The Mark of Dracula (1997) – By Brian Morton

You
know, sometimes I see watching low budget and b movies like mining for
gold. Most of the time, you dig and dig and all you get is rocks and
dirty hands, but every once in a while you get that precious gold
nugget! Well, I just got lucky and found a gold nugget in a little
movie called The Mark Of Dracula.

As I put movie in, I had that usual sense of dread. Was I about to
watch a truly bad movie? I might be, so I braced myself. But, then as
the movie unfolded before me, I discovered a movie that was not only
good, but also well crafted and very well acted! My fears cast aside, I
was sat back to enjoy that rarest of gems, an excellent low budget
movie!

Ron Ford, the writer and director of the movie, has crafted a movie
that’s as close to being an American Hammer film as I’ve ever seen.
Mark Allen plays Dracula with just the right amounts of ‘Lugosi’ and
‘Lee’ while not falling back on doing an imitation of either. Ford is
excellent here as Sheriff Cobb, and kudos to him for being that rarest
of writer/directors who gets the best people for the part and doesn’t
cast himself as the hero just because he can! And you’ve got to see Tim
Sullivan as Dr. Warren. Sullivan takes the Renfield part and brings it
into the 20th century. Not the toady-ing lackey, Sullivan’s vampire
servant is nothing more than a bumbling professor who’s wife just left
him leaving him vulnerable and easily manipulated. It’s a great
performance by Sullivan that in my opinion really steals the movie.

The story here is typical Hammer Dracula fare, a minion revives Dracula
after centuries of slumber, but this time, he’s not happy to be back.
Dracula is tired of his nocturnal existence and longs to feel the sun
on his face, to feel the daylight one more time. Fortunately for Drac,
he’s been revived in a town that has a cloning facility, so he enlists
Dr. Warren to find the gene that keeps him from going into the daylight
and fix the problem on a genetic level. An interesting modern twist on
an old theme, I think.

So, through the course of events, Dracula kidnaps some lost hikers, who
he can turn them into vampires to use as guinea pigs in the sunlight
formula experimentation. Now, as is usual n these stories, one of the
hikers escapes, gets the sheriff, who’s already been attacked by and
done a little research about vampires and the fight is on. The hiker
wants to save his wife from the clutches of Dracula, the sheriff wants
his town free of the vampiric infestation and, poor old Dracula, just
wants to get a tan.

This is one of the few low budget Dracula movies that actually treat
the character with the respect that it deserves. Ford has crafted what
he himself calls "an homage to the great Hammer Dracula films" and it
truly is. This is one of those rare ‘homages’ that lives up to what
it’s paying tribute to. Ford can be very proud, from the writing to the
actors, this is a top-notch movie.

Now, you have to remember that it’s not a big budget production, so
some of the effects are what you’d expect. When there’s a car
explosion, it’s not a Hollywood, fifty tons of dynamite events, quite
the opposite in fact. But, that being said, the effects are very
effective. The ones that aren’t strong aren’t dwelled on and the
appearance and disappearance of the vampires is very well done. This is
a Dracula movie that won’t have Bela rolling over in his grave! And, in
the end credits, in the "thank yous" Ford actually offers ‘apologies
to’ Bram Stoker. Well, I don’t think Mr. Stoker needs the apology Ron,
this is a movie that I think even old Vlad would be proud of!

And before I forget to mention him, the comic relief provided by ‘Film
Star Randal Malone’ is worth the price of admission here. He’s not
there for very long, but long enough to leave an impression! Trust me,
you’ll want to see more of Randal. I do, I’m very interested in seeing
Ford’s Hollywood Mortuary that stars Malone, a review of which appears
in another part of this celebrated magazine. The Mark Of Dracula is
worth the time and effort you’ll spend getting it. You can find it and
other movies from Ron Ford and his Fat Free Features, at http://www.ronfordfilms.com. I suggest you get over there and check it out.