Dracula

Through out Warhol's early film career, Warhol exemplified his own style to stray from elements typical of commercial cinema. One such film which presents a different approach is Warhol's version of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Released in 1975, Dracula stars Udo Kier and Joe Dellasandra. In this film, Udo Kier plays the part of Count Dracula who must leave Romania for Italy for his search of virgin blood. He goes there because of the religious Italians who are strict about premarital sex. Upon Dracula's arrival in Italy he stops at an inn and tells the innkeepers that he is looking for a bride (as an excuse), so the innkeepers send him to a family who has four unwed daughters. The family, who is very wealthy, decide to take the Count inn. Dracula tells the father that he plans to take one of the daughters' hand in marriage. All of the daughters claim to be virgins, but the viewer knows that two of the daughters are not virgins due to their promiscuous sex scenes with the peasant caretaker (Joe Dellasandra)of the house.

As the plot thickens, it is filled with conversations between Dracula and his chauffeur, Dracula and the family, and sex scenes and more sex scenes. While Dracula is at the house he attempts to find out if the girls are really virgins by questioning them. Dracula attempts to get virgin blood out of the non-virgin daughter, Sophia. He manages to obtain blood, although he has a bad reaction because Sophia is not a virgin. Dracula begins to vomit blood in a very explicit, gory manner. During these two scenes the cries of suffering are orgasmic (the daughter's cries and moans from Dracula's poisoning.) After this, the Count attempts to get blood from the next non-virgin daughter, Robinia. The same situation occurs. At this point, two other daughters have not been attacked. The one daughter is very young and the other the viewer gets a sense that she might be a vampire because she knows so much about cooking of the last couple of hundred years. Dracula then pursues the youngest girl, almost positive that she is a virgin. At this point, the peasant caretaker realizes what is going on. He attempts to find the girl. When the caretaker does find the girl, he practically rapes the girl of her virginity "in order to save her life."

After raping the youngest girl, the girl's mother walks in the room and is lectured by the caretaker about what is going on. Everyone then attempts to go after Dracula and his chauffeur. When Dracula goes in the room where the servant had sex with the virgin, he begins to lick up the blood of the virgin off the floor. The mother finds the chauffeur and shoots him in the head after the chauffeur stabs her. The peasant caretaker goes after Dracula and chops off his arm's and legs with an ax. The tip of the ax breaks off on the last time. The peasant caretaker then takes the handle of the ax and spikes it into the chest of Dracula. The fourth daughter at this time proves to be a vampire after she throws herself onto the stake because she is disturbed by Dracula's death. At this point see that her teeth are fangs as she cries out. Warhol's version of Dracula is different from Bram Stoker's Dracula in the sense that the viewer is supposed to feel bad for Dracula rather than his victims. In Dracula, the viewer ends up hating the peasant caretaker because of his womanizing where in turn he becomes the hero of the story.

In Dracula, sexuality and homoeroticism are presented as two of Warhol's main themes. This film is similar to a soft porn film, as two of the four sisters, Sophia and Robinia, are shown engaging in sexual relations with not only the caretaker of the mansion, but with each other as well. This is obviously representing homosexuality as well as heterosexuality in a film involving sexual liberation and rebellion, as the sisters are very promiscuous and sex is taken very lightly throughout the film. The female body (portrayed by the bodies of the two sisters)is viewed as the sight of desire, capturing the two sisters, Sophia and Robina, as mere sex objects. In Dracula, the caretaker holds the most dominant position and displays the most power through the initiation of sexual relations with each of the two sisters and also through forced sexual relations with the youngest of the four daughter's, Sabia; forcing the women to be caught between being dominated, abused, and shown "love" through the act of sexual intercourse. The repression of women in this film becomes evident. This film places women in a position of subordination and constructs the female body as being associated with nothing more than sex. In this film, attack sounds of suffering become more like sounds of orgasmic pleasure. The sex scenes that seem to dominate this film only lead to more sex, thus allowing attacks by Dracula as well as sex to become the drama of this film. Although the attacks by Dracula and sex scenes are both integral aspects of drama within the film, the sex scenes tend to dominate the length of time rather than other crucial aspects of the film.

Sex scenes are used to foreshadow upcoming events. The scenes presenting the sisters engaging in sexual relations allow the viewer to foresee what will occur when bitten by Dracula and also suggests the idea of promiscuity to the viewer. Sex is taken very lightly in this film. For example, when the youngest daughter loses her virginity to the caretaker, the mother portrayed within this film doesn't seem to care. Since Warhol's Dracula is encompassed by many sexual encounters with narrative interludes, I am under the impression that Warhol's expression through the medium of film seems to present explicit and women in general in a lewd, offensive manner.

