Lake of Dracula (1971)
A white mist flows through the woods at night. The coffin lid opens! A beautiful woman in a bride's costume rises. (白い霧が森を流れる夜 地下室の棺の蓋が開く! 花嫁衣裳の死美人が立ち上る)
Lake of Dracula (呪いの館 血を吸う眼 is a Noroi no Yakata Chi o Sū Me, lit. Cursed House: Bloodsucking Eyes)1971 Japanese tokusatsu horror film produced by Toho, and the second entry in director Michio Yamamoto's Bloodthirsty Trilogy. It was released to Japanese theaters on June 16, 1971, and to American theaters in August 1973.
Five-year-old Akiko Kashiwagi is playing with a group of her friends by the ocean in a harbor town on the Noto Peninsula of Japan. As the sun sets, Akiko's friends leave but she stays behind. Suddenly, Akiko's dog Leo runs off, and she gives chase. Leo leads Akiko through a small cave, and on the other side is a dark forest with an old, run-down Western-style house. Leo runs into the house, and as Akiko tries to follow a strange old Caucasian man tries to stop her. Akiko avoids the man and follows Leo inside the house, which is as dilapidated on the inside as it is outside. Akiko sees a woman dressed in white sitting in front of a piano, and approaches her to ask her if she has seen her dog. Akiko turns the woman around, causing her arms to hit several keys on the piano. Upon coming face to face with the woman, Akiko realizes that she is a cold pale corpse. Akiko jumps back in terror, and turns around to see a man descending the stairs. His skin is deathly pale, and blood drips from his fanged mouth. Most horrifying are his eyes, which glow a piercing golden color.
18 years later, Akiko is a new schoolteacher currently staying in a house near Lake Fujimi with her younger sister Natsuko. Akiko takes her German shepherd, also named Leo, for a walk down to the boathouse by the lake, where she greets the proprietor Kyusaku, a kindly older man. While they talk, Leo begins to run away, giving Akiko a brief flashback to the trauma she experienced all those years ago. She is able to stop Leo by his leash, while Kyusaku remarks how strange it is that Leo disobeyed her, something he never does. A delivery truck from a company called Nishihara Transport then pulls up to the boathouse, dropping off a large box. Kyusaku asks who the box is for, but the driver only says he was instructed to leave it here. Kyusaku tries to chase down the man, but can only watch as the driver returns a cold glare before driving off. Kyusaku tells Akiko he will drop by her house later as he attempts to lift the strange package into the boathouse. Kyusaku manages to bring the package inside and open it, only to find a coffin. Akiko returns to her house, where Natsuko mentions the painting that Akiko just finished, depicting a sunset except with a gigantic golden eye in place of the sun. Akiko says that the idea for the painting just came to her, but Natsuko suggests that it seems to have something to do with the terrible nightmare she experienced at the age of five. Natsuko tells Akiko she should stop obsessing over that nightmare, and says that her boyfriend wouldn't like knowing that she is still fixated on it. Akiko insists that she barely remembers the detail of the dream and is not obsessed with it at all. Back inside the boathouse, Kyusaku attempts to call the transportation company about the package he received. He says over the phone that the label on the package only said "from Dracula via Nishihara Transport," and that he doesn't know anyone named Dracula. The person on the other line hangs up, leaving Kyusaku frustrated. He walks back to the coffin and opens it, finding it empty. Just then, he is grabbed from behind and attacked by a mysterious man.
That night, Akiko's boyfriend Takashi Saeki, a doctor at a nearby university hospital, visits her and Natsuko at their home. As Natsuko leaves them in the dining room together, Akiko suggests to Takashi that Natsuko seems to be in love with him as well. Takashi shrugs the notion off and says he needs to be leaving to work the night shift at the hospital. Akiko says it's strange that Kyusaku didn't show up, and has Takashi drive her down to the boathouse. Takashi drops her off and drives away, and Akiko enters the boathouse, which has all of its lights turned off. She calls out for Kyusaku, only to see a man slowly begin to enter the room. As the stranger stares into her eyes, Akiko becomes horrified as she recognizes him as the same monstrous man from her childhood nightmare. Akiko quickly leaves through the door behind her. The next day, Akiko and Natsuko go into town together to shop. She discusses the previous night's experience with Natsuko at a coffee shop, and comes to the conclusion that Kyusaku was busy when she came by while the man she saw was just a stranger who happened to be at the boathouse. Akiko calls Takashi at the hospital and suggests they go out for dinner while she is in town, but just then Takashi is informed that he needs to stay at the hospital to see to a new patient. After hanging up, Takeshi is brought to the patient, a young local farmer's daughter who had run away from home and was found laying on the side of the road near the lake. The girl demonstrates no noticeable injuries save for two small puncture wounds on her neck, but is unresponsive and has lost a great deal of blood. Takashi suggests that she be given a blood transfusion and says that they will wait until she snaps out of her trance to find out what happened.
