Michio Yamamoto’s film begins with a Sagawa (Atsuo Nakamura) who arrives at the decrepit mansion of his fiancé, Yuko Nonomusa (Yukiko Kobayashi) only to be told by her mother (Yoko Minazake) that her daughter died two weeks ago in a car accident. Sagawa decides to stay the night, but mysteriously disappears the next day. His concerned sister, Keiko (Kayo Matsuo-Keiko) decides to investigate and arrives with her boyfriend (Akira Nakao) at the old home. She is informed, by Mrs. Nonomusa, that Yuko is dead and her brother has now departed, but later that night the usual haunted house clichés are thrown into the plot; we witness a ghostly rocking chair, the sound of a girl weeping, and the eerie form of Yuko is seen wandering the garden.
It is later revealed that Yuko was conceived following her mother’s rape by the evil Dr. Yamaguchi (Jun Hamamura), who killed everyone else at the Nonomusa house following his anger at having lost his Yuko’s mother to a love rival. Yuko’s mother could never recall the identity of her attacker, due to shock, and so Dr. Yamaguchi managed to escape the penalty for his crimes. Twenty years later, Yuko fell ill, so Mrs Nonomusa made a pact with the devil and Yuko returned from the grave. However, due to her anger at having been ridiculed all her life for being the daughter of a killer, she has returned to wreck revenge on a world that has scorned her.
Interestingly, director Michio Yamamoto decides to have “vampire” Yuko carry a dagger in order to cut open the necks of her victims, as opposed to the usual fang-attacks, and neither is she a bloodsucker. In Freudian style we are informed that Yuko slashes the necks of her victims due to an obsession with a disfigurement on her mother’s neck that is symbolic of the “scar of her tragic life”. Despite this there are still plenty of references to the traditional Terence Fisher Hammer atmospherics that Yamamoto constantly tries to capture, here. We are treated to shadowy close-ups of the cast whose faces whose eyes are framed in letterboxed lights. Crows spring up from the undergrowth to surprise the protagonist, and static long shots of the house are filmed against a thunderstorm.
The script itself isn’t bad, mixing western mythology concerning “unlucky” stars, with those doom-laden Asian motifs of hypnotism, and the wronged female who launches her revenge from beyond the grave. The film is also heavy on symbolism, including dolls as a bond of love, (the film’s original title was A BLOODTHIRSTY DOLL), and linking fate with the will of various deities. The Nonomusa clan are “Cursed by the God of Death”, and we see various shots of crows traditionally associated as messengers between the dead and the living. Sadly, Kazutami Hari’s cinematography proves lifeless, there are no sweeping camera shots, despite the impressive set-design, and the whole film is poorly lit. As a result I can see why it has taken this long for the film to reach the home video front. There is also a laughable fight sequence between two characters on a mountaintop filmed in silhouette at about 50 metres, probably to disguise the fact that the actors are stuntmen.
As a piece of camp horror you can’t really go wrong here, paintings of the family ancestry depict renaissance styled westerners. The dialogue seems appropriate at times “Everything’s old… it jars on the nerves” mumbles one character, whilst Dr. Yamaguchi, resembling Benny Hill’s 70s lampooning of an Asian Alan Whicker, philosophises with the old clichés, “Science can’t explain occult powers”, so when lines are sprouted such as “She was bloody all over.” you half expect to hear the reply ‘Yeah, bloody awful!’
As well as the dialogue the film is notable for several gory throat slashings, particularly the end sequence, which would have undoubtedly been cut for a 70s American PG audience. LEGACY OF DRACULA stands as an innovative slice of Asian trash, and fans of vampire cinema bored with the Hollywood conception of blood-sucking demons ought to give it a look.
Carl T. Ford
Directed by Michio Yamamoto
Japanese language with English Subtitles
Japan / 1970 / 71 minutes.
SPECIAL DVD FEATURES
Trailers for upcoming Arts Magic releases
An Artsmagic Eastern Cult Cinema DVD release
Region 2. PAL. Dolby Digital Stereo.
LEGACY OF DRACULA (aka Bloodthirsty Doll / Night of the Vampire)