Sound serves as an important element in Dracula. Warhol uses sound to punctuate a sequence of sexual events. Music is applied in Dracula to foreshadow dramatic scenes and sexual encounters in order to clarify to the viewer that the de-virginizing of the sisters in order for Dracula to survive is the main drama; and also to intensify that these sexual scenes play an important role in the film. This is evident as the same reoccurring clarinet theme is used to introduce sexual scenes, rather than introduce the tension and excitement typical of the Hollywood version of Dracula. The music provided is of a tranquil, pleasant nature rather than gothic sounding like that used in Hollywood's commercial version of Dracula. Warhol probably used this nontraditional method in an effort to contrast that style typically evident in commercial cinema, in order to create his own classic avant-garde film.

Warhol's Dracula is just another re-enactment of the original version. It is a serious yet amusing due to the lack of professionalism in the way the actor's present their character's, the special effects of the film, the scenes, or even the use of color in the film itself. Actor's sporting a range of accents in this film barely even know their lines, therefore representing poor acting abilities, as these characters appear to be staring at the camera in a drug induced state.

Although Warhol liked to stray from the norm in Dracula, he did attempt to use the traditional method of creating drama in film art through the use of color. Warhol makes use of color throughout Dracula by presenting a full range of tones . During the more dramatic of scenes such as the attacks by Dracula and the sex scenes, Warhol uses highly saturated warm colors to make the viewer feel "up" during the intense, climactic position of the film. In Dracula, the viewer is also presented with less saturated cool colors to make the viewer feel "down" as well. This is evident during the scenes when Dracula gets sick. A bluish-green light shines on the face of Dracula once he becomes sick to show Dracula as "turning green." This signifies an over-exaggerated poor use of lighting when representing how sick Dracula becomes after trying to obtain blood from one of the sisters. This is clearly an indication of Warhol's poor use of light to create drama, although to certain individuals this may be a form of art as Warhol may have done this in an effort to stray from typical Hollywood commercial cinema's version of Dracula.

Lack of professionalism can also be seen through the discontinuity of scenes throughout the film. For instance, when Robina gets raped in one scene, the strap on her slip rips. Within the next scene, her strap remains in tact. Edits also present a lack of skill to the viewer. This can be seen as edits exhibit poor timing. In many scenes, a character may begin dialogue, yet the camera still focuses on a previous character whose dialogue has finished.

Warhol exhibits many different techniques of camera usage within Dracula, through experimenting with different camera angles and positions. Warhol has a tendency to focus the camera extremely close to the subject(figures) with occasional close ups to surrounding material within the screen space of the frame. Warhol's shots of figures remain long and fixed in an effort to clarify a subjects importance, and intensify the constantly changing action of primary motion (figure motion) in the screen. Warhol's use of long takes and "staring" of the camera allow the viewer's eye to gaze at the figures of the presented images on screen space. Through the use of this simple approach with minimalist quality, Warhol stresses little details in order to focus on the experience of drama and action and also to suggest forthcoming sexual encounters within the film.

Warhol also uses the camera to imply the strength and power of an individual within Dracula. As with any film, if the camera is looking up or down at a subject, the viewer will recognize the subject's inferiority or superiority, depending on the camera's angle. When the viewer is watching a film and he/she looks up with the camera, the subject being presented on film becomes more important than when it is viewed at eye-level. Warhol uses this technique in Dracula. This is evident when Warhol focuses the camera as if it were looking up at Dracula when Dracula questions one of the four daughters to see if she is a virgin. Warhol does this in order to clarify to the viewer that Dracula is the superior dominant figure of importance, while the daughter is the inferior sex object of the film having little importance. Through the use of this camera technique, Warhol intensifies the drama of the sexual situations within the film. Another example of the use of this technique can be seen at the end of the film when the peasant caretaker takes the handle of the ax and stabs Dracula. At this point, events are subject to change as the story takes an unpredictable turn as the peasant caretaker becomes the hero of the movie.

Warhol uses this camera technique once again to clarify to the viewer that the peasant caretaker becomes the individual of importance, not the womanizing individual he was at the beginning of the film. This camera technique also helps clarify to the viewer that Dracula loses his importance, as he is seen for who he really is and also to intensify the drama of the climax at the end of the film. In Warhol's Dracula, art as a clarified and intensified experience is the basis for aesthetic expression. From this perspective, events that some individuals consider ugly or gory have as much a chance of becoming an aesthetic experience.

In Warhol's version of Bram Stoker's classic Dracula, Warhol's commitment to the identification of presented images on the screen has established an image to the viewer. Warhol has established society's fixed representation of gender roles, providing that males play the dominant, superior figure, while women are depicted as mere sex objects. When presented with these images, the viewer may perceive the film to be lewd and offensive or one may believe the film exhibits a genre of characteristics classic to avant-garde films.

--Krista Olsen

General Comments

Andy Warhol