He managed to get permission to film the making of Jess’ Dracula and the footage shot is what forms Vampir Cuadecuc, an ‘experimental’ making-of documentary. Portabella uses the footage to tell his own version of the Dracula story, in an almost completely silent film that instead uses sound effects and Carlos Santos’ challenging music to soundtrack events.
The black and white imagery is shot high contrast so picture quality here isn’t the aim for this release. Rather, cuadecuc is a Catalan term that refers to the unexposed footage at the end of a film roll and the effect here is using that film to create a commentary on the art itself. We get lots of footage shot from different angles to Franco’s film mixed in with seemingly random sound effects and Santos’ unique soundtrack with the most effective moments in this candid, haunting shots of the tragic Soledad Miranda, star of some of Franco’s most well-known movies.
As for the final result, this is a project you can take how you want. We can’t imagine anyone who is unaware of the context of the time period for Spain, Franco’s film or the filming of it to be that captivated. For anyone that applies meaning to it, whether that be a commentary on Franco’s regime, or on the process of filmmaking itself, there’ll be plenty of others who instead just think it’s the equivalent of an indulgent, noodling jazz record. So, in summary, if you’re a Franco fan or like interesting takes on how film is constructed, or how film can subtly comment on the world it exists in, then you’re likely to get something out of this and for you, the extras are worthwhile too. There’s an interview with the remarkably spry octogenarian Portabella, two (fairly) recent short films from him that reunited him with Santos, an appreciation by BFI curator William Fowler and a booklet with writing on the film.
This is almost the very definition of a genuinely niche release and it’s a fine job done by Second Run in that respect. If you interested in the film, or have wanted a chance to catch it, this is certainly the release for you.
VAMPIR CUADECUC (1971) / CERT: E / DIRECTOR: PERE PORTABELLA / STARRING: CHRISTOPHER LEE, HERBERT LOM, SOLEDAD MIRANDA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW