Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula (1979)





Hello folkses! Bradley Lyndon here again, moonlighting for Nate and the gang in a fruitless attempt to pay my debt to society. To be honest I’m a little shell-shocked this time around. Boy-howdy did I ever just take one for the team…

Imagine waking up one day to find your girlfriend has run off with your best friend, taking your dog, your car and all of your money. You walk twenty-eight blocks to work only to find it being forcibly closed by IRS agents for non-payment of taxes, including the past seven years of your payroll taxes, meaning you now have no Social Security contributions or official work history for that period despite deductions having been regularly taken from your pay (this part actually happened to me once). You drag yourself the twenty-eight blocks back home to find your building has been condemned and you aren’t even allowed to enter to retrieve your possessions. As you sit miserably on the curb pondering the cruelty of fate your cell phone rings. It’s your family doctor. The tests just came back and it turns out your cheating girlfriend gave you chlamydia. Then your service goes dead because she also forgot to pay the cell phone bill.

Congratulations! You’ve just had a better time than I did watching Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula…and I had to watch it four fucking times.

As a fan of bad movies I was drawn to this like an MMT intern to catnip, strippers and booze: A vampire played by an exotic belly dancer! Disco pants and haircuts! Entertainment icons past their prime slumming it in low-budget hell! Soft-core sex and gratuitous lady-bathing! You would think with that heady mixture Nocturna could not fail to be entertaining in a cheesy-sleazy, 1970’s kind of way but you would be so very wrong. This movie has the entertainment value of an abscessed perineum. It’s especially frustrating because it has some genuinely good ideas it utterly fails to exploit, opting instead to pad out the runtime with bad dancing, bad music and badly shot rambles through the seedy underbelly of pre-urban renewal New York. It’s like one of those tedious dreams where you keep misplacing your keys except the dream also has a dreadful disco soundtrack that causes hives and internal bleeding.

Okay, then. You’ve been warned.

We open with a nighttime tracking shot moving towards the mouth of a rough stone tunnel. A gothic-lettered overlay helpfully informs us we are in Transylvania, though it looks suspiciously like a bridge in Central Park.


Definitely not New York. Captions never lie.

Inside the tunnel we see a dapper man and beautiful lady mooning and sharing a kiss. As she smiles up at him a cheesy little animated star-shaped light appears in one of her eyes accompanied by one of those “pew, pew, PEW" noises you’ve heard in 1,000 terrible sci-fi movies and TV shows. The man’s face goes blank. She bares her vampire fangs, moves in for the jugular and has a good suckle. For some reason she also smushes his nose and musses his hair like she’s Moe from the Three Stooges.

In this scene and a couple of others we’re treated to a lovely orchestral arrangement of Fryderyck Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 55 No. 1, the only music we will hear not written specifically for the film. I love Chopin and don’t like to see his music misused, but I can’t really blame the producers for trying to class up their stinky little low-budget crap-fest a bit. I would caution them however that it ain’t gonna work.

Jump cut to a dark silhouette of a castle with a flashing neon sign that reads “Hotel Transylvania."


The title of a much more entertaining film.

Now where have I heard that before? Ah, yes…it’s the computer animated film Hotel Transylvania (2012) where Count Dracula has transformed his castle into a hotel for monsters and is dismayed when his 118 year-old daughter falls in love with a mortal. Well I’ll be dipped in shit if that’s not the same plot as
Nocturna, except here it’s Dracula’s 126 year-old granddaughter! As we will see Hotel Transylvania is only one of several projects that seem to have nicked a few decent ideas from Nocturna and done something much better with them.

We now get the opening credit sequence which consists of Nocturna cat-walking through some gothic corridors. Well it’s actually the same gothic corridor shot over and over, a technique the producers may well have cribbed from classic Doctor Who.


Is that Dracula’s castle or the only hallway on Gallifrey?

The music here is a miserable, insidious earworm called “Lovin’s Just a Heartbeat Away" sung by disco diva Gloria Gaynor whose “I Will Survive" is a bona fide classic of the era. She recorded it as a favor to her manager whom she later married. I have nothing against disco per se—I like a bit of everything and there’s plenty of fun, groovy disco out there—but even Gloria Gaynor called this song “corny," “dreadful" and “badly dated even for the time." Who am I to disagree with disco diva Gloria Gaynor?

