Lake of Dracula
Also known as: Noroi no yakata: Chi o suu me
Medium: film
Year: 1971
Director: Michio Yamamoto
Writer: Ei Ogawa, Masaru Takesue
Keywords: The Bloodthirsty Trilogy, horror, vampires, rubbish
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Actor: Midori Fujita, Choei Takahashi, Sanae Emi, Shin Kishida, Tadao Futami, Mika Katsuragi, Shigeo Kato, Setsuko Kawaguchi, Tatsuo Matsushita, Yasuzo Ogawa, Haruo Suzuki, Fusako Tachibana, Kaku Takashina, Michiyo Yamazoe, Wataru Omae, Hideji Otaki
Format: 71 minutes
Website category: Japanese old
Review date: 19 June 2022
I thought that was rubbish. The Hammer-a-like atmosphere is okay, but the plot logic is poor and you'll want one or both of the film's heroes to get bitten and die.
It's the second instalment in Toho's Bloodthirsty Trilogy, after the success of The Vampire Doll. What's more, unlike its predecessor, it's an actual vampire film. Shin Kishida plays the unnamed bloodsucker in Christopher Lee fashion (tall, elegant, usually mute), turning people into white-faced lackeys. There are white nightdresses. Kaku Takashina returns, after playing Genzou in The Vampire Doll. The film's heroes, though, are:
(a) Akiko Kashiwagi (played by Midori Fujita), who's the viewpoint character. She met Kishida's vampire years ago, when she was five, and we're seeing everything through her eyes. She's in almost every scene. Despite this, though, she's passive and does little of interest. When the action begins, she lurks behind her boyfriend and leaves all the (bad) decisions to him. I was expecting the baddies to win and the heroes to be wiped out, because I couldn't imagine this pallid Akiko doing anything as dynamic as staking someone.
(b) Dr Takashi Saeki (played by Chouei Takahashi), who's Akiko's boyfriend, i.e. the man! The chauvinist male! The one who'll take control, ignore his girlfriend and make stupid decisions! Consider the white-faced Bride of Dracula who dies in hospital after telling Akiko to cremate her body immediately. Our heroes don't do this, even when Dr Takashi realises that vampires are involved. Instead, he talks to Akiko about her childhood. Result: a nurse gets bitten and the vampire escapes. A normal reaction to this might be: "Vampires on the loose! We need to stop them before they convert everyone!" Dr Takashi's reaction: "Let's go on a drive and take Akiko to a house she saw when she was five years old!"
This is not a fair fight. These heroes vs. a hamster with a blunt penknife wouldn't be a fair fight either. It should be impossible for our idiots to win... so the vampires keep assisting them with accidental deaths that'll make you want to do a parody fan edit. The first and least bad one doesn't make visual sense, but is over so quickly that you've got to rewind and rewatch to see that, yes, that actress just decided to fall over the edge of that stairwell for no reason. It's bad, but it won't make you laugh aloud.
The other two, though, are hilarious.
The acting's patchy. Midori Fujita (whose film career was brief) is fine with dialogue, but bad at inhabiting wordless moments. Chouei Takahashi is more convincing, but he stinks in his big declaration to Akiko. Sanae Emi (playing Akiko's hot sister) and Shin Kishida (playing not-Dracula) suffice in roles that aren't particularly challenging... but, tragically, they both died around the age of 40 in the 1980s.
The English title is, again, a lie. The vampire isn't called Dracula (although there's a passing reference to the name) and the lake is unimportant. They just pulled words from a hat, didn't they? The original Japanese title translates as "The Blood-Sucking Eyes." Oh, and a girl's brought into hospital with fang bites in her neck, having lost a dangerous amount of blood. A nurse tells Dr Takashi that there are no injuries. This patient is also put to bed in a daring micro-nightie that surely wouldn't be standard issue in hospitals.
The film likes the odd jump shock. Birds fly past suddenly, etc. The silliest of these is a rat flying past the camera at head height.
Again, there's bad day-for-night filming.
Not-Dracula wanted to make a five-year-old girl his bride. Uh...
Even the dialogue's dated offensively. You can't say "kichigai" on Japanese TV today.
It's bollocks. It's an atmospheric Hammer pastiche, but still bollocks. There's an absurd Hand of Scriptwriter to send everyone to the creepy haunted mansion for the finale, even if the sets are quite good. I hated Dr Takashi from the start, for telling Akiko that her vampire memories aren't backed up by science and so are hallucinations. Sod off, mate. You're in a vampire film. The horror law of "get what the audience thinks you deserve" has deemed that you should die.
If you think about any part of it, the film's a joke... but it's also sort of okay. It looks and sounds right. It understands atmosphere and you could include this in a Hammer marathon without blinking. It would fit right in. Hammer films can be dumb too. There are some unusual ideas about vampirism being hereditary (!) and I liked the understated material about the vampire and his dad. That was original. The film's last shot is worthwhile, albeit badly integrated with the rest of the script. I suspect someone was trying to copy the most interesting thing about The Vampire Doll.
It also has two big unintentional laughs. Plenty of comedies achieve less.