“Dracula in Pakistan” on Arte.tv: a blood

A Pakistani Dracula of the 1960s, with musical interludes worthy of Bollywood? This is the promise of this rarity, impossible to find for thirty years and broadcast online by Arte, as part of a vampire theme.

Released by Arte in June 2010 – and available on DVD from Bach Films since 2007 –, Dracula in Pakistan enjoys a small reputation among fans of encores, due to its 100% exploitation cinema title. The Franco-German channel is once again making this curiosity from 1967 visible (on its online platformas part of a special vampire programming). Either a free transposition of Bram Stoker’s novel, shot in Urdu by director Khwaja Sarfraz.

Considered lost for thirty years – legend has it that it was found in the trash –, Dracula in Pakistan arouses interest for its eclecticism, distilling an old-fashioned charm (see the final fight). The film is like its opening, where a scientist mixes various products in vials to obtain an elixir of eternal life, until he becomes a vampire. While the soundtrack mixes compositions by Ketèlbey, cucaracha and theme “Dracula” by James Bernard (emblematic composer for the British studio Hammer), the film combines expressionism from silent cinema, Hammer influences and codes of “Lollywood” (a term that designates film industry based in Lahore).

Expressionism

Games of shadows, contrasting black and white, dreamlike decors… If Dracula in Pakistan descends from Nosferatu (Murnau, 1922), it is through other films, like so many missing links. Example : The black Cat (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1934), a remarkable B series adapted from Poe, which combines expressionist staging and Gothic aesthetics. In the work of Khwaja Sarfraz, this influence is particularly visible during visits to the cellars of the “mansion”, full of oversized cobwebs.

Rehan in “Dracula in Pakistan”, by Khwaja Sarfaraz.

Photo Screen Enterprise / Abdul Baqi

The Hammer

Due to the cultural proximity between the United Kingdom and Pakistan – a British colony until 1947 – Hammer productions are one of the matrices of Dracula in Pakistan, which multiplies the loans to the Dracula’s Nightmare (Terence Fisher, 1958). In addition to the baroque dashes of the realization (aggressive zooms, strident music), it is the similarity between the vampires which strikes. Played by the actor Rehan, all in the theatricality, this Dracula is placed in the wake of that of Christopher Lee: devourer of women, elegantly dressed, of an impressive size.

Lollywood

The Lollywood touch is provided here by musical interludes, comparable to those of Bollywood productions from neighboring India. These surprising breaks in tone announce the melodramatic family scenes, a little static, a little talkative. The most modern idea? Having set the plot in 1960s Pakistan, which makes possible a strange car chase, with the vampire at the wheel. At the time, the censorship board let the film be released, with an X rating – because of the sexual subtext – after having the producer and the director promise not to make any more of the same genre. Hence its rarity.

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p Dracula in Pakistan, of Khwaja Sarfraz to see on Arte.tv

“Dracula in Pakistan” on Arte.tv: a blood-for-blood Lollywood vampire film