I suppose this is as good a time as any to introduce belly dancer, singer and actress Nai Bonet who brought us this ill-conceived, half-baked shit-loaf of a vanity project.


I’m very disappointed in you Nai Bonet. Go live in obscurity for the next 38 years and think about what you’ve done.

Bonet was born in Saigon to a Vietnamese mother and a French father and began her professional career as a belly dancer in Las Vegas at the age of 13. With her exotic looks and winning smile she became a popular model, also scoring small roles in film, commercials and television programs, including a guest spot on The Beverly Hillbillies.


The undisputed apex of any career in the arts.

She also had a moderately successful novelty hit in 1966 with a song called “Jelly Belly" and filmed a music video of it for display on Scopitone Video Jukeboxes. By the late 1970’s Bonet was anxious to heat up her tepid acting career. She started her own production company, Nai Bonet Enterprises, Ltd. to provide herself the starring roles even shifty, fly-by-night grindhouse producers were unwilling to offer her. When both Nocturna and her second project, Hoodlums (1981) failed to turn a profit Bonet did us all a solid and gave up acting completely. Let’s be completely honest here: Bonet has less talent than a shapely turnip, and turnips also provide potassium and other vital nutrients.


A better actress—and source of vitamin C—than Nai Bonet.

So Nocturna walks into the lobby of Hotel Transylvania and up to the concierge who is played by Brother Theodore and also named Theodore. She asks him if he’s seen her grandfather, he says “not tonight" and she walks away. This is every bit as riveting as it sounds. As Nocturna exits Theodore gets a crazed, lascivious look in his eyes and says “If only I could get in her coffin!" Yes, it’s going to be that kind of movie.

“Brother" Theodore Gottlieb was a German-born Jewish aristocrat, Holocaust survivor, chess master, actor and nightclub performer. A genuinely fascinating and tragic figure, he left audiences bemused and entertained for decades with his bizarre, maniacal monologues (which he called “stand-up tragedy") yet also suffered severe and debilitating depression and paranoia. He was a frequent guest of Merv Griffin, Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett, Tom Snyder and David Letterman, appeared in both low-budget and mainstream films and did voice-over work for television, animation, commercials and film trailers. Here he seems to have been turned loose without script or direction. His dialogue is mostly tangential riffs, consisting largely of lines cribbed from his stage routines with little connection to plot, character or coherence. Nocturna already has serious issues with establishing a consistent tone, but Brother Theodore’s nasty, chauvinistic performance seems like it’s from an entirely different movie.


Brother Theodore. He looks upset. He’s probably remembering the two films he made with Orson Welles and questioning his subsequent life choices.

Nocturna walks across a large courtyard and unlocks an enormous gothic door, then descends into an impressive arched crypt. The exterior was filmed at Harlem’s Trinity Cemetery, the interior in the basement of Trinity Church. These stunning locations lend an air of grandeur and authenticity the film neither earns nor deserves.


The walls themselves are weeping with embarrassment.

Nocturna opens a coffin to reveal John Carradine playing Count Dracula for the fourth and final time in his nearly six-decade long film career. Carradine, a beloved Hollywood legend with a whopping 351 acting credits listed on imdb, is best remembered today for his many horror film appearances. He was 76 years old and in poor health when he appeared in Nocturna and it’s genuinely painful to hear him utter lines like “If I’m alive why am I here…but on the other hand if I’m dead why do I have to wee-wee?" Painful, too is seeing Carradine’s gnarled, misshapen hands, warped and crippled from rheumatoid arthritis, as he struggles to insert fanged dentures and grasp a crystal goblet of blood.


John Carradine caps off a superlative career with a joke about vampire incontinence. Now he’s weeping with embarrassment.

Are you ready for some penetrating domestic drama? It seems Dracula has had to turn his castle into a hotel just to pay the property taxes and that Nocturna, the last of the Dracula line, spends most of her time running it for him. Grandpa says she can’t take care of him forever, that she needs to live her own life. He wants her to get hitched to some handsome young werewolf but she says she’s too busy running the hotel and making sure there’s an ample supply of fresh blood in the fridge to even think about marriage. We also learn that the ladies used to look at Dracula’s fangs and say he was “hung like a walrus." I told you it was that kind of movie.