Akiko and Natsuko return to the lake house, but find that Leo is missing from his doghouse. Akiko wanders off to look for him, only to find Leo bloody and dead in a patch of grass. As Akiko kneels over her dead pet and grieves, she sees Kyusaku approach her from behind. Before she can ask what he is doing, Kyusaku violently attacks her and knocks her unconscious, then brings her to the boathouse. Kyusaku sets Akiko down on the table, and the mysterious man approaches her. However, both he and Kyusaku vanish into the shadows as they hear footsteps approaching the door. Two anglers open the door and ask Akiko if they can rent a boat, but Akiko nearly faints. The two men bring her to their fire on the beach and try to warm her up, but are somewhat skeptical about her being attacked. Akiko becomes frustrated and insists she is fine before leaving, with the anglers remarking that she must be crazy and deciding to go fish somewhere else. At the hospital, the girl awakens and walks out of her room. The nurse at the front desk asks the girl where she is going, only for the girl to turn back and stare at her with a ghastly grin. Takashi overhears the commotion and sees the girl walk out of the hospital and begin descending an exterior stairwell, with the shadowy man from the boathouse waiting for her from down on the street. A security guard tries to chase the girl, but she falls over the railing to her death on the street below. When Akiko returns home, she finds no sign of Natsuko, while the door in the kitchen leading to outside is stuck open. Akiko calls Takashi and in a panicked tone asks him to come over because she is terrified and doesn't know what to do. She explains that her dog was killed and that Kyusaku tried to rape her, but Natsuko suddenly grabs her hand. Natsuko convinces Takashi over the phone that everything is fine, and Takashi tells them that he will be over in the morning. When Akiko explains what just happened to her sister, she is strangely unconcerned and promptly walks upstairs, leaving Akiko confused and hurt. That night, Akiko is unable to sleep and looks out her bedroom window, only to see Natsuko wandering into the woods. Akiko runs outside and chases after her sister, but can find no trace of her. Akiko finally gives up and returns to the house, while Natsuko walks down to the beach and meets the shadowy man from the boathouse. She embraces him, after which he bites down on her neck with his inhumanly large fangs. The next morning, Takashi arrives at the house to find Akiko visibly disturbed. Natsuko soon walks downstairs, prompting Akiko to ask why she left the house last night. Natsuko denies ever leaving the house, and says that Akiko must be exhausted and is imagining things. Akiko and Takashi go to the boathouse to confront Kyusaku, but he claims to have no memory about attacking her. She asks who the man was that she say in the boathouse, but he only replies that he is his "master." Kyusaku says he is very busy and asks them to leave. As Takashi and Akiko look out over the lake, Takashi ponders the possibility that what happened to Akiko is connected to what happened to his patient, since both incidents happened near the lake. He also reveals that the parents of his patient had her body burned before they could perform an autopsy. Akiko asks why if so many people believe in God, that they don't believe in the devil as well. They both then return to the house, where Takashi manages to fix the door and prevent it from being stuck open. He tells Akiko that she will be perfectly safe, and that he will stay with her all night since it's his day off. The phone then rings, with Natsuko answering it. She tells Takashi that the hospital called and wants him to work the night shift urgently, and that they did not remain on the line. Takashi says that he will stay with Akiko anyway, but she insists that she will be fine and urges him to leave. She follows Takashi to his car, when they notice a thunderstorm descending. She tells Takashi he should hurry, and he promptly gets into his car and drives away.
