Count Dracula (David Niven) is old and lost in the swinging seventies. He has been reduced to opening up his castle to tourists and Playboy Bunny photoshoots. When his manservant drains the blood from the bunnies, Dracula discovers that one of them has the same blood type as his comatose wife, Vampira. Dracua decides to use the blood to finally revive his wife but, when he does so, Vampira turns into a black woman played by Theresa Graves. (Graves is best remembered for playing the title character on Get Christie Love.) Vampira keeps calling Dracula a “jive turkey” while Dracula heads to London to try to collect more blood cells.
The idea of David Niven playing a comedic Dracula seems like a no-brainer but Old Dracula is one of those films that is so dated and unintentionally racist that you worry you’re going to go to Hell just for watching it. It seems like the film was trying to satirize race relations in the same way that Godfrey Cambridge and Melvin Van Peebles did in Watermelon Man but most of the jokes fall flat. The film also tries to mine humor out of Dracula, with his old world manners, trying to survive in the modern world but, again, there’s not much here beyond the idea of Dracula being old. The concept is far funnier than the execution. While Theresa Graves is a lively presence, David Niven often seems to be tired and weary. I can only guess he really needed the money because Niven’s heart does not seem to be in the film and even his famous natural wit is muted in most of his scenes. Niven does get a few decent one-liners but otherwise, Old Dracula is a painful relic.
Old Dracula is often mistakenly referred to as being a rip-off of Young Frankenstein. Old Dracula was actually made a year before Young Frankenstein but it sat on the shelf for two years before American International Pictures finally decided to release it. The title of the film was originally Vampira but AIP changed it to capitalize on the success of Mel Brooks’s far more successful film.