Old Dracula is a silly little horror comedy trying to capitalize on the success of Young Frankenstein, its punny title an indication of the level of humor involved (that being “low”). There’s a surprising racial twist, however, in the tale of old vamp Dracula (David Niven, sporting a distinctly non-Transylvanian accent) seeking to revive his long-lost love, Vampira.
Knowing that one among the group of Playboy Playmates staying at his castle (don’t ask) has the right blood type to bring Vampira back to life, Dracula collects blood samples from the gals and uses them to resuscitate her. However, one of the Playmates (Minah Bird) is black, and although the vampiress is revived, the excess pigment turns her into black beauty Teresa Graves (who, looking like a less coked-up Whitney Houston, shines with wit and sex appeal, giving an indication of why she would later be given her own TV show, Get Christy Love).
Let the awkward racial innuendos begin! When Vampira awakes, she notices her chocolaty hand and exclaims, “I’m black!”
“Very,” Dracula replies, disappointed.
“It is beautiful!” she tells him.
“Yes, black is beautiful.”
“If only I wasn’t a vampire, then I could look at myself in a mirror.”
“Well, we’ll have to change you back, of course.”
“But why can’t I stay this way?”
“It’s a small town; people might talk.”
And so on. Although the opportunity for social commentary is there, the jokes in Old Dracula are all kept quite innocent and non-controversial. The newly Nubian Vampira loves the new modern world (having died during the 1920s) and starts to really enjoy being black. She uses slang phrases like “right on”, “out of sight”, and, oh my, “jive turkey”. She even goes to see the Jim Brown blaxploitation film Black Gunn. Dracula is not amused. Vampira replies by telling him that “If you tried, you could really be a groovy old dude.”
He then spends the rest of the movie trying to figure out which woman’s blood is the perfect match so that he can turn his wife white again. In the end, not only does a second transfusion not work, but Vampira bites Dracula on the neck and turns him black. If only we all had such power.