Zoltan, Hound Of Dracula (USA/Italy 1978)

zoltanI don’t recommend this but I’m feeling generous to old B pictures that have been mostly forgotten. They need some love too. Title also known as Dracula’s Dog, “Zoltan, Hound Of Dracula” is really something quite unique. Much of it is shot in bright, sunny open countryside, a setting which tends not to lend itself very well to the horror genre, although to be fair most of this picture’s suspense scenes are reserved for the night-time sequences.

The film’s ‘star’ is a big black doberman, Zoltan, a vampire in his own right. Through a brief flashback sequence we learn that many years ago he gained his vampire status after being bitten by Dracula, and thereafter served as the faithful companion to the famous vampire. And no, I’ve no idea why Dracula, a being that can supposedly adopt the guise of a bat or a wolf, would have need of a pet dog. Maybe Dracula had a sentimental side to him where animals were concerned – after all, he did pose to have his photo taken with Zoltan!

Anyway, at some point in the past Dracula and his clan, including Zoltan, were stopped with the customary stakes through the heart, and laid to rest in an underground tomb in Eastern Europe. Military explosions open this tomb in the present day, and at this point the film is very vague as to why things happen – suffice to say contrived events lead to Zoltan coming back to life, along with his original owner, the semi-vampiric Veidt Schmidt.

But not Dracula himself, which is probably just as well, because in the brief flashback glimpses we have of the Count, actor Michael Pataki looks quite ridiculous in the traditional Bela Lugosi attire. Without the proper Dracula to serve, Zoltan and Schmidt apparently have to seek out a new master from the same bloodline (yes, run that one by me again, please…) and so head off to Los Angeles to track down his only known living descendant, to turn him into a vampire. And no, it’s not explained how they know where he is.

zoltan-hound-of-dracula-3Luckily, local vampire expert Inspector Branco (Jose Ferrer) realises what’s going on and heads off in pursuit to stop them. The descendant, Michael Drake, is a happy family man who is just in the process of taking his wife, kids and dogs off on a camping trip to get away from it all. The bulk of the film consists of Drake and his family being terrorised by Zoltan and the other dogs, who get bitten and become vampiric themselves. Despite an overall air of cheapness and lack of depth, there are some good sequences.

Particularly when Drake finds himself trapped in first a hut, and later his car, surrounded by a pack of dogs clawing away at his defences, intent on getting to him, or also the brutal savaging of a lone camper. The titular pooch, Zoltan, looks quite effective throughout, and certainly isn’t an animal you’d want to cross on a dark night. You have to give the film some credit for trying to come up with something a little different. The Dracula aspect of this film is more a marketing ploy and should have been removed.

The character of Veidt Schmidt (the ever wrinkly Reggie Nalder) doesn’t do very much either, but given that a dog can’t talk, he’s really just a lazy plot device to explain Zoltan’s motivations at any given point. The musical score is low key and unmemorable. This is a film that stretches credulity at times, but it is undemanding, lively and original. It’s far from being a great film, obviously, but there are certainly worse B horrors around. If your expectations aren’t too high, then you might find it enjoyable. And the closing shot is quite good!

zoltancujo2

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