When Akiko goes back inside, she finds the lights off and is grabbed by the arm by Natsuko. She tells Natsuko to let her go, but Natsuko refuses. When Akiko finally frees herself, she comes face-to-face with the man from her nightmare in the living room. The man compliments Akiko's painting, particularly admiring the fear shown by the painter. Natsuko mocks Akiko, saying that their parents always loved her more, but now she would no longer be living in her shadow. The man attacks Akiko, who manages to get away and hide upstairs. She conceals herself in a closet, and sees the man enter the room and seemingly leave after not locating her. Peering through the closet door, Akiko looks into a mirror across the room and sees no one in the reflection. As soon as Akiko exits the closet she is grabbed by the man. Looking back at the mirror, she notices that her attacker casts no reflection. The man restrains Akiko and prepares to bite her neck. While all of this is happening, Takashi continues driving his car through the storm only to notice Kyusaku hiding in the back seat. Kyusaku attacks Takashi and tries to strangle him, but Takashi stops the car and manages to free himself. He runs out of the car with Kyusaku giving chase. However, Kyusaku is startled by a nearby lightning strike, and promptly drops dead. Takashi gets back into the car and drives back to Akiko's house, arriving just before the man can bite Akiko. The stranger promptly flees as Takashi enters the house. Akiko throws her painting into the fireplace, where it is consumed by the flames. Takashi and Akiko then leave to try and find Natsuko, and discover her lying on the beach. They get Natsuko into Takashi's car and begin driving to the hospital. As she lays dying in her sister's arms in the back seat, Natsuko begs Akiko to cremate her body as soon as she dies. Natsuko dies before they make it to the hospital, and her body is prepared for an autopsy. Akiko tells Takashi they need to cremate her, but Takashi says they need to perform an autopsy first. While a nurse prepares Natsuko's body for an autopsy, Natsuko suddenly rises from the dead and attacks the nurse, biting her on the neck before escaping. Upon finding the nurse, Takashi notices the bite marks on her neck and the fact that she is drained of blood as well. He tells the other hospital staff to quickly give the nurse a blood transfusion, then takes Akiko into a laboratory in the hospital. He says that despite how unbelievable it may be, they can no longer deny the fact that they are dealing with a vampire. Takashi explains that he believes some tales about vampires from around the world are actually true stories, and says that as recently as 1948, a man was executed in the United Kingdom for drinking human blood. He also points to the novel Dracula, which discusses many of the traits of vampires. He asks Akiko to remember her nightmare, believing it is connected to the vampire. Akiko can't bring herself to remember it, having spent the last 18 years trying to repress it as much as possible. Takashi then decides to subject her to hypnosis to try and get her to remember the nightmare. While under hypnosis, Akiko retraces the majority of the nightmare and finally realizes that it was not a nightmare at all, but something she actually experienced. When she told her parents, they insisted that it was just a nightmare, and out of desperation to please them she convinced herself that it was a nightmare. This in turn led to her parents paying more attention to her than Natsuko, which explains Natsuko's jealousy toward her. Takashi decides that they will have to go to Akiko's hometown on the Noto Peninsula to find the house and learn the truth about the vampire once and for all.
After arriving in Akiko's hometown, she and Takashi find the beach where Leo ran off 18 years ago. Akiko remarks that the sunset even looks just as it did on that day. They pass through the cave and reach the forest, where they find the delivery truck that brought the coffin to the lake. Takashi investigates, and finds the driver's dead body inside. Akiko confirms that it is the same man who delivered the coffin. Finally, they come upon the old house. They enter and find it seemingly empty. Takashi tells Akiko to remember the rest of her dream, and they approach the piano where she saw a dead woman. Takashi makes a sound on the piano just like the dead woman's arms did, which finally reminds Akiko of the vampire descending the stairs. She recalls that before the vampire could get her, the old man helped her and Leo escape. Just then, the two hear what sound like footsteps coming from upstairs. They ascend the staircase and enter a room, where they see the old man sitting at a desk with his back to them. Takashi approaches the man and tries to get his attention by touching his hand, only for the man's decayed flesh to peel off. Takashi and Akiko jump back as the man's corpse falls out of the chair and onto the ground. Takashi picks up the man's journal and reads aloud an entry from 18 years ago. In it, the man explains that his family