A DECIDEDLY DIFFERENT AND NOVEL REVIEW OF
AS INTERPRETED BY
Original French LP soundtrack to "Tendre Dracula"
One day, a French film maker named
Pierre Grunstein decides it's a great day to knock on Peter Cushing's door and
ask if he can come out to play as Dracula. Actually, Peter's character name is
MacGregor, a jaded horror actor who's physician tells him to give up horror in
lieu of romantic roles. Playing horror has become too much for MacGreger's
romantic heart so he informs the studio that he will no longer be terrorizing
An example of what MacGregor means by horror can be seen at the start of the film. MacGregor (Peter Cushing) is dressed in a bluish green surgical mask and scrubs surrounded by a few more similarly outfitted people. On two tables lay an old, withered hag and beside her, a lovely young woman. It's anybody's guess what he's doing as the scene cuts to two bumbling guys frantically searching every door as if they are trying to find the men's room in an office building. We then get a dose of Loony Tunes type xylophone music until it dissolves into every flanging nightmare soundtrack I've ever heard on any given 1970's TV. police drama. Credits are a rolling and the tension is a building. We then see and hear a precision cut made to the young girl's throat in the operating room. A tribute scene straight from the opening sequence in Corruption and from the not half bad special effect of this one scene, a very gory tribute.
The movie then goes to the producer's office who has an entertaining box on his desk. With a mere press of his finger, a female voice tells visitors, in this case a script writer and a makeup artist, various orders such as sit down, shut up, and you're fired. French humor, go figure. Anyway, our male leads a scriptwriter named Alfred and his buddy Boris a make-up artist, are told by the producer that MacGregor is leaving right in the middle of a horror production on orders from his doctor. This annoys the sleaze ball producer and so he sends two of his finest, the script writer and makeup artist, to MacGregor's castle for the weekend to try and persuade him back to his old job of blood drainer.
Alfred and Boris set off to the parking lot to get their car with an arm load of files given to them by sleaze ball. As they open the trunk, they find it stuffed to the gills with luggage. Shutting the trunk they just happen to notice two girls, a blonde and a red head, sitting in the back seat. Nothing much gets passed these two. The women are silent as the two guys are instructed by the cassette in their car, the two ladies are provide courtesy of MacGregor. So the road trip begins as one of the "erotic dream girls" as they are called in the tape, puts her erotic legs around the driver's neck. Of course, the driver promptly smashes the car into a wall. The car is totaled and by the looks of it, you'd think the Horror Express train hit them. They survive and march onward to MacGregor's château.
Upon arriving, our Road Rules foursome are terrified by Avalard, the local village idiot, clumsy axe-wielding handyman, and apparently MacGregor's wife's first. First husband, first lover, first handyman, take you pick. Either way he's not the sharpest tool in the shed. The suspense is overwhelming as he reaches to open the front door inviting the guests inside. They are led in silence down a long, dark corridor only to be met by a very haggard, wart laden woman named Mabel. She says," I love young and beautiful people." You get the feeling she means she loves them as the main course for dinner. As suddenly as she appeared, she disappears in a swirling puff of smoke.
Then finally, the moment I've been waiting for arrives. MacGregor played by Peter Cushing smoothly makes his entrance. "Good evening good people. I am MacGregor." I raise my head up to the heavens and whisper," Thank you." The good people are quite taken by MacGregor who inquires about their needs and if they have met his wife. "Yes, we've met Mable." Suddenly, MacGregor growls in a booming voice filling the dark cavern. "NO ONE calls her Mabel". He calls her by a name that conjures up a Succubus as he laughs, exposing a surprisingly good looking set of vampire fangs. He insists she be called Heloise because it's sounds more romantic. He then goes into a rant of romantic superlatives describing his wife and tells of Avalard's unfortunate happenstance with the axe that," was a terrible blow to his manhood." Ouch, I bet that left a scar. The women then whine that the half-wits left their suitcases in a field and they have no clothes. MacGregor tells them since they are actors and script writers, they can improvise. MacGregor reasons that anyone can make romance happen even in the most diverse of surroundings and under the most unusual conditions.
