This review is long overdue, so let’s get down to it. Join me as I take a look at perhaps the cheapest vampire movie ever made.
Olive Films/Slasher // Video DVD ©2017, Region: 1, Standard: NTSC
~1 hour, 2 minutes, 18 seconds
Eastern Transylvania: a young man named Max (Maximillian Grabinger, director Millard’s teenage nephew-in-law vacationing from Munich) is parked in a car with his girlfriend. Max has a thick German accent. He pronounces vampire “wham-pire”. He’s worried his girlfriend will forget him while he’s away at college in America. She assures him she won’t. “I will give you something to remember me by.” Max insists, sprouting a pair of plastic dollar store vampire fangs. His mouth is already bloody. He lunges at his girlfriend while growling. The shot of him lunging repeats for some reason.
“Max, stop biting me!” the poor girl pleads. Her screams become moans of pleasure, taking the sexual nature of vampirism to a comical level. It sounds like she’s cumming 💦
Max walks in his front door carrying a handful of mail. He bounds up the stairs with a skip in his step. He explains to his dad (comedian Sam Gartner) that he’s been accepted to Harvard, Yale, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas. One of those things is not like the other. He can’t decide between Harvard and Yale. His dad informs him he won’t have to; he’s going to Las Vegas because it has 1) an active nightlife, 2) a surplus of beautiful women to feast on. Max reluctantly agrees.
He packs a duffel bag while his mom (Flora Myers), who’s a good twenty/thirty years older than her husband, cries in the corner. She instructs Max to watch out for “cocksuckers” and warns him against biting AIDS-infected whores. Contracting HIV is something a real vampire might have to watch out for. I’m not sure how that would affect them, but I’ve never seen it brought up in a vampire story before, so that’s novel.
Note: there is zero truth to the legend that Nick Millard’s mom, Frances Millard, starred in pornos in her eighties. That was Flora Myers. They’re two different people.
Max arrives in Las Vegas and stops at an airport slot machine.
Millard says from behind the camera “Hey, kid, you’re too young to be playing the machines.”
Max responds “I may look eighteen, but really I am three-hundred years old.” He saunters off and makes his way around town to piano music taken from Millard’s earlier horror film Satan’s Black Wedding. He arrives at his dorm (Millard’s bedroom) where he meets roommate Paul, who looks twice his age. Their mattresses are laying on the floor. Max lights a cigarette. Paul asks him where he’s from. Max replies Germany, which is three countries away from Romania where we met him. Paul guarantees he’ll see some wild stuff in Las Vegas. Max says he likes wild stuff. Paul says they’ll get along fine. Fade to black.
Max is now in a classroom of less than ten students. Millard is giving a boring lecture on his favorite author, Ernest Hemingway. Max is busy admiring a blonde. He introduces himself after class. Her name is Christine (April Leigh). She tells him his accent is cute.
Max returns to his dorm room, announcing he’s met the love of his life. Paul warns him that all girls in Las Vegas are gold diggers. The phone rings. It’s Max’s father, reminding him to bite necks.
Max heads to another casino and sets his sights on a waitress. More ambient music from Criminally Insane plays. Max follows his target onto the street, up a stairwell. He spins her around for a nibble. Her screams of “no, no, no” turn to “yes, yes, yes” as he sinks his fangs in deeper.
Cut to Max prancing around a graveyard. He strikes up a conversation with a ghoulish gravedigger, the best actor so far. Max picks up Christine for a picnic. He leads her blindfolded into the cemetery. She is not amused. She tells him it’s too somber a place for a picnic. So, they head somewhere else. Max pulls out a half-empty two-liter of 7up, an apple, a banana, and two wadded-up produce bags I assume contain sandwiches. He says he just really likes cemeteries. Christine tells him there’s a sweetness about him, and leans over to kiss him. They go on a merry-go-round with a bunch of kids. Next thing you know, they’re holding hands in the hallways of UNLV.
Thoughts (Possible Spoilers)
Max phones home with the news that’s he’s met a wonderful girl and has a 4.0 grade point average. His father is very upset to hear that he’s only bitten one neck. His parents are worried and fly in to check on him. Max picks them up from the airport. His mom voices concern that Christine could have AIDS in the least respectful way possible, spewing lines such as “Her pussy is all worn out!” She commands Max to bite Christine’s neck and get it over with already.
Max creeps up Christine’s stairs to her room where she’s sleeping. Her house looks identical to Max’s back in Germ-vania. He moves in to bite her, but manages to restrain himself. Instead, he just blows her a kiss and then leaves.