Back in the lobby Theodore tells Nocturna the musicians she hired to play in the “Claret Room" have arrived. He also asks for the night off because he’s a werewolf and it’s a full moon, suggesting that he and Nocturna should go hunting for blood together. She declines his kind offer and leaves to go meet the musicians. Theodore now has the first in a series of turgid, overheated monologues about his obsessive desire to get into Nocturna’s panties. These rants are extremely unpleasant and become increasingly misogynistic as the film goes on. Brother Theodore is an acquired taste even at his best, but here he seems determined to be at his worst.

Nocturna checks out the musicians, a group called Moment of Truth featuring a quartet of singers and a four-piece band which somehow makes us aurally hallucinate a poorly-arranged horn section whenever they play. As they jam out to their shitty, generic disco R & B Nocturna notices Jimmy, the hunky blonde guitarist who will be our romantic lead.


Jimmy. Apparently he’s dreamy.

Jimmy is played by former ballet dancer and model Antony Hamilton in a debut performance I would generously describe as “present onscreen." Astoundingly, this same hunk of near-brain dead cheesecake would go on to star in two television series and be on the short list to replace Roger Moore as James Bond. According to some sources the only reason he didn’t get the role was because he was openly gay, something that would hopefully not be an issue today. The rest of his resume is filled with small supporting roles in film and television. Sadly Hamilton would become a victim of the growing AIDS epidemic, eventually succumbing to AIDS-related Pneumonia in 1995. His final performance was in Carl Reiner’s erotic thriller parody Fatal Instinct (1993).

Nocturna and Jimmy share some meaningful “we are so going to fuck" glances. He puts down his guitar (making no audible difference in the music) and asks her to dance. Nocturna is hesitant at first, apparently never having learned to dance what with all her bloodsucking and hotel managing and such, but Jimmy shows her how and soon they’re busting some sweet moves together. “Busting some sweet moves" is of course a euphemism for “awkwardly jerking, swaying and duck-walking like a couple of toddlers drunk on cough syrup," but darn it they’re having such a swell time who am I to judge? It’s just that you would expect a professional belly dancer and a professional ballet dancer to have some fucking rhythm. Runtime Padding: 4 minutes, 40 seconds.


Is this the best booty shaking this movie has to offer? Sadly, yes.

Now if you were actually watching this film rather than just reading about it—something I would vehemently urge you never, ever to do—you’d be struck by just how many close-ups Nai Bonet gets in every single scene in which she appears. There’s a medium close-up for nearly every line she utters and copious random close-ups of her being pretty or smiling or pretending to leer seductively. With so much of the focus on her face and voice it’s impossible not to be struck by just how blank and vapid she is as an actress and it can be damned confusing sussing out what emotion she’s attempting to convey at any given moment. It’s a puzzlement, a conundrum, an enigma wrapped in a stale baguette and dipped in lukewarm pho. But fear not! Much like Preparation H Norman I am here to help. In the interest of dramatic clarity and as a public service to the multitude who rely on Million Monkey Theater as their primary source of bad movie entertainment I present to you the Nai Bonet Emotive Decoder Panel:


You’re welcome.

Now you know, and as they used to say on G.I. Joe: “knowing is half the battle."

So the shitty disco R & B mercifully ends and Jimmy and Nocturna have a brief conversation about how much fun shitty dancing and shitty disco can be. Jimmy says his band has a record and Nocturna says she’d love to hear it. He helpfully informs her that he has a cassette player in his room, wink wink. Jump cut to his room, where we get more shitty disco R & B and some torpid, nekkid lovin’.


You’re still welcome.

Once our dismal couple has completed their mercifully brief, lugubrious sex scene Nocturna tells Jimmy that this is the first time she’s ever enjoyed making love. If you say so, Nai Bonet, but it sure didn’t look like it. She’s shot here with the subtlety of a ghost pepper enema, clumsily backlit by a blinding light better suited for spotting enemy aircraft at night. We get it, Nai Bonet. Nocturna is falling in love with Jimmy. We just don’t give a shit, ok?


It’s either afterglow or there’s an arc-welding torch behind her head.

