Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (1978)
|Year Of Production||1978|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Albert Band|
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.66:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.66:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
One of the mottos of the history of cinema could be "if you're on a good thing, flog it to death". Whenever there is a successful movie made in a particular genre, hordes of producers creep out of the woodwork making variations and rip-offs. The Star Wars clones that appeared in the late 1970s and early 1980s are one example. One of the most successful genres has been the vampire film, with probably thousands made since the first efforts in the 1920s. We have had male vampires, female vampires, gay vampires, lesbian vampires, alien vampires, comic vampires, black vampires, Chinese vampires, Japanese vampires, circus vampires, hardcore porn vampires, and with this film, canine vampires.
Yes, that's right, dogs with long fangs that want to drink your blood. A group of Romanian soldiers come across a buried tomb. Inside the coffins clearly marked "Dracula" (which should have been a warning to the curious) are staked and shrouded bodies. One of the soldiers foolishly removes a stake, resurrecting Zoltan, the Hound of Hell. After feasting on the soldier, Zoltan removes the stake from the body of Veidt Smit (Reggie Nalder), who is thusly also resurrected. As we learn shortly, Smit is a fractional lamia, a half-vampire, who has all the vampire traits except the lust for blood and the need to sleep during the daytime. In order to survive, Smit needs to serve a vampire master. The only surviving member of the Dracula clan is Michael Drake (Michael Pataki), who conveniently lives in Los Angeles, thus saving the producers the cost of filming in Europe.
Enter Inspector Branco (José Ferrer), who travels from his native Romania (which looks a lot like California) to ensure that Zoltan does not turn Michael into a vampire. Michael and his family are off on a camping trip with their two Alsatians and a litter of puppies in the wilderness (which looks a lot like Romania). They are followed by Smit, driving a hearse with Zoltan in a box in the back. Much terror ensues.
It seems that canine vampires did not really take off as a box office force. This film is probably the sole reason. While not appalling, it is very silly and fails to deliver much in the way of horror, although a sequence involving the dogs attacking a fisherman's hut is well done. Zoltan gives a fine performance as the dog, looking quite spectral and growling a lot. The other dogs also do well. The humans are not quite so good. José Ferrer gives a brilliant performance if only because he manages to keep a straight face when delivering some ludicrous dialogue. Why this Oscar-winning actor was in this film I cannot imagine, although I guess it may have something to do with (a) a complete lack of discrimination or (b) the need to buy food. Probably both.
Michael Pataki is reasonable as the last of the Draculas, though he really is not called upon to do anything but look mystified. Reggie Nalder was an Austrian actor who had suffered burns to the lower part of his face, resulting in a memorably wrinkled and withered look, and he was often used in horror films. Apart from a couple of flashback sequences explaining the origins of Zoltan he does not speak, though his thoughts instructing the devil dog are heard in the soundtrack. The camera lingers a bit too often on him as he makes mysterious facial expressions.
Directed by schlockmeister Albert Band and also known as Dracula's Dog, this is an unintentionally hilarious film, but I doubt whether anyone would want to watch it repeatedly. It comes on a double-feature disc with To the Devil a Daughter, reviewed separately.
This is a pretty good transfer in the original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.
The video transfer is reasonably sharp and clear, and detail levels are good. Contrast is adequate, and despite a lot of night scenes shadow detail is fine.
Colour is also good, with lifelike hues and realistic-looking blood. Flesh tones, whether alive or undead, are satisfactory.
There are a few instances of minor aliasing in the usual places, such as car grilles and coffin lids. There is also some slight edge enhancement visible. Otherwise the film is free of film to video artefacts.
There are quite a few white spots throughout, mostly quite small, though there are some larger instances. This is not really distracting in my opinion.
The film comes on a dual-layered disc with this film contained entirely on one layer, avoiding the need for a layer change. There are no subtitles.
The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.
Despite being a mono track, I had to listen quite carefully to confirm that it was not stereo, as it sounds pretty vivid. Dialogue is clear and distinct for the most part, though there was one sequence where Branco is explaining to his female superior about the vampires which I had to listen to again to understand what was being said. Some of the earlier audio sounds a little muffled. Otherwise the audio track is satisfactory, with a reasonable dynamic range meaning that it does not sound as flat as most mono tracks.
The music score is by Andrew Belling and consists of synthesizers and drums, containing all of the clichés found in 1970s horror TV shows. I even found myself laughing occasionally at the score, not something that happens very often.
|Surround Channel Use|
No extras are provided.
The US Region 1 DVD release from Anchor Bay contains a theatrical trailer, as well as an optional French soundtrack and a replica theatrical poster as an insert card. Not enough in my opinion to sway the potential purchaser.
I can imagine that this will be a cult film for some people, but for most of us this will be a waste of time.
The video quality is reasonably good.
The audio quality is satisfactory despite a couple of problems.
There are no extras.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Main: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175|