Review:
Evil of Dracula (1974)
(2.5/5)
Author:
Anthony Romero
Published:
August 21st, 2005
Note: review may contain spoilers


The final chapter in the "Bloodthirsty trilogy", Evil of Dracula ends up being a better successor to the throne than the second installment was in some areas, but is still lacking. Once again, Michio Yamamoto tries for a more traditional vampire story, and gets a mixed result for his effort. In general, the story here isn't too memorable, although it does provide some nice initial scares, while the characters and acting are serviceable. Unfortunately, Riichiro Manabe is attached to the project, which means another lackluster soundtrack.

Evil of Dracula starts out with Shiraki, a psychology professor, arriving to teach at the Seimei School for girls. Once there, he receives the news that the principle's wife has been killed in a fatal car accident. The current principle reveals that she's being kept in his cellar as part of a local custom, and also announces that he would like Shiraki to be his successor. Upon invitation, the professor spends the night. Come dusk, though, he hears an odd singing noise emanating from the house and goes to investigate. In one of the rooms, he locates a pale young girl in a blue nightgown, while another women, with grotesque fangs, tries to attack him. However, Shiraki is mysteriously struck on the head, and slips out of consciousness. He wakes up in his bed and assumes it must have been a nightmare. Unsure, though, he goes to the cellar and opens the coffin, to reveal the same woman in his dreams, except now in an apparent state of death. Unfortunately, the principal sees him, and tells him never to enter the cellar again.

Later, Shiraki visits the Seimei School, and befriends Yukiko, Kyoko and Kumi, three of the students. The professor also meets Shimimura, the school's doctor, who tells him about Keiko, one of the female students that disappeared five days ago. The doctor goes on to say how one or two students disappear in the same manner each year. That night, Shiraki hears the song again, this time emanating from the school, and goes to investigate only to find that Kumi was singing it. She explains that it was a song Keiko used to love to sing, Shiraki then explains his “dream”, and Kumi assures him that Keiko was the girl in the blue nightgown, as she was wearing that the last time she was seen. Meanwhile, Kyoko starts to wonder where Kumi has gone off to, and goes to look for her. Unfortunately, she finds the principal instead, who reveals his large fangs and proceeds to bite her in the breast. She returns to the room shortly after, followed by Kumi, and the three proceed to sleep.

The next day, Shiraki begins his lesson as a psychology teacher with some inkblot tests. During this session, Kyoko sees one of the inkblots change to blood red before her eyes, and gets up to scream before she faints. The doctor examines her, but suspects she simply studied too hard. He does notice two small holes in her breast though, as does Shiraki who is standing nearby. Later, Shimimura takes the professor to an old, uncovered grave and discusses with him the town's folklore concerning vampires. After hearing the story, Shiraki is convinced that his “dream” at the principal's house was real, and the two begin to worry about Kyoko's safety. The professor then tells Shimimura how he was set to be the next principal, an announcement that startles the doctor as another person to receive such a promotion later went insane.

That night, the two decide to post watch over the three girls. The doctor also brings the insane teacher's journal, which the last entry notes how the principal had stopped going out in the day. A comment that was actually directed at the current principal's predecessor. In the mean time, Kumi has left to get supper, while Kyoko tells Yukiko that “he is coming”, as the principal appears at the door. She screams, causing Shiraki, the doctor and the school's guard to come running up. As they open the door, the principal rushes through the nearby window and off into the forest. The doctor and the guard chase after him, but get separated. Meanwhile, Kyoko assaults Shiraki, shortly before she commits suicide. An event that allows just enough time for Yukiko, who was struck just below the neck by the principal, to leave the house through the window. The young girl meets with the principal out in the woods, just as the doctor locates the man. He hides in the distance, taking pictures, as he bites Yukiko. Unfortunately, he does not go unnoticed, and the vampire leaps over to him and strangles him to death. The police are called, and arrive just as they find Yukiko unconscious in the woods. The psychology professor accuses the principal for the incident, but his alibi is that he spent the night with Yoshii, who vouches that this was true. So the police drop the accusation.

Much later, while Kumi and Yukiko are alone, Yoshii arrives and renders Kumi unconscious with his gaze, as Yukiko leaves. The young student travels off into the woods, and ventures inside the principal's house, down to the cellar where the Madam, the principal's wife, begins to drain her blood. The Madam isn't done with the girl, though, as she takes a knife and begins to slice off her face. Once removed, she takes the dead skin and rubs it into her own face, a process that causes her to look identical to Yukiko. Under the guise of the young girl, the Madam returns to Kumi, but the student isn't fooled, so the Madam attacks her instead.