Now we see Nocturna enter a bathroom wearing a translucent lavender nightie that leaves very little to the imagination. She carefully draws the bath water, looks over her shelves of oils and ointments and gently tosses white flower petals into the tub. She slips off the nightie, seductively steps into the steaming water and…oh, sweet Jesus this is so tepid and lethargic and dull I don’t even care! How in the name of all that’s good and pure can you make gratuitous naked lady-bathing so fucking boring? It all happens very, very slowly to very, very bad music, intercut with Theodore the tumescent Teutonic pervert watching from behind a curtain and with an overdub of Nocturna telling us all manner of shit we already know. “I’m a vampire." Yes, Nai Bonet. That’s kind of the whole point of your movie. “I have no reflection." Yes, Nai Bonet, we’ve seen vampire movies before. “Men have always been my victims." Yes, Nai Bonet, that’s how vampires work. “Yet now I have fallen in love with a mortal man." Yes, Nai Bonet, we figured that out from your magnesium halo after you fucked Mr. Disco Cheesecake and we still don’t give a shit. “What is going to happen to me?" You know what, Nai Bonet? We really don’t give a shit about that either.


Be as naked as you want as often as you like, Nai Bonet. Also there’s a little starburst of light on her nipple.

The voiceover continues with some bullshit about “my woman’s body and my woman’s heart" and I’m reminded of that embarrassing poem Lois Lane recited in Superman (1978). You know the one.


"You can fly…you belong to the sky…" For Christ’s sake, STFU Lois!!

Not satisfied with leeching all the eroticism from this gratuitous T & A scene with lousy music, sluggish pacing and creepy voyeurism, Bonet and company now give us a sickening overdub of Theodore’s thoughts on Nocturna’s “firm breasts" and “frenzied little behind" as he lasciviously rubs his hands across his black mock-turtleneck. I may never have an erection again. By the time we get to Nocturna rubbing down her damp, naked body with fragrant oils we’re just so beaten down and desperate for something/anything interesting to happen we’re practically begging for the sequence to be over.


Brother Theodore: Professional Boner Killer

As Nocturna finishes dressing she catches Theodore watching her and does…basically nothing. They have a brief chat and she tells him to get back to work. That’s the extent of her management skills when confronted with an underling spying on her while she’s naked. You’d think she’d fire the little pervert or at least give him a swift kick in the fork, but she just walks away, giving him an opportunity to spew another nasty, misogynistic rant too odious to transcribe. Anyway, wasn’t he supposed to have the night off to go out werewolfing? Runtime Padding: 5 minutes 33 seconds.

Cut to the Claret Room for more shitty disco R & B from Moment of Truth as some hotel guests shimmy and shake their moneymakers like epileptic mountain goats on heroin. Nocturna comes barging in wearing a sheer, flowing dress and aggressively struts her allegedly funky stuff, completely taking over first the dance floor and then the stage, gaily abandoning herself to the newfound visceral joys of disco dancing.


Don’t worry. There’s plenty more of this to come.

Nocturna suddenly notices with a shock (which Bonet plays more like she’s just realized she’s out of Grape Nuts) that she now has a reflection! The reflection slowly fades when she stops dancing and your heart drops deep into your trousers as you realize that a major plot point of this film is that disco dancing can make a vampire human. I’m not making that up. Sweet chocolate Jesus I wish I was making that up. Runtime Padding: 4 minutes, 5 seconds.

Jimmy tells Nocturna that he thinks he loves her and we cut to John Carradine (Remember him? He’s still playing Dracula and still stuck in this terrible film) who does the only decent acting in the whole movie as he tries to warn Nocturna that her love for a mortal is dangerous and in defiance of her destiny. It shows what a genuinely talented professional can accomplish even when acting against an emotionless cipher. The scene lasts all of one minute and you’ll miss it when it’s gone. Nocturna decides to go with Jimmy, as we all knew she would, leaving a note rather than telling her grandfather to his face.

We cut to a caption telling us we are now in New York City—because we’ve apparently never seen that particular skyline in a movie before and we probably forgot how we were just told that Nocturna and Jimmy were going there.


Thank you, Nai Bonet. That caption was both helpful and necessary.

A cab drops Jimmy off at a brownstone apartment building and he’s surprised when Nocturna tells him she’s not staying with him but is instead staying with friends of her family. Did they not discuss this at all on the carriage ride to the airport in Transylvania, the 12-hour flight to New York or the cab ride to his apartment? Healthy relationships are all about communication, people. I think these two kids are gonna need some counseling if they’re gonna make this thing work.

Nocturna gets dropped off underneath the Brooklyn Bridge and knocks on a big metal door in one of the pylons. This is the home of Jugulia Vein, one of the Count’s old flames. Scenes in her lair were filmed in a vault under the actual bridge that had been sealed for a century before being reopened for use in this intolerable shit show.


