Wednesday, July 30, 2008


To the best of my knowledge, "Alucard"--the backward anagram of "Dracula"--first appears in 1943's SON OF DRACULA, used there as a (frankly poor) disguise for Lon Chaney, Jr.'s portrayal of Dracula. In all honesty, the exact reason behind its use for the title character of Juan Lopez Moctezuma's masterpiece, ALUCARDA escapes me. If nothing else, the name adds to the aura of a character already shrouded in mystery. Born under mysterious circumstances and brought to a convent as an infant, Alucarda grows to a young adult and befriends another young woman, an orphan named Justine. Already full of vibrant madness and free will, Alucarda encourages Justine to reject the teachings of the church, and in the time-honored tradition of nunsploitation, the two of them waste no time in getting all naked and bloody (apparently the best way to sell your soul to the devil in these things).

Moctezuma himself refers to Alucarda as "an apocalyptic creature," a fitting label for a character who eventually brings the film to a (literally) fiery climax. Before this happens, her seduction of Justine leads to the latter's exorcism (a bloody one, through needles), her death, and her eventual "resurrection," memorably emerging from a coffin filled with blood. While Alucarda does not seem to possess explicitly vampiric qualities of her own, it does seem possible that she can call forth vampirism in others, particularly when we get to see Justine take a juicy bite out of one of the film's nuns, right before a dousing of holy water causes her to burn down to a charred skeleton.

Hence, Alucarda's name serves as a hint of the kind of supernatural power she possesses. At the same time, Moctezuma leaves the film ambiguous; to be sure, this is no straight-forward Hammer-style film, where good and evil exist as clear-cut polar opposites of one another. The "evil" of the film--manifested in the bizarre resurrections taking place--could easily come about because of the excesses of the church, as seen through the aforementioned exorcism as well as the prayers and incantations that rise to orgasmic heights. We also see nuns and priests who take to whipping the devil out of themselves, so the film's wildly excessive bloodletting extends to them as well. One of the most memorable set-pieces of the film comes when the charred remains of nun (one of Justine's victims, apparently) comes back to life on an altar, only to have its head violently removed by a priest.

ALUCARDA is a delight. It's a film that resists straight-forward viewing while still exhibiting the kind of exploitation thrills that surely satisfied the drive-in crowd of the 1970s. THE MEXICAN CINEMA OF DARKNESS, by Doyle Greene (published by McFarland) contains an excellent analysis of the film, so anyone interested in exploring this film's many layers would do well to seek out a copy.


Tenebrous Kate said...

This film is a STUNNER. I really enjoyed Moctezuma's "Mansion of Madness" as well (which also got a lovely Mondo Macabro DVD release), though that film is even more psychedelic than "Alucarda."

Thanks for the tip on the Doyle Greene book--I didn't know that existed! Sounds like an absolutely necessary read :)

The Headless Werewolf said...

I enjoy "Mansion" as well, and as psychedelic as it is, it doesn't resonate with me quite like "Alucarda." There's just something about all that nekkid screaming . . .

Kitty LeClaw said...

One of my all-time faves (if not THE fave). It's a shame that Tina Romero didn't get more work than she did -- she was FABULOUS!!!

Killer Kittens will (eventually) contain a review of this film, but with far less academically appropriate language!

Great write-up, and excellent screen snaps!

- The Cussin' Canadian

The Headless Werewolf said...

Thanks, Kitty--I'm still getting the hang of the ol' screen-shot thing, so I appreciate the kind words. Looking forward to your review!

Kitty LeClaw said...

the exact reason behind its use for the title character of Juan Lopez Moctezuma's masterpiece, ALUCARDA escapes me

The word "dracul" means "devil" (or dragon), and the inclusion of the "a" means "of the devil." Finally, everything that is truly of the devil must exist in reverse of God's plan.

At least, this is the way the Kitty brain rationalizes it.

The Headless Werewolf said...

That's as good an explanation as any. I've also noticed that the movie has some similarities to CARMILLA, where we see the title character disguise her name as "Mircalla"--maybe that's some kind of wink to (semi-)source material?

kindertrauma said...

I love this movie! it is gorgeous and a real visual inspiration. There really is nothing like it. Such a perfect balance of earthy and otherworldly. Thanks for reminding me to watch it again!