Son of Dracula (1974 film)
Son of Dracula is a British musical film directed by Freddie Francis and starring Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr. It was produced by Starr and released in 1974 by Apple Films. It is also the title of a Harry Nilsson album released in conjunction with the movie.
|Son of Dracula|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Freddie Francis|
|Produced by||Jerry Gross|
Tim Van Rellim
|Written by||Jennifer Jayne|
|Music by||Paul Buckmaster|
|Cinematography||Anthony B. Richmond|
|Edited by||Garth Craven Neil Travis|
|Distributed by||Cinemation Industries (US), Apple Films|
|19 April 1974 (U.S.)|
Son of Dracula was made during a period when Starr, in between occasional single releases and session work, was concentrating on film-making and acting. Two movies in which he had starred, 200 Motels and Blindman, had been released at the end of 1971, and before starting on this one, he had just finished work on his directorial debut, the T. Rex documentary Born to Boogie.
As well as producing Son of Dracula, Starr would appear as Merlin the Magician, who follows the birth and rise of young Count Downe, played by Nilsson. Starr and he were longtime friends, and the ex-Beatle had recently played drums on Nilsson's 1972 album Son of Schmilsson, which had spoofed horror movie motifs. A few months after those sessions, in August 1972, Starr decided to make a rock and roll Dracula movie (originally titled Count Downe), and invited Nilsson to come on board. At first, Nilsson thought the whole idea must have come from his recent album; as it turned out, Starr had not followed its release, and until then-wife Maureen brought him a copy, he did not even know that Son of Schmilsson had already used a similar theme.
After the killing of his father (Count Dracula, the King of the Netherworld), by a mysterious assassin, Count Downe (Harry Nilsson) is summoned from his travels abroad by family advisor Merlin (Ringo Starr) in order to prepare him to take over the throne. Baron Frankenstein (Freddie Jones) is also on hand to help in any way he can. Problem is, Downe wants no part of this responsibility, and instead wishes to become human and mortal − especially after meeting a girl named Amber (Suzanna Leigh), with whom he falls in love. He approaches old family nemesis Dr Van Helsing (Dennis Price), who agrees to enable the Count's transformation, much to the dismay of the residents of the Netherworld.
Despite the best efforts of a host of monsters, as well as one traitorous figure who is dealt with by the trusted Merlin, Van Helsing performs the operation and removes Downe's fangs. He then informs the Count that he can now live out his days in the sunlight, with Amber at his side.
Keith Moon of The Who and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin both appear in the film, alternating as drummer in Count Downe's band. Other band members include Klaus Voormann (another old friend of Starr's), Peter Frampton, an uncredited Leon Russell, and the regular Rolling Stones horn section of Bobby Keys and Jim Price.
- Harry Nilsson – Count Downe
- Ringo Starr – Merlin
- Freddie Jones – The Baron
- Suzanna Leigh – Amber
- Dennis Price – Van Helsing
- Peter Frampton – Count Downe's Band member
- John Bonham – Count Downe's Band member
- Keith Moon – Count Downe's Band member
- Klaus Voormann – Count Downe's Band member
- Leon Russell – Count Downe's Band member
- Skip Martin – Igor
- David Bailie – Chauffeur
- Shakira Baksh – Housekeeper
- Jenny Runacre – Woman in Black
- Beth Morris – Wendy
- Hedger Wallace - Vampire
- Dan Meaden – Count Dracula
- Lorna Wilde (Pamela Conway) – Countess Dracula
- Tina Simmons - Ghoul - Uncredited
- Derek Woodward - Werewolf
Filming was completed by November 1972, but Son of Dracula had to wait a year and a half for release. Soon after completion, Starr called in Graham Chapman, who was writing with Douglas Adams at the time and had been working on a proposed (but eventually unfilmed) television special for Ringo. Along with Chapman's other regular collaborator, Bernard McKenna, they were asked to write a whole new script to be dubbed over the film's lacklustre dialogue, and they recorded an alternative, Pythonesque soundtrack, but the whole idea was then shelved. Later, attempts were made to market the movie, but as Starr later said, ‘No one would take it.’