Twenty-seven men died during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. They turn over in their graves every time someone watches this film.

Jugulia is played by Yvonne DeCarlo, a prolific actress best known for her role as matriarch Lily in the TV classic The Munsters. She seems to enjoy herself but then she and John Carradine shot their scenes in under a week. Jugulia has a romantic streak and although she is concerned for Nocturna she sympathizes with her desire to become human and enjoy mortal love.


Lily…I mean Jugulia.

Jugulia takes Nocturna to a meeting of the Blood Suckers of America, an organization of vampires who are debating the future of their species in the United States. The film’s best ideas are discussed in this one brief scene and will sound very familiar to anyone who has seen the HBO series True Blood or read the Charlaine Harris novels on which it was based. The BSA are concerned by the declining quality of blood due to pollution, drugs, high-sugar diets and preservatives. They debate whether to “come out of the coffin" and try to live side by side with humans. Some wish to become politically active. They ponder whether humans might voluntarily donate to vampire blood banks. They discuss the relative merits of blood ingestion vs. blood injection and talk about a powdered synthetic blood substitute that’s sold like a street drug. It seems impossible that Harris did not glean at least some of her inspiration from Nocturna as all of these issues are discussed in her works.


The BSA meeting was filmed inside the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Riverside Park, Manhattan. Another great location wasted on this dreadful film.

A pimp vampire named RH Factor offers powdered blood substitute to the assembled group. One young male vamp tries some and is delighted but a young socialite woman dismisses it saying “I’d rather suck than sniff any day." Need I remind you again that it’s that kind of movie? RH Factor is played by Sy Richardson, a successful actor with over a hundred credits on imdb. He may be best known for his performance as Lite in Alex Cox’s Repo Man (1984) but to me he will always be the Fairy Godmother in the soft-core adult musical version of Cinderella (1977).


Sy Richardson in a film that’s both dumb and entertaining.



Sy Richardson in a film that’s just dumb.

The meeting is interrupted by a policeman who hears the vampires talking and bursts open the door to investigate. The vampires raise their arms and transform into bats in a ridiculous animated effect that would have been rejected for use in an episode of Scooby Doo. I certainly understand how difficult it was to do bats effectively pre-CGI, but this is pathetic. I’ve seen better animation in a Count Chocula commercial.


Part of a complete breakfast.

You know what? I was just thinking that what this movie needs is even more shitty disco, and like a magical pixie made of abnormally flexible abdominal muscles Nai Bonet provides. This time it’s a number called “Nighttime Fantasy" sung by Vicki Sue Robinson whose “Turn The Beat Around" was a top 10 hit in 1976 and one of the most recognizable songs of the disco era. This song isn’t as engaging—in fact it pretty much blows—but we still get to listen to the whole fucking thing as Nocturna first rides in a taxi then walks through some of the nastiest, dirtiest parts of New York’s red light district on her way to meet Jimmy at a dance club. This was unscripted, with Bonet wearing a hidden mic and filmed from a nearby car, so the skeevy hustlers who try to proposition her are 100% real. Why, Nai Bonet? Is this some kind of cruel joke or did you genuinely believe that porn theaters and “happy ending" massage parlors would make a charming backdrop for your light-hearted romantic tryst? Who can plumb the hidden depths of your inscrutable psyche? Runtime Padding: 3 minutes, 45 seconds.


Titty bars, porn films and handjobs…the essence of 1970’s New York.

Remember RH Factor, the powder-pushing vampire pimp from the BSA meeting? Of course you do. It’s only been two paragraphs. Well here he is drumming up customers outside his massage parlor/brothel! He invites Nocturna in for a tour of the place as his honored guest. It seems all of the ladies in his employ are also vampires who lure unsuspecting clients in to harvest their blood and steal their money. Aw, snap! It’s half Bordello of Blood (1996) and half From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)!

The name of the massage parlor is “The Tricky Hickey" which I must grudgingly admit is a halfway decent joke. Bravo, Nai Bonet. You landed one joke in 82 minutes of screen time. RH Factor also wears a set of Halloween vampire teeth on his gold pimp chain, so maybe I’ll be generous and say you landed two but only if you promise to never appear in a movie again.