Later, Shiraki, who was visiting the “insane” teacher who showed him a scar where a failed attempt to remove his face occurred, arrives looking for Kumi. However, he only finds the Madam disguised as Yukiko. The girl asks the professor to follow her, which he does until they arrive at a lake. The girl asks Shiraki to marry her, causing the professor to scoff, as he explains that he has long since figured out she wasn't Yukiko; furthermore, he relates how he has learned of the principal and his wife's practice of taking on the appearance of their “successors”. A revelation that causes the Madam to laugh as Yurii appears and attacks Shiraki. The two struggle briefly before Yurii is thrown into the lake, sinking to the bottom. Shiraki then rushes off to the principal's house, only to find Kumi in the Madam's coffin. He awakes the girl, just as the principal's wife rushes out and attacks him. The two fight as Kumi runs off, only to be confronted by the principal. Saeki ignores the female vampire, and chases after his student. He finds them upstarts, with the principal's fang locked into the girl's neck. The vampire tosses her to the ground though, and begins to fight with the professor as the Madam emerges and does likewise with Kumi. The fighting appears to end, though, when Shiraki strikes the principal in the heart with an axe, which also causes the Madam to collapse. The battle is far from over, though, as the wound simply injured the vampire, and soon both the principal and his wife arise again. Shiraki ends the confrontation for good, though, when he takes a hot poker and rams it directly through the principal's chest, causing both him and the Madam to fall to the ground. The two begin to age rapidly as the principal clutches the hand of his nearby wife for the final time before death overtakes them.

The story, as a whole, isn't anything special, but it suffices as a platform to deliver a couple of scares through its duration. One thing about Evil of Dracula is that it's crueler then either of the other “bloodthirsty” films. Something that mounts when one of the innocent school girls, Yukiko, is called by the Madam, only to have her face hacked off, shown in a very disturbing sequence that reverts to a shadow on the wall to let one's imagination make it even worse. It's this level of cruelty that makes the film unpredictable and much more unnerving, especially since the students are seen carrying out normal lives at the beginning of the film before all hell breaks loose. Unfortunately, the “emanating sound device” is back, this time in the form of Keiko singing in place of Yuko's wailing in Vampire Doll (1970). It's still an effective device, but the scene plays out a little too close to the first entry overall, likely causing people familiar with Yamamoto's 1970 offering to call foul. The major fault of this entry, though, would have to be the climax, which feels long-winded. It starts out good, and the anti has been upped as two fights are happening simultaneously, but it drags, especially after the fake closure with the axe. The movie at least has something for the female lead to do here though, unlike Lake of Dracula (1971). Unfortunately, in doing so, it seems to go against the logic established by the film. After all, both the Madam and her husband have biten Kumi. Going from the rest of the film, at this point Kumi should have been a servant of the vampires, not duking it out with one of them. It's something that can really only be explained as a plot hole.

In regards to the character development: it's serviceable, which might be giving it the benefit of the doubt. Shiraki is the film's main character and all around hero. It's here, too, where the film really trumps its predecessor, as unlike Saeki in Lake of Dracula (1971) the psychology professor is fairly likeable. He seems to face the situations created by the dire circumstances logically, while his attempt to guard the three students is admirable. Unfortunately, even though he is likeable, he isn't very deep in the least, as very little is learned about him. The same could basically be said of Shimimura, the doctor. His interest in protecting the girls and exposing the principal make him fairly likable to the point where it's sad to see him go, but not much is explored of him all the same. As for the female lead, Kumi is a teacher's pet of sorts. She's generally good-natured at the start of the film, and very helpful, while her relationship with Shiraki grows very gradually through out the course of the film. Their romance isn't given a lot of screen time. However, given the isolation they are both feeling, as everyone around them is being turned against them or killed, it seems to work.

As for the acting, Toshio Kurosawa plays the film's lead, Shiraki, and ends up giving a pretty enjoyable performance. Nothing too extraordinary, but Kurosawa does well enough to make the character likable. It's interesting to see his reaction to the large amount of flirting that the students do with him too. The other lead, Kumi, is played by Morio Mochizuki. Given the material, she does a good job. Mochizuki comes off as very innocent and sweet at the start of the film, while her relationship with Shiraki grows slowly. She does well when the character's emotions switch too, as she exposes the Madam as taking over Yukiko's appearance. Looking at the supporting cast, Katsuhiko Sasaki plays Yoshii here, the French literature teacher. I will attest: I never much liked Sasaki as an actor, his delivery always felt monotone. Consequently, he seems like the perfect candidate to play the emotionless Yoshii here, who is under the Madam's influence, and, accordingly, he fits the part well as Yoshii goes around reciting the French poet Baudelaire's morbid verses about vampires in the movie. Shin Kishida returns to play the film's nameless vampire, although the character has no connection with the one he played in Lake of Dracula (1971). Kishida turns out a performance about on par with that in the previous film in the trilogy, in that he's good when acting mysterious or delivering lines, but gets a little goofy when he reverts to the more “animalistic” nature of the character and starts roaring.

In regards to the score, Riichiro Manabe is back, and set to compose some more haphazard themes for the viewer's listening experience. Unfortunately, this soundtrack is bad, even for Manabe, as at least his previous scores featured a memorable theme or two, but there is nothing but a sea of awful and mediocre cues here. The film's climax music alone should have been enough to send the composer packing here.

Overall, Yamaoto's end to the “bloodthirsty” trilogy, which is also his last film as a director, is entertaining in spite of its faults. It's also frightening enough to involve the viewer. Oddly, though, this film seems to be the anti-thesis to Lake of Dracula (1971): it fares much better in the initial viewing, but seems to suffer from being watched repeatedly, when the film's course of events is already known and the scares are nonexistent on account of it.