I like Brussels’s sprouts. Like, really like them. The best way to enjoy them, in my opinion, is covered with melted cheese, but I’ve never had them served in any way that I DIDN’T like them. I find them yummy. I mention this to make a point. If you DON’T like Brussels’s sprouts, I doubt there is any way they could be prepared that you WOULD like them. No matter how much cheese you dumped on ‘em, you’d probably still find them unappetizing. You with me? There are certain movies that are like that, like food. Either you have a taste for them or you don’t. If you don’t share my taste for campy cinema—and for some it is an acquired taste—for movies as cheesy as the cheesiest serving of Brussels’s sprouts, you can stop reading now. This review isn’t for you. If, however, you also love those kinds of films, if you think, as I do, that PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time, boy do I have a movie for you!
ZOLTAN: HOUND OF DRACULA, aka DRACULA’S DOG, is as perfect a bad movie as you’re ever likely to see. The story begins in Eastern Europe somewhere. Or maybe in Germany. Or Russia. You never really know, and the soldiers present at the beginning are wearing what look like Nazi uniforms—in 1978—so you’re more or less free to choose in which country and which time period you want the prologue to be set.
The soldiers are blowing up things, maybe for a highway, but again, this is never made clear, when they unintentionally blast open a Dracula crypt. Not THE Dracula crypt, but A Dracula crypt. We know this both because we are told it and because the name of the head vampire interred in said crypt is not Vlad, which as any self-respecting vampire fan knows is Count Dracula’s first name, but Igor. Yes, Igor Dracula. Buried in the crypt along with Igor Dracula and some others are Igor’s half-vampire servant, Veidt Smidt (or Smith, portrayed by cadaver-faced, sinister Reggie Nalder) and Veidt’s loyal pooch, Zoltan, a large looks-to-be Doberman Pinscher mix.
Smidt is basically a Minion. That’s Minion with a capital M, as in the little yellow guys from the DESPICABLE ME franchise. Deprived of Count Igor, Smidt only desires to find another master to serve. As the Van Helsing character (more on him in a minute) later explains to us, the last living member of the Dracula line is Michael Dracula, who lives in America, so Smidt the Minion and Zoltan head to the States to find and corrupt Michael, so’s they’ll have a new evil master to serve. (Zoltan arrives in sunny California by sea, having crossed the ocean, appropriately enough, in a wooden crate down in the cargo hold of a ship that SHOULD have been named the DEMETER.)
Van Helsing—I mean, Inspector Branco—follows them to foil their simple-minded but nefarious scheme. (Branco is portrayed by Academy Award winner Jose Ferrer. He’s the first Puerto Rican actor to ever win an Oscar, in fact, but here he looks an awful lot like my high school Biology teacher, Mr. Cobb, which made the whole viewing experience even funnier for me.)
With perfect timing, Mike Dracula takes his family, including their two pet German Shepherds and a couple of puppies, on an extended camping trip. Minion Smidt and Zoltan follow them, and Mr. Cobb, er, Inspector Branco follows THEM. Various campers are done away with, and all the German Shepherds and one tagalong birddog all get turned into vampires, by Zoltan. And if just the idea of a dog sporting a big pair of vampire fangs is enough to make you chuckle, you’re about to hit the mother lode here, partner.
The laughs work because the production plays it straight, although a couple of scenes, like the one where Mike and Mr. Cobb are trapped in a cabin while the vampire dogs attempt to tear their way inside, are surprisingly effective.
The effects are really good; this isn’t surprising, since they were the work of the legendary (before he became a legend) Stan Winston. The Director of the film, Albert Band, is the father of Charles Band of the PUPPETMASTER series and other Full Moon Entertainment productions, so obviously making cheesy films is in the latter’s DNA.
Since Hollywood is remake crazy these days, I sure wish somebody’d get around to giving us a new ZOLTAN film. By all means, fellow cheese lovers, sink your teeth into this tasty treat. You’ll thank me for it.
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