Zoltan, Hound of Dracula; aka, Dracula's Dog (1978) was preceded by its novelization by Ken Johnson, under the title Hounds of Dracula (1977). That is, I'm assuming the paperback was a novelization (meaning based on the film script rather than other way around) but was issued before the film had a distributor or the final title decided.
As the film begins, road building soldiers in Romania, apaprently from the Soviet Corps of Engineers, are dynamiting the countryside when they accidentally blast open the tomb of a noble Transylvanian family.
One soldier (Tom Gerrard) is left to guard the tomb as the woman major (Arlene Martel) sees about contacting an archeologist.
That night, a coffin leaps out of its nook, so the guard figures what the hey, I guess I'll take the lid off that. Inside is a shrouded corpse with a wooden stake poking out of it. So the soldier thinks to himself, hey, I'll pull that stake out of there. The shroud begins to move & a dead dog is coming back to life.
Last of all, the sentry is thinking to himself, I'll just stand here gaping as this big honkin' doberman with shiny eyes & big long teeth until it's all reconstituted & then I'll know if it's mean or not.
Doggy eats soldier then has flashback memories of how he became a vampire dog.
In medieval times he was trying to save a woman (Katherine Fitzpatrick) from Dracula (Michael Pataki), & Dracula transformed the dog into a full blown vampire, & the dog's innkeeper master, Veidt Schmidt, into semi-vampire vassal.
So Zoltan had once been a good dog! And he still loves his master. He rips open the coffin of Veidt Schmidt & pulls a stake out of his master's heart to revive him. Dog & master take off into the night.
Veidt, played wonderfully creepy by Reggie Nalder, is a Renfield type who cannot thrive without a master. He & the dog seek a modern descendant of Dracula to serve.
According to this variant of the myth, vassal-vampires like Veidt do not possess the blood craving & can move about by day.
Since vampires can make Schmidts who live forever without the harmful side-effects of full vampirism, you'd think they'd prefer that to all the risks that come with becoming bloodlusting vampires who have to hide in gravedirt to avoid the sun, easy pickings for the Van Helsings of the world.
So this doesn't really make a lot of sense. But looking for a way to excuse it, I went ahead & made my own assumption that these half-vampires are by nature slaves & that wouldn't be preferrable.
Zoltan, however, is a complete vampire dog with bloodlust & an aversion to daylight. Silly as all this may sound, it's kind of interesting to see a doberman coping with the powers & risks of vampirism.
Jose Ferrer as Inspector Braco shows up to investigate the vampire tomb. He's a Van Helsing clone & knows how to cope with this emergency. Soon the corpses of the Dracula clan are consigned to a funeral pyre.
Meanwhile Veidt has learned that the last of the line of Dracula is in America. As he sets out for the new country, Inspector Braco is in hot pursuit.
Suburban Los Angeles resident Mike Drake (Michael Pataki who was also Dracula in the flashback) is a decent family man with a wife, kids, & two dogs with puppies. As he's said to be the last living member of the Dracula line, I guess that means those two kids aren't really his. I wonder if he ever figured out his wife fools around.
Veidt wants Zoltan to turn Mike into a vampire to be his new master, therefore stalks the family on their camping trip. Oh, & as it happens, Schmidt & Zoltan are getting around in a big black hearse, so as to be less conspicuous I suppose.
The kids insisted the family's two dogs & a whole batch of puppies be brought along on the camping trip. The first feeding for Zoltan is one of the puppies. This is played totally straight, which makes it even funnier. Vampire puppy I liked.
The kids are heartbroken to find one of the puppies killed apparently by some wild animal. They have a family burial ritual in the woods, but that night, the puppy crawls out of the grave. Hysterical!
Zoltan is converting dogs when he can, creating a pack of vampire doggies. The pack takes out some human victims when they encounter hunters. The idea that your well-trained hunting dog could come back out of the woods to kill you has some emotional bite to it, so to speak.
The film will work itself out with the family fighting for their lives in the woods, poorly assisted by the unexpected arrival of Inspector Braco, trapped in a cabin while crazed dogs eat through the shingles of the roof.
It concludes badly for some, but the Drake family makes it through, & there's a standard fillip at the end implying a sequel that never came about, though as such fillips go, this is a cute one.
The film is simply awful but the vampire dogs are sometimes a tiny bit scary & the film has considerable "accidental humor" in its favor.
It's odd to realize the director didn't think vampire puppies would be funny but they are, & the abject ridiculousness of much of the goings-on makes it a fun film to watch with fellow bad-movie devotees. And of course if you're a horror film-lovin' little kid, it'll scare the bejeezubub out of you.
The name Zoltan, by the by, really is a common name in Europe for a large dog. It means "Sultan" & is kind of like Americans naming dogs Prince or King. This is such a know-nothing movie I'm kind of surprised somebody knew at least that!
Meanwhile back here at Ratgirl Central, we're all busy working on our original screenplay for Chitters, Squirrel Monkey of Dracula.
Continue to the next vampire film:
Perfect Creature (2006)
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