is not Japanese. Rather, his father knew that their family carried the bloodline of a vampire. While it spared his father, he still knew that eventually vampirism would manifest again in one of his descendants and so built this house in an isolated area of Japan. While he and his father both lived peaceful lives, the man's son began to show traits of vampirism at the age of 25 when he killed the woman he loved and drank her blood. The man was able to save a little girl and her dog who wandered into the house, but could not save himself from his son, who bit him and drew his blood as well. Before finally succumbing to blood loss, the man locked his son away while he still had some of his humanity left. Suddenly the vampire enters the room and interrupts Takashi. He says that after his father locked him away, he died, only to come back to life. When Akiko wandered into his house 18 years ago, he explains, he immediately knew that he wanted her to be his bride. She may have escaped him back then, but he finally found her at the lake and now she had come right to him. Takashi tries to fight the vampire, but is no match for his superior strength as he is tossed aside. Natsuko rises from a nearby coffin, now a vampire as well. Takashi and Akiko try to flee into the hallway, but the vampire crashes through a window ahead of them and pins Takashi against a wooden railing overlooking the ground floor. As the vampire chokes Takashi, the railing begins to crack. Before the vampire can finish Takashi, the old man, transformed into a vampire by his son's bite, grabs him by the ankle and makes him lose his balance. The vampire trips backward into the railing which splits in half, causing him to fall onto a metal spike on the floor below. The vampire struggles and screams in agony as his body begins to rapidly and gruesomely decay. Natsuko then collapses to the ground, and Takashi and Akiko watch as she returns to her former beautiful appearance rather than the undead creature she had become. The old man smiles as he finally embraces death, his appearance returning to that when he was alive as well. While both Akiko and the old man become peaceful and beautiful once again in death, the vampire is reduced to a charred skeleton.
- Main article: Lake of Dracula/Credits.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Michio Yamamoto
- Written by Ei Ogawa, Masaru Takesue
- Produced by Fumio Tanaka
- Music by Riichiro Manabe
- Cinematography by Rokuro Nishigaki
- Edited by Hisashi Kondo
- Production design by Shigekazu Ikuno
- Production Manager Toshiaki Hashimoto
- Assistant Director Yoshisuke Kawasaki
- Sound Recordist Shin Watarai
- Director of Special Effects Teruyoshi Nakano (uncredited)
- Lighting Technician Kojiro Sato
- Main article: Lake of Dracula/Credits.
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Midori Fujita as Akiko Kashiwagi, schoolteacher
- Choei Takahashi as Dr. Takashi Saeki
- Sanae Emi as Natsuko Kashiwagi
- Kaku Takashina as Kyusaku, boat house proprietor
- Shin Kishida as Vampire
- Hideji Otaki as Old man
- Tatsuo Matsushita as Doctor at university hospital
- Yasuzo Ogawa, Wataru Omae as Anglers
- Mika Katsuragi as Farmer's daughter, bitten by vampire
- Tadao Futami as Nishihara Transport driver
- Fusako Tachibana as Corpse in front of piano
- Setsuko Kawaguchi as Kondo, nurse at university hospital
- Haruo Suzuki as Security guard at university hospital
- Yoshie Kihara, Sachiko Mori as Nurses at university hospital
- Michiyo Yamazoe as Akiko Kashiwagi, five years old
- Yoshio Katsube, Shigeo Kato as Coffee shop customers (uncredited)
- Yasushi Sakagami, Satoru Matsuba as Boys (uncredited)
- Shigeko Mizumura as Girl (uncredited)
- Mariko Suga as Pianist at coffee shop (uncredited)
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Barry Haigh as Dr. Takashi Saeki
Following the success of The Vampire Doll the previous year, producer Fumio Tanaka greenlit the second entry in what would become known as the Bloodthirsty Trilogy. While the previous film was made as a compromise between Tanaka's desire to produce a horror film and director Michio Yamamoto's desire to direct a thriller, Tanaka wanted the follow-up to be a more straightforward Japanese version of Hammer Films' popular Dracula films starring Christopher Lee. It was Tanaka's idea for the setting of the previous film to be a gothic Western-style manor, and a similar idea was again utilized for the vampire's house in this film. The film's screenplay was originally titled The Phantom Vampire (幻の吸血鬼. Maboroshi no Kyūketsuki)
Tanaka originally wanted Masumi Okada to play the role of the vampire, but he was unavailable due to scheduling conflicts. Michio Yamamoto recommended Shin Kishida in his place. The two had first met when Kishida played a criminal in an episode of the 1968 television drama Tokyo Combat which Yamamoto directed, and since then they had enjoyed a positive working relationship. Kishida was also known at the time as a regular actor in the films of director Kihachi Okamoto, who was Yamamoto's mentor. As such, Yamamoto had a lot of