestral castle, where she's just hired the Moment of Truth, a multi-musician ensemble whose songs are surprisingly pretty good -- closer to the Motown soul than the bad disco I was expecting (but don't worry, that's en route). Nocturna singles out the blondest (and I have to say, most Jason Stackhouse-like) guy in the group to flirt with, with tragic results. I don't mean anything to do with the plot -- I mean his dancing. Here's the clip, which is labeled "Hot Disco Vampire Dance."
At least that's not boring, unlike the following "love scene." Then the movie grinds to a halt while Bonet takes an excruciatingly long bubblebath, running the gamut "from nakedness to nudity," as her werewolf assistant (billed as Brother Theodore) describes it, while he watches her from a keyhole. For those of you it might make more bearable, the nudity does go on and on.
As she scrubs, she ponderously voice-overs: "Now I have fallen in love with a mortal man. What is going to happen to me?" One Hot Disco Vampire Dance with Generic Blond Dude, and all the dubious vampire/mortal love stories throughout history become instantly more plausible in comparison. She mentions her "eternity of bloodlust and murder," but it's no spoiler to say the worst thing she does in the movie is some disco dancing. Which I guess is evil enough in its own way.
"You have no right to love. You can use men for nourishment only!" Grandpa Dracula tells her. Nonetheless, she runs off with the boyfriend to New York, where she stays with an old family friend named Jugula -- yes, as in Vein. It's Yvonne De Carlo, looking obviously more mature, but still as beautiful as when she played Lily Munster. "In my time, I've seen so many broken-hearted vampires," Jugula says, and come to think of it, so have I! Usually because of their unfortunate tendency to fall for the same human beings they snack upon.
Nocturna, though, thinks that the power of love, combined with the power of disco, is in fact beginning to turn her mortal. "When I hear music, I become transformed...at those times, my reflection can be seen in mirrors." That's something I don't think they tried on Dark Shadows, or Angel, or Forever Knight. We do know that Angel was secretly fond of Barry Manilow, but that didn't do the trick.
The gals go to a meeting where creatures of the night discuss the problems of the "urban vampire," including the amount of hypoglycemia in the population. When confronted by a policeman, they all turn into cartoon bats and fly away! The cartoon bat effects are totally quaint and adorable, and that's the point when the movie really started winning me over. Shortly after that, there's a great scene of Nocturna frolicking through Times Square to the tune of Vicki Sue Robinson's "Nighttime Fantasy."
A sweet little caption pops up over her head there that says, "Oh wow such a lovely city, isn't it?" Agreed. And special thanks to the diverse group of crazy people who've posted snippets of this hard-to-find film on YouTube.
A young Sy Richardson (of Repo Man fame) turns up as a flamboyant character called RH Factor, pushing a sniffable blood product (what could that possibly imply, in the '70s?), and running a vampire massage parlor (more nudity).Then the later disco scenes, with the camera in the middle of the dance floor, make it look like it would be fun to dance there, and live it up in a strobe-lit bacchanalia! So despite its very obvious flaws, the movie definitely has points in its favor.
This was obviously a labor of love -- starring, executive produced, and "based on an original story by" belly dancer Nai Bonet. She gives the impression that she's reading the script phonetically, but she's pretty, and has a big smile. It's the kind of part someone like Charisma Carpenter (speaking of Angel) could have made something of, although she probably wouldn't have done the bubblebathing.
Nocturna's bimbo boyfriend was played by Anthony Hamilton, an Australian model and ballet dancer who died in 1995. Crazy IMDB tidbit: "Cubby Broccoli tested him as the new James Bond when Pierce Brosnan was at first unable to get out of his Remington Steele contract to play the role. According to some reports ... it was agreed by both Hamilton and Broccoli that the former's known homosexuality would work against him in the role." This is also mentioned on numerous other sites. I wasn't surprised by the gay part -- when RH Factor scoffs at Nocturna's non-vampire boyfriend by saying "You got yourself a straight man," my reaction was, well, not exactly.The idea that he'd be a creditable Bond, though, seems like a stretch, but admittedly, Nocturna probably wasn't the best showcase for his acting skills.
Poor John Carradine plays Dracula, griping about his dentures. Unbelievably, this movie came out the same year as Monstroid! Another of the finest awful movies in which Carradine played thankless supporting roles.
the Moment of Truth tune "Love at First Sight"
And a scene I think of as "Disco Jealousy"
Tragically still unreleased on DVD, copies of the film occasionally turn up on Amazon or eBay with reasonable prices. Just don't get it confused with the Spanish animated film from 2007, which is usually the first thing to come up in a search. And really, don't mix that one up with Granddaughter of Dracula.