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Zoltan: Hound of Dracula (1978)
(aka Dracula's Dog)

Directed by Albert Band

DVD Review: Zoltan: Hound of DraculaZoltan Hound of Dracula is a 70s horror movie produced by Crown International Pictures. The movie was originally released under the title Dracula's Dog, and in certain parts of the world it is still marketed under that name, but—as far as movie titles go—it's a pretty lame choice. The story begins with some Russian soldiers practising their blasting skills in rural Transylvania. Why they are doing this is never explained, but it provides a good excuse for the accidental unearthing of the entrance to an underground tomb. 

The tomb houses several coffins that contain the remains of members of the Dracula family and, presumably working under the assumption that these will have historic significance, the soldiers' commanding officer sends for an archaeologist, and posts a guard to protect the tomb overnight. The soldier given the unenviable task of guarding the evil remains gets top marks for bravery because he just appears to take it all in his stride, and even manages to get a little shuteye, but is shaken awake in the middle of the night when violent earth tremors dislodge one of the coffins and causes it to slide onto the floor. Either from curiosity or just bad judgement, the soldier decides to remove the coffin lid. Then when he notices a wooden stake sticking out of the burial shroud he removes that as well, and a vampire dog jumps from beneath the shroud and goes straight for his throat.

There are no prizes for guessing this beast of Hell is Zoltan and, after he has finished feeding, the hound of Dracula tries to free his master, Count Icor Dracula. Unable to do so, Zoltan chooses an easier option and uses his teeth to pull the stake from the chest of the count's servant, Veidt Schmidt. A second quake buries the tomb before Zoltan and Schmidt can revive the count, and the pair are forced to flee, but this is bad news for Schmidt because he is a fractional lamia (a part vampire ) and although he does not require blood to feed upon, and can walk about in daylight, Schmidt can  only survive for a limited amount of time without a master, so he is soon hunting down the last living member of the Dracula family—Los Angeles psychiatrist, Michael Drake, a happily married father of two, who has no idea of his vampire legacy.

When Schmidt finds Drake, he plans to get Zoltan turn him into a full-blooded vampire who can be his new master and give him a reason to go on not living. The whole project turns out to be a lot harder than Schmidt anticipated though. When he arrives in LA he finds the Drakes just about to take their Winnebago and go on a camping trip. This is only a minor problem because he just steals a hearse, follows them into the wilds and sets up camp within comfortable snooping distance of the Winnebago. Schmidt's real problem is that Zoltan is not always obedient to his wishes and it is not long before the hound of Dracula does a little unauthorised snacking and creates a vampire puppy. Schmidt is not happy about this unforeseen turn of events, but can see the advantages when Zoltan creates a pack of canine companions to assist his hunt for a new master.

Michael Pataki plays Drake and succeeds in making his character come across as the perfect stereotypical family man, but when vampire expert, Inspector Branco (Jose Ferrer), tracks him down, informs him of his heritage, and warns him that Schmidt is out for his blood, Drakes reluctance to accept the story comes across as a token gesture only and he is convinced far too easily for it to be even slightly believable.

Ferrer is adequate as Branco, but—as the movie's alternative to Van Helsing—he is a bit of a disappointment and his onscreen persona is easily eclipsed by that of Schmidt (Reggie Nalder), who is intimidating, creepy-looking and altogether not the kind of guy anyone would want to bump into in a darkened alleyway.

Special effects in the movie are limited, and the red glowing eyes, favoured by Zoltan and his pack of vampire dogs are passable, but it is all too obvious that they have been superimposed onto the tape during the editing process.

Although it is unlikely to cause too many nightmares, one of the scariest scenes occurs towards the end of the movie. Drake and Branco are holed up in a wooden cabin with only a few wooden stakes for company. Drake is there as bait, but when the pack of vampire hounds put in their expected appearance he and Branco just sit out the attack and wait for sunup; so it is all rather pointless, but the vicious onslaught against the outer wall and roof of the cabin almost qualifies for edge of the seat excitement.

DVD: Zoltaan: Hound of Dracula (1978)

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Zoltan Hound of Dracula is not one of the better Dracula spin-off movie productions, but it is not by any means the worst and although the thrills and chills are few and far between it remains a strangely watchable movie that may be especially appealing to fans of creature-feature-type horror movies, anyone who loves all things vampire, and those who remember seeing the movie when it first came out and feel in the mood for a little nostalgia.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Runtime 85 mins
Certificate: 15 (UK),  R (USA)

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