Somewhere along the way, Max got a job polishing caskets. His boss tells him it’s time to go home. He works off the clock for another hour because he loves it so much, expressing hope that one day he’ll be promoted to a sales position. That evening, he stalks a third coed around campus, cornering her in a hallway. She doesn’t even scream.
A man-hating feminist type from Max’s Literature class stops by his room to let him know she’ll be keeping an eye on him in regards to the recent attacks. Apparently, she noticed how weird he is. Max trails her to the library and jumps her in one of the aisles. She later shows up on his floor mattress, acting all sexy, begging to be bitten again. Max’s mom drops in while he’s gone and ends up sleeping with Paul.
The spirit of a dead vampire who looks exactly like Max (because it’s Grabinger wearing teashade sunglasses and black lipstick) visits him in a dream with a warning. He says he too fell in love and stopped biting necks. The lack of blood weakened him enough to be killed by a vampire hunter (TJ Fournier). This is shown in flashback. The scene ends with the spirit repeating “You are doomed, doomed, dooooooo-” as the camera zooms in on his mouth. Afterward, the spirit takes up residence under Christine’s bed.
A woman ascends a staircase, the camera tight on her ass. This is followed by a nearly identical shot of her doing it a second time. She’s a friend of the feminist. She’s heard great things about Max’s neck game. She wants him to bite her. Max obliges.
Toward the end, Max gets a call from his uncle Felonious (comedian Perry Todd), urging him to come to the set of his latest art film. The “set” is a high-end hotel room. The “film” is a porno — 70s footage of two topless women groping some lucky dude’s bulge. The wood panel walls don’t match the hotel’s. The location sound drops out in favor of moaning. It looks like Felonious says “more emotion” and “bravo”. Max points out the obvious, that what he’s watching is porn. Felonious claims the sex is symbolic, allegorical. He admonishes Max for not realizing. “Does your generation even know what a good film is?!” he asks rhetorically. Oh, the irony. I have to believe Millard based the character on himself. Surely, the parallels between them were intentional.
Next, it’s Christine’s turn to blindfold Max. She brings him to a church. When he sees where he is, he runs out the door with limp wrists like Roger the alien.
The ending is anticlimactic and makes little sense. Max is brought to his knees by the sun and nearly dies in a patch of grass, despite withstanding the sun the whole movie. Christine walks up, revealing herself to be a vampire too. How come she can step foot in sunlight and churches? If you actually expect an answer, I pity you.
Nick Millard is a treasure trove of no-budget weirdness. He’s been making movies without money or a high level of talent for six decades now. As I’ve written before, it’s inspiring how he does it his way, on his terms, with no regrets, no matter how bad the outcome. He views his career in three stages — erotica, genre, drama. He likes to say that he started out in the gutter (erotica), stepped up to the curb (action/horror), then stepped up again to the sidewalk (drama). Roughly fifty-seven of his titles have played theatrically and/or been on home video. He’s sitting on at least thirty more that have never seen the light of day. Click here for my list.
Millard is a character too. I interviewed him in 2016 for this blog. Every answer he gave me was typed out in all-caps stream of consciousness. During our correspondence, he asked me if I knew his nephew Royal Farros, who acted in some of his movies. I said no. Immediately after the interview, he threatened me with a lawsuit. Over time, he started believing I was Royal based on my Facebook profile picture of Frank the Cop from Sleepaway Camp. I guess they look similar. In 2019, Millard wished me, i.e. Royal, a happy birthday, except on my profile’s birthday, and in February of this year announced to me he created a whole new film genre he calls the “French Riviera” genre. For context, he lives there. Or did. At some point, he unfriended me. He accepted my subsequent friend request.
He’s eighty-one now. I’m tempted to chalk his erratic behavior up to old age, but the truth is he’s always been odd. He grew up on European art movies, idolizing Federico Fellini, reading everything Hemingway wrote, and somehow turned those experiences into his body of work. He takes himself pretty seriously, considers himself Orson Welles, but his parsimony makes it hard to agree. A decent chunk of his post-erotic filmography was shot in his Pacifica, California home with a camcorder, using folded tinfoil for knives, washcloths for masks, dolls for fetuses, and turkey basters for abortion devices. He often incorporates footage from his previous movies, partly because he is proud of them, but mostly to pad the runtimes.
His movies are, well, they’re not “good” by traditional standards, but I find them strangely addicting. I’ve gotten countless hours of entertainment out of them, so, in that sense, Nick Millard is a great filmmaker.