Showings over the years have been limited to midnight movies and similar outlets. No official home video release has ever been made, and reviewers such as Leonard Maltin have little positive to say about the film.
It is not known if Son of Dracula will ever come out officially on DVD. Nilsson brought a VHS copy of the film to the 1982 New York Beatlefest convention, to be shown only at a special Friday night party that host Mark Lapidos was giving for the convention guests and vendors. Most party attendees ignored the film. On YouTube, a version in 11 parts is available. According to journalist Peter Palmiere, Starr said in the late 1980s that he had a copy of the video lying on top of his television set, but he could not bear to look at it.
|Son of Dracula|
|Soundtrack album by|
|Released||1 April 1974 (US) |
24 May 1974 (UK)
|Recorded||1971–72; September 1972 |
Trident Studios, London
|Producer||Harry Nilsson, Ringo Starr, Richard Perry|
|Harry Nilsson chronology|
|Singles from Son of Dracula|
|The Essential Rock Discography||4/10|
The Son of Dracula album includes Nilsson songs that were showcased in the film, as well as some instrumental tracks composed by Paul Buckmaster and portions of dialogue used as bridging sequences. All the song tracks except one are from the previously released Nilsson Schmilsson and Son of Schmilsson albums.
The only new song, "Daybreak", was recorded in London sometime in September '72, during a break in filming. Joining Nilsson and Starr on the sessions at Trident Studios were the likes of Voormann, Frampton, Keys and Price, once again, as well as George Harrison on cowbell. Jim Price, along with pianist Gary Wright and orchestral arrangers Paul Buckmaster and Del Newman, also provided new, incidental music, some of which appeared in the film only. The US LP release of the soundtrack included a T-shirt iron-on advertising the film, and a companion songbook included a reproduction of the film poster. The single version of "Daybreak" edited out the words "it's pissing me off" (referring to daylight), repeating the lyric "it's making me cough" instead, and the fadeout is longer than on any LP or CD release of the song. The single peaked at number 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 but did not chart at all in the UK. The album itself fared even worse, non-charting in Britain and climbing no higher than number 106 in America.
Album track listing
- "It Is He Who Will Be King" (Paul Buckmaster) – 3:07
- "Daybreak" (Nilsson) – 2:43
- "At My Front Door" (Ewart Abner, John Moore) – 2:40
- "Count Downe Meets Merlin and Amber" (Buckmaster) – 2:10
- "The Moonbeam Song" (Nilsson) – 3:20
- "Perhaps This Is All a Dream" (Buckmaster) – :47
- "Remember (Christmas)" (Nilsson) – 4:09
- "Intro; Without You" (Pete Ham, Tom Evans) – 3:47
- "The Count's Vulnerability" (Buckmaster) – 2:10
- "Down" (Nilsson) – 3:07
- "Frankenstein, Merlin and the Operation" (Taverner) – 3:20
- "Jump Into the Fire" (Nilsson) – 3:16
- "The Abdication of Count Downe" (Buckmaster) – 1:10
- "The End (Moonbeam)" (Nilsson) – 0:49
- Keith Badham, The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Break-Up 1970–2001, Omnibus Press (London, 2002), p. 79.
- Badham, The Beatles Diary Volume 2, p. 80.
- Giles, Jeff. "When Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson Made a Movie, 'Son of Dracula'". Ultimate Classic Rock.
- Strong, Martin C. (2006). The Essential Rock Discography. Edinburgh, UK: Canongate. p. 758. ISBN 978-184195-827-9.
- Harry Castleman & Walter J. Podrazik, All Together Now: The First Complete Beatles Discography 1961–1975, Ballantine Books (New York, NY, 1976), p. 134.
- Castleman & Podrazik, All Together Now, p. 216.