The Tricky Hickey. A tiny island of mild amusement in a vast sea of pain.

Meanwhile back in the basement of Trinity Church…I mean back in Transylvania Dracula reads Nocturna’s note, quotes some Shakespeare (“Macbeth" Act I, Scene VII & “King Lear" Act I, Scene IV for all you hard core WillBillies) then tells Theodore to pack up so they can go after her.

We cut to a goofy disco club called Starship: Discovery 1 and see poor, lonesome Jimmy waiting outside for Nocturna to arrive. Inside the club people are—surprise!—dancing badly to shitty disco. Runtime Padding: 2 minutes, 20 seconds.


Starship: Discovery 1 was a real private dance club that closed shortly after Nocturna was filmed there. I’m not saying there’s a connection, I’m just saying that’s what happened.

Back at the Tricky Hickey the ladies land a victim and RH offers Nocturna a glass of fresh blood. She isn’t thirsty. “I’m changing," she says, “I seem to have different needs now." You know what? I have needs, too, Nai Bonet. I need a movie with a coherent plot and passable acting and music that doesn’t make my eardrums scream in pain but you’re not giving me any of that, are you? I need a movie where there’s more plotting than padding and where at least some of the action happens on the fucking screen. Do my needs mean nothing to you, Nai Bonet?


The Tricky Hickey strives to provide a multicultural selection of vampire prostitutes.

So Nocturna meets Jimmy at the disco—and we all know what they’re gonna do at the disco. There’s a pointless exchange where a blonde woman tries to get Jimmy to dance with her but Nocturna steps in and shuts that right down. This is Brenda, played by former Playboy playmate Monica Tidwell. This incident is the extent of her appearance in the film. I don’t even know why I bothered to mention her except I’m dying of boredom at this point and looking for any kind of lifeline to try to get through this thing.


Plus she’s cute.

Our loving couple then gets the full Saturday Night Fever treatment where the crowd stop their own dancing and form a circle to clap to the music and watch them do their thing, which is not just a bad cliché but completely unwarranted, unless there was a tradition at Starship: Discovery 1 of choosing the worst dancers in the club to honor in this way. Maybe that’s why the place was only open less than two years. Runtime Padding: 6 minutes, 30 seconds


At least this guy’s having a good time.

Jimmy and Nocturna pop over to his apartment so he can show her how to smoke weed, a necessary skill for any hip New Yorker in 1979. As Nocturna chokes and struggles to keep the ganja smoke in her lungs the camera zooms in on a weird art print of what looks like either Mahatma Gandhi or Rudyard Kipling wearing sunglasses. When it fades back to Jimmy and Nocturna enough time has passed that they’re both completely stoned. Nocturna says “I’ll tell you my secret" in drawn out, soporific slur that sounds like a 45 played back at 33. She totally spills the beans now, telling Jimmy that she’s Dracula’s granddaughter and a vampire and all that crap we already know then turns into a cartoon bat again to prove it.


One of these was drawn by my seven year-old niece. The other appeared in a theatrically released motion picture.

While she’s fading in and out of human shape right in front of him Jimmy doesn’t react at all. It’s like no one on set told Antony Hamilton what his character was supposed to be seeing so he just sat there sleepily with the same dopey look on his face he’s had for pretty much the entire movie. Personally I think he figured out early on in the shoot that virtually no one was ever going to see this tire fire so he just didn’t give a shit. I’m right there with you, Antony Hamilton. So Jimmy just sits there like a glazed doughnut and when Nocturna turns back into her normal lady shape he looks at his joint and mumbles “This is fantastic grass." The laughs just keep on coming.

Cut to Theodore lurking about Jugulia’s lair. When he opens her coffin she’s wearing curlers in her hair. Oh, har-dee-fucking-har. You’d think she’d be angry at the intrusion but she makes a little joke about Theodore being so impetuous to enter her boudoir without knocking and how she’ll slip into something a little less dressy and you feel an anxious, disgusted gurgle in your bowels as you realize she’s actually flirting with him. He explains that it isn’t a social call as Dracula appears from around a corner. Jugulia is obviously still smitten with her old flame and waxes poetic about their nights in the graveyard together a century ago but the Count is having none of it. He’s looking to drag Nocturna back to Transylvania and has no time for this romantic nonsense. Jugulia doesn’t want to betray Nocturna but he uses a Jedi-Dracula mind trick on her and she tells him Nocturna is at Jimmy’s apartment.