The idea for Dracula in Vegas came about when he took Grabinger to see the Bonnie and Clyde death car in Primm (formerly State Line), Nevada. Grabinger asked if they could make a movie where he played a young Clyde. To avoid the 105-degree heat, Millard instead wrote a vampire story he could shoot mostly at night — his second, after Satan’s Black Wedding.
It was shot on video in model homes without permission on Monday mornings “when no one was there except the receptionist” and guerilla-style around town. The stake Bizarro Spirit World Max is killed with in flashback was snapped off an election sign Millard ordered his nephew to steal out of a yard because, by his own admission, he didn’t want to spend three or four bucks on a piece of wood. The fangs are the kind you receive from a capsule vending machine for being well-behaved at the supermarket.
The special effects consist of fake blood. There is zero suspense. Millard describes Dracula in Vegas as a black comedy. It was obviously meant to be funny and self-satirizing. I almost get the impression that just this once, Millard wanted us to laugh at it, not with it. Almost.
The acting, as usual, is interesting. What Grabinger and Gartner (the dad) lack in skill, they make up for in enthusiasm. Leigh, on the other hand, is so stilted, she may have been held at gunpoint. Myers’ hypocritical slut-shaming dialogue is hilarious in how unexpectedly vulgar it is. Could her AIDS talk and Max’s struggle to stop giving strange women orgasms be an overt pre-It Follows commentary on the dangers of casual sex? I doubt it.
Overall, this glorified home movie is fun — not as hypnotic as Death Nurse or Butcher Knife, but fun nonetheless. To enjoy it, you have to possess an appreciation for SOV horror allowing you look past its low-res picture, tracking lines, missing audio, and other technical shortcomings. You must also lower your expectations. No judgment here, but if your idea of a good time is the latest addition to the Conjuring Cinematic Universe™, Dracula in Vegas will suck the life out of you.
To be honest, it’s a tad underwhelming. The thought of watching an unattainable movie is always more exciting than actually doing it. Dracula in Vegas was only released on VHS once in a very limited quantity by the mail-order company Incredibly Strange Filmworks, based out of Jamestown, Missouri. Until its August, 2017 DVD release by Slasher // Video, it was so mythically rare, I couldn’t find a single review on the web. There were two user “reviews” on IMDb, but they didn’t offer any details and in my opinion were written as jokes without having seen the movie.
Slasher // Video was an awesome boutique label. They put out six or seven DVDs, then partnered with Olive Films to put them back out with new artwork. From there, they released a few more. Their 2-disc special edition of Boardinghouse is exploding with special features. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the gold standard by which to compare DVDs. Their catalogue includes four of Nick Millard’s titles — this, Death Nurse, it sequel Death Nurse 2, and The Cemetery Sisters. I can’t thank Slasher // Video enough for introducing me to them.
“It was all because of Death Nurse.” owner Jesus Teran told me in 2017. “The way it happened was back in 2009, a video store had a lot of rare titles and it closed down all of a sudden. My girlfriend at the time told me about it, so I went there to buy all the films I could get. Death Nurse was in my pile of VHSs to buy. After getting home with about 100 or so movies that night, it wasn’t there. Someone took it from my pile. I tried finding it online, but whenever it came up on eBay, it ended up being $275 or more. I decided to find out who to contact to get the distribution rights and in 2011, I acquired them.
I’m not afraid to release what I know will not make any money back, or possibly break even at best. A lot of companies will not touch what I release because it’s not on 35mm/16mm, or they won’t work with Beta Sp., etc. I feel that if a movie only has a specific element available to work with, it is more important to put it out than to never have it released. That would mean Shock ‘Em Dead, Victims!, and a few others I’m working on at the moment go unreleased. I don’t care for that snobbish attitude.”
Sadly, it seems Slasher // Video is no longer in business. Their website is down and their Facebook page hasn’t been updated since December of 2019, right before the world caught fire. Their final release was the exploitation throwback Streets of Vengeance. They never did get to Victims!.
Extra features for Dracula in Vegas include commentary with Nick and Irmgard Millard moderated by Jesus Teran, an interview with the Millards (17:56), a photo gallery, and a trailer.
Everybody who’s bitten turns into a vampire, and the dead vampire lives on as a ghost, so… 0.
2 pairs of breasts.
3 stolen election signs out of 5.
I Got My Copy From
A Polish Vampire in Burbank (1983)