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NOCTURNA

The set-up of this 1979 obscurity, about Dracula’s babe granddaughter loose in a disco milieu, is irresistible to a bad movie buff like myself. The filmmaking, alas, is hopelessly inert even by bad movie standards.

The Package
     This ridiculous film got lost in the 1979 vampire movie glut, which included the John Badham directed DRACULA, NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE, THIRST, LOVE AT FIRST BITE and SALEM’S LOT. Not even a nude pictorial in the May ‘79 issue of Gallery Magazine by NOCTURNA’S star and co-producer Nai Bonet did much to bolster its commercial prospects.
     The movie at least has an impressive cast, including the legendary John Carradine, THE MUNSTERS’ Yvonne Di Carlo and the late stand-up tragedian Brother Theodore. Yet NOCTURNA seems destined to be best known for its double LP soundtrack, which included disco tunes by Gloria Gaynor (who subsequently dismissed the song she sang as “dreadful”), Jay Siegel, The Moment of Truth, Vicki Sue Robinson and The Heaven ‘N Hell Orchestra.

The Story
     The luscious vampire babe Nocturna is the granddaughter of Count Dracula. The Count is now an old man who’s fallen on hard times, having converted his castle into a hotel whose proprietor, the creepy Theodore, has a thing for Nocturna. She however is in love with Jimmy, a young stud who introduces her to the joys of disco. Furthermore, after these two get it on Nocturna proclaims “this is the first time I’ve ever enjoyed making love!”
     Nocturna’s grandpa doesn’t approve of her dalliance, as, he claims, she can only wed a fellow vampire. Nocturna however elects to elope with Jimmy.
     The lovebirds head to New York City. There Nocturna meets up with her grandfather’s ex-lover, who introduces her to an underground vampire society. Later that night Nocturna takes a stroll down 42nd Street, where she’s accosted by a pimp who takes her to a whorehouse stocked with vampires.
     Around this time the Count heads to NYC to take back his granddaughter, and sends Theodore to do the dirty work. He however is overpowered by Nocturna, leaving the Count to nab her himself, in a confrontation that occurs, appropriately enough, on the dance floor of a disco club.

The Direction
     This movie is supposed to be a comedy, but it’s not funny. Worse, the whole thing is directed in plodding fashion with a great deal of outright clumsiness, particularly in the action of the final 20 minutes (during which Nocturna’s overpowering of Theodore isn’t even shown). Writer/director “Harry Tampa” (actually Harry Hurwitz) evidently structured the proceedings around the eminently forgettable disco tunes that litter the soundtrack, devoting a large amount of screen time to energy-free dance sequences. Not even a gratuitous nude bathing scene that occurs early on and a lengthy T&A packed whorehouse sequence do much to liven things up.
     As Count Dracula John Carradine makes surprisingly little impression, while Yvonne De Carlo makes a conditional success of the underwritten role of Carradine’s ex-lover. This leaves the heavily accented Nai Bonet in the lead: Ms. Bonet is a rotten actress (something even this film’s fans concede), though quite affecting from a purely visual standpoint, possessing as she does a definite exotic allure. It’s no wonder her most memorable turn is in the aforementioned nude bathing scene, which was apparently shot separately from the rest of the film to jazz up an otherwise inert and unexciting product.
     Grindhouse nostalgists will at least appreciate a verite sequence in which the heroine wanders up and down 42nd Street at night, a scene that to these eyes comprises NOCTURNA’S only worth.

 
Vital Statistics

NOCTURNA: GRANDDAUGHTER OF DRACULA
Compass International Pictures/Nai Bonet Enterprises

Director: “Harry Tampa” (Harry Hurwitz)
Producers: Vernon D. Becker, Nai Bonet
Screenplay: Harry Tampa
Cinematography: Mac Ahlberg
Editing: Ian Maitland
Cast: Nai Bonet, John Carradine, Yvonne De Carlo, Tony Hamilton, Brother Theodore, Sy Richardson, Ivery Bell, Michael Garrison, Norris Harris, William H. Jones Jr, Adam Keefe, Monica Tidwell

     

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