She’s either hypnotized or a spider just crawled up her crack.

Dracula sends Theodore to fetch Nocturna. He goes off by himself for a moment to have another tumid, odious rant then proceeds with his mission.

Cut to the hallway in Jimmy’s apartment building where he and Nocturna are kissing goodnight. The camera pans over to Theodore lurking in the stairwell and as Nocturna rounds the corner there is a wipe transition…and Theodore is suddenly carrying a Nocturna-shaped sack over his shoulder towards the apartment. He knocks lightly on the door. We cut to the sack now lying on Jimmy’s carpet. Jimmy is unconscious and tied down to his bed with Theodore preparing some old fashioned bloodletting instruments and soliloquizing about how he’s the big guy calling all the shots now. Also something about making borsht.


The pudgy beatnik gnome overpowered Mr. Disco Cheesecake? Say it ain’t so!

So let’s recap for just a moment: this is a film in which absolutely nothing dramatic or exciting has happened for the entire first hour. There’s been precious little plot but a surfeit of sluggish, repetitive filler. It’s achingly slow, poorly shot, badly acted and desperately, painfully dull, but when finally faced with the possibility of some kind of action and suspense the producers decided that the action and suspense should happen entirely off-screen. I’m not gonna lie…this film makes me angry. I feel cheated and betrayed. It’s not really a film about disco and dancing and vampires at all. It’s a stealth essay on how not to engage viewers and a master class on how not to make an entertaining or coherent film. It’s a perverted, audience-baiting thought experiment made manifest in 82 minutes of audiovisual dysentery. Are you proud of yourself, Nai Bonet? Also did you have some sort of marketing arrangement with the makers of Kaopectate?

Theodore is about to harvest Jimmy’s blood when Nocturna rips her way out of her sack and makes her toothy vampire face at him.


Haters gonna hate…masturs gonna bate.

Of course we cut away before there’s any real action, this time to Jugulia and Dracula waiting for Theodore to return because that’s so much more interesting than a vampire attacking a werewolf. Not that we ever see Theodore become a werewolf because that would be interesting and Nai Bonet hates her audience with a seething passion.

Theodore stumbles in with his mock turtleneck all sliced up and we get the unrivaled pleasure of seeing his pale, doughy, gray-haired paunch. Dracula decides he’s going to get Nocturna himself and gets Jugulia to take him to the disco. Why they would assume Nocturna and Jimmy would be at the disco when Theodore just left them at Jimmy’s apartment is anyone’s guess, but we cut to the dance floor of Starship: Discovery 1 and damn if they aren’t there rocking to a slow groove like the last ten minutes of the movie never happened. Jugulia and Dracula show up and the count confronts Nocturna, demanding she go back to Transylvania. She refuses so he uses his super Jedi-Dracula powers to render Jimmy immobile, threatening to kill him if Nocturna won’t return home.


Catatonic Jimmy. Much the same as not-catatonic Jimmy.

Jugulia tries to distract Dracula by saying “Come on, Drac baby! Let’s shake a leg!" and proceeds to do a seductive little dance for him as I curl into fetal position, rock back and forth and wonder what horrible things I did in a previous life to have to endure this now. Dracula is in no mood to be trifled with and immobilizes everyone on the dance floor. This may seem like overkill but it makes the music stop, so I support his decision 100%.


Catatonic dancers…and blessed silence!

Sadly the musical reprieve doesn’t last. Nocturna capitulates like a Vichy whore and Dracula immediately restores everyone to their funky-fresh, jiggly, gyrating glory. Jugulia warns Jimmy that Dracula will destroy him if he tries to get Nocturna, but he says he has to because he loves her. Jugulia blandly says “I understand. I’ll help," but just stands there like a fencepost as Jimmy runs off to what she can only assume to be his certain death.

Jimmy runs out of the club and sees Dracula dragging Nocturna towards a car as dumpy little Theodore holds open the door. Theodore brought an extra mock-turtleneck from Transylvania, by the way so we mercifully don’t have to see his anemic blubber again. Jimmy looks around and grabs the “t" from the flashing Starship: Discovery 1 sign. Thankfully it wasn’t secured to the building in any way because it pops right off with just a wee-little tug. It also stays lit, so each letter in the sign apparently has its own battery backup. Maybe the owners thought it would be convenient to have interchangeable letters in case they wanted to change the name of the club to “Hiss 1c: Striped Ovary."

Jimmy takes the “t" and holds it up to Dracula like a cross, Dracula cowers like a puppy then turns into a bat and flies away. That’s the extent of the tense, climactic confrontation, folks.


Almost as exciting as having your gums scraped.

Jugulia comes sauntering out of the club, asks about Dracula then turns into a bat to go after him saying “He used to pull that stuff when I knew him 300 years ago…well he won’t get away from me this time!" You’re hurting me, Nai Bonet. Can’t you see you’re hurting me?

Nocturna tells Jimmy she wants to stay up all night and see the sunrise. He warns “you know how dangerous that is" with the same inflection one might use to say “you know the water pressure in this toilet is a little weak." His concern is truly touching but Nocturna is confident everything will be okay. Is it wrong that I’m hoping it won’t? They walk off to test Nocturna’s theory as Theodore mopes dolefully outside the club. “Gone," he groans, “Lost. Well….as long as there is death there is hope."


Jimmy didn’t put the “t" back. Asshole.

We cut to the baggage hold of an airplane and a spacious coffin where Dracula and Jugulia make it painfully clear they will be having geriatric vampire sex for the entire 12-hour flight back to Transylvania. Dracula claims it’s been so long he doesn’t know if he remembers how, but Jugulia says it’s just like riding a bicycle. I hear a popping sound inside my head as 100,000 of my finest brain cells simultaneously commit ritual seppuku.


No one should have to see this but I’m showing you anyway.

Now our young lovers go to the East River and watch the sun come up. Sadly, Nocturna neither bursts into flame nor shrivels to a desiccated corpse nor crumbles into dust. It appears that vacuous, lethargic lovemaking, shitty, generic disco and awkward, rhythmless dancing really can make a vampire human!


The End. In my mind, at least, that lens flare is Nocturna burning in agony as she’s reduced to an inert and unsightly smudge.

I’ve seen thousands of films in my day, some good, some bad, some absolutely terrible. Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula is way down near the bottom of the list, at least in the bottom 20 and maybe even in the bottom 10. I feel a little dumber for having seen it and a little less secure about my place in the universe.

An Open Letter to Nai Bonet:

I realize I’ve been pretty hard on you throughout this review, Nai Bonet. I acknowledge that film is a collaborative art—I know you hired someone else to write and direct and lots of other people to help bring your project to fruition—but the bottom line is that this was your baby, your vision and your name on the marquee. As executive producer you raised and allocated the funds and as the creator of the story and star of the film you constructed the entire thing around your own ego and personality. Every bad joke, every shitty effect, every lame song, every intolerable moment of it carried your personal stamp of approval. The buck started and stopped with you, Nai Bonet so I hold you personally responsible for everything that ended up on that screen. I also hold you responsible for the trauma your film caused me and the damage it did to my beleaguered psyche. I can never get back the time I spent watching Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula but do I expect remuneration for the shock therapy I’m going to need to erase it from my memory. My people will be in touch.

Final observations:

--Nai Bonet raised $350,000 to make the film and spent over $100,000 of it on the music. Having wasted so much of her budget she apparently felt that every single minute of it needed to be used onscreen.

--The total runtime padding for the sequences listed above is 26 minutes and 33 seconds, nearly 1/3 of the movie. This excludes the opening and closing credits and any music or dance sequences where something essential to the plot occurred.

--Bonet hired director Harry Hurwitz, here credited as Harry Tampa (he also wrote the screenplay) after appearing in his previous project, a soft core sex anthology called Fairy Tales (1978) in which Sy Richardson also appeared.

--Nocturna was released in 1979, a bumper year for vampires. Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht, John Badham’s Dracula featuring Frank Langella, the parody Love At First Bite, and a German sex comedy called Dracula Loses His Cool all featured the count himself that year, and the Romanian biopic Vlad Tepes explored the life of the man who inspired Bram Stoker’s original novel. There was also an Australian vampire film called Thirst, a TV movie called Vampire and a miniseries based on Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.

--EPA officials in the Carter administration briefly considered declaring Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula a superfund site. [citation needed]

Once again, cheers and thanks for reading!

Written in October 2017 by Bradley Lyndon.



comments powered by Disqus

Go ahead, steal anything you want from this page,
that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...