Again we are treated to bad pre-disco era music but the
best is yet to come. One of the erotic dream girls runs naked to the other dream girl's
room and announces the her bathroom faucets are spewing out blood and not water. The smart one of the two says it's only rusty water from the old
pipes. You can rest assure that whatever it is running out of the pipes, it doesn't run very deep with these two. Then suddenly, some
unseen (unseen by the audience that is) supernatural force catches the bathroom curtains on
fire. The girls laugh and here comes the best part I mentioned. Not only are these two erotic dream girls spunky, they sing away their troubles and
fears! To be fair, the girls looked like they were dubbed but it doesn't get much better and if I were dubbed such a bad, off key manner, I would have
filed charges citing character assassination.
Our attention is then drawn to Alfred and Boris in another very dark room that looks like it might be an attic. Lighting wasn't a strong point in this film. Our two heroes go through trunks to find everything they need for romance in their eyes, which consists of sleazy outfits and grease paint type make-up. Tiring of this, they go in search of the two Spice Girls. They find them, upstairs putting MacGregor's suggestion of improvisation into motion. Since they lost all their luggage, the girls get all gussied up in the MacGregor family curtains from the bedroom since I guess the ones in the bathroom went up in flames. I had to laugh at this scene because it reminded me of that legendary Gone With The Wind skit the Carol Burnett Show did with Burnett as Scarlet O'Hara sweeping down the stairs in a green frock of her own design, with the curtain rods still intact. Now with everyone looking their best, it's on to dinner.
At dinner, MacGregor tries to convince his dining companions that horror is dead. Romance is the only way to go as he summarizes, "Stick to romance. Beauty is truth, truth beauty." Red headed Spice suddenly gets a moment of clarity as she reasons with MacGregor, "Why can't you have a movie with both horror and romance? Romance by itself is pretty horrible." Snort. You can hear the silverware dropping. Ok, on to the dancing of the Waltz. MacGregor is graceful and light on his feet as he twirls his dance partners around the room. Everyone later settles down to get better acquainted but the romantic ambiance doesn't last. A gunshot rings out and we see that Boris has taken his life. But don't despair. Remember he is a master make-up artist and only made himself up to appear dead fooling the diner party. The wonders never cease. Fooling everyone but MacGregor who took one look at the carnage and called Boris a rank amateur. Boris' reason for this charade? "We are all here to convince MacGregor to come back to horror, not to be romantic." So our clever Boris, not being paired off with anyone after dinner, decides to inject some much needed horror into the romance of the evening in a not so subtle gruesome reminder, bringing everyone back to reality.
After a bit more frolicking, everyone finally goes to sleep. We are now treated to surrealistic, confusing dreams sequences. One of particular interest has Alfred being chased by a dismembered pair of legs down the stairs into the dungeon of the castle. All castles have dungeons, it's a law I think. He is chased until he finds the other half of the puzzle and it's the blonde Spice girl from the waist up on a silver platter. Weird. Maybe it was something he ate at dinner.
The next morning, Avalard prepares MacGregor a special breakfast drink of fresh chicken's blood. MacGregor says is a Bloody Mary. You decide. After a while, we hear a cry from the general direction of Avalard as Red Spice, who has taken a fancy to him, runs outside to help him. She runs over, rips off his boot only to discover the big oaf has cut off his big toe in this latest accident. As all this mayhem is going on outside, inside Blonde Spice calmly sits and tells Heloise about her erotic dreams of MacGregor. At least she's not doing it in the form of a song. But wait just a cotton pickin' minute.....
Red Spice seizing the moment, sooths Avalard excruciating pain with her captivating singing voice. Then decides after she has wrapped Avalard's foot in four million yards of surgical gauze,( I think it was leftover curtain) she now uses her extraordinary talent for perfect timing to seduce Avalard as he lay on the bed in screaming agony.
Meanwhile, MacGregor is in a reminiscing mood. In flashback form, he tells Alfred about his grandfather the gravedigger, in which grave digging was the family trade having been passed down for generations. In the desolate, windy dust bowl setting, the grandfather just gave little Mac his first on hands experience of this family trade having just buried the boy's parents. Riding along in the family's funeral cart, grandfather Mac asked young Mac what he wants to be when he grows up. Seemingly out of nowhere, a caravan of gypsies beating tambourines, dance by the horse drawn hearse. Young Mac pipes up and says, "I want to be an actor, like them." This did not set too well with Grandpa Mac and he beats the boy with his riding whip. Mac covers his eyes trying to protect himself from his grandfather's fury. The shock of baby Mac wanting to be an actor proved too much for pop, as he falls dead where he stands along the road. Young Mac, now with his entire family dead and left with nothing but the funeral cart, finds the gypsies further up the road repairing a broken wheel on their cart. Young Mac offers them the hearse and having nowhere else to go, joins the gypsies and is off to a new life which takes him to many exciting places, eventually finding fame. But the memory of his grandfather's lifeless body left at the side of the road haunts his every performance. This experience has convinced MacGregor that it takes more than just acting classes to become a convincing actor.
Now the film takes a broader turn to the bizarre. Down in the depths of the castle's dungeon, Heloise and MacGregor, husband and wife, are trying to pair themselves off with their guest. Heloise with Alfred and MacGregor with Blonde Spice. Alfred doesn't hold the same enthusiasm for iron hand cuffs and chains as Heloise and he promptly leaves her standing. She throws a jealous tantrum as she sees MacGregor fairing much better with hand kissing Blonde Spice.
Meanwhile as Alfred runs through the upstairs hallway, he trips over Red Spice laying face down with an axe buried in her back. Thinking it's another one of Boris's hilarious gags, he tells Red to cut it out and get up. He smacks her behind ( oh that should get a response) but she is motionless. Alfred then pulls the axe from her back discovering it's anything but a joke as the blood pumps and gurgles it's way from her body. He runs to his room shouting for Boris, opens the door and is slugged by Avalard and his sidekick axe.
Alfred awakens looking worse for wear as Boris tells him Avalard has killed Red Spice because she tried to seduce him and unfortunately, she didn't remember MacGregor's tale about the blow to Avalard's manhood. Avalard hearing this goes berserk on the two, doing his best imitation of Lizzie Borden but runs out of steam and slumps to the floor crying. Alfred runs off to call the police while Boris comforts the blubbering Avalard.
Alfred goes back down to the dungeon of love to inform the MacGregors that their domestic has murdered Red Spice. Alfred sees Blonde Spice strapped snuggly into an electric chair ready to be fried. Alfred is
restrained in a regular chair beside blondie by the amazingly strong Heloise who then proceeds to carve her name into Alfred's leg with a steak knife. Then just when you thought this movie could not get more stomach churning, Heloise informs Alfred that he must impregnate her before she kills him. While all this tantalizing romance is unfolding, MacGregor has been presumed dead lying flat on his back on a marble slab. He's not dead and is abruptly awakened from his slumber by the shrilling voice of his beloved Heloise. MacGregor springs from his repose and goes into a sermon about the devil, growing old, and let's not forget, romance. To MacGregor, love is ageless and when you are in love you will be forever young. Actually, Peter grabbed my attention with this speech saying his lines beautifully and with conviction. MacGregor and Heloise leave Alfred and his new found love Blonde Spice to make their own romance.
We then see a band of people with white sheets over their heads sneak out of the dungeon with film cameras in hand shooting everything from the now peacefully sleeping Avalard and Boris, to Alfred and Blonde Spice not sleeping in bed together. MacGregor and Heloise barely get out of their house when an orgy breaks loose. It's no shock to find that under the white sheets, as it where, it's the sleaze ball producer and his crew to film trying to break even. The MacGregor's instruct Avalard to set fire to their love nest and they make their escape via one of the castle towers, which takes off like a rocket ship.
Later outside, the sleaze ball production crew having gotten enough footage packs up to leave, appearing at the front door in no other that Red Spice and you guessed it, singing but her lips are not moving. Not only is
she dead, has perfect timing and a dazzling signing voice, she has acquired either telepathy or ventriloquism. The mesmerized film crew drop stop packing and run to the house and crash in on the orgy. The house crumbles to the ground and I wish I could salt the earth around the aftermath.
Maybe you're wondering why so much energy and detail should be put into a review of a movie that for the most part, wasn't very good. As I was
writing this review, I kept in mind that it would be placed on a site which is devoted entirely to keeping the memory of Peter Cushing alive. Therefore
I personally feel that describing in detail any film Peter did can only benefit other fans who may not have had the chance to see that particular
film, regardless of whether the film is good, bad, or just atrocious. But before I started writing this review, I decide to search the
internet for any information about this film and came up virtually empty handed. But what I did find were a few sparse reviews that trashed the film
in ten words or less. A few reviews compared Tendre Dracula to Fearless Vampire Killers which was more of a spoof of horror films rather than the
high camp quality displayed in Tendre Dracula. To me, Peter's performance in Tendre Dracula reminded me more of George Hamilton's Count Dracula in the
successful 1979 film Love at First Bite. It has been speculated that Tendre Dracula may be a symbolic account
of Peter Cushing's life. If this is the case, he did it better in Tales From the Crypt playing the lonely, suicidal widower Mr. Grimsdyke and next as the
guilt-ridden and also eventually suicidal, minister with a flesh eating son in The Ghoul. Also, Tendre Dracula having this campy style and goofy musical
numbers reminds me more of The Rocky Horror Picture Show but Rocky Horror did it so much better. Interestingly enough, both movies are celebrating
their 25th anniversaries this year. Even more intriguing are the comparisons both
Tendre Dracula and Rocky Horror share. So I now take you to:
THE STRANGE AND UTTERLY MIND BOGGLING PARALLELS OF
TENDRE DRACULA AND THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW
This familiar lip logo came with the tag line " A different set of Jaws" referring to another movie playing in 1975 called Jaws. Rocky Horror was also a different kind of Frankenstein movie. But there is yet more fish
to be fried.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was filmed in England at Oakley Court, a house which has been used in many Hammer films. Oakley Court is adjacent to Bray Studios where as we all know, Peter made many a movie.
The late Charles Gray played the Criminologist in Rocky Horror, later to be referred to as no neck because the suit he wore gave him the illusion of having no neck, hence the name. Charles Gray appeared in a film
called The Beast Must Die with Peter Cushing.
Patricia Quinn who played Magenta in Rocky Horror has been featured in a Hammer House of Horror short called Witching Time. Peter was in a HOH short also called The Silent Scream. Also, I couldn't help but notice the resemblance between Magenta and a character played by Adrienne Corri in Madhouse. Corri portrayed Fay Flay, a neurotic, disfigured, has-been actress who is the ex-wife of a character named Herbert Flay, played by none other than Peter Cushing.
Christopher Lee who has been at Peter's side in many films, was the Rocky Horror Interactive Game narrator. I tried to find out more about Mr. Lee's involvement with Rocky Horror to no avail. I'm sure a Christopher Lee fan would be happy to give us the details.
Tendre Dracula is no
award winning film, but it's not the worse movie I've ever seen either. If you
are a Peter Cushing fan, it may be worth your time to obtain a copy and be you
own critic. If that doesn't work, watch Rocky Horror instead or better still,
come here and remember a wonderful man who cared for his fans and wanted his
movies to bring us enjoyment and escapism from the real world even if only for a
mere hour. The least I can do is remember him in one of his obscure films and
give it a little of the recognition it missed before.
COPYRIGHT - MISS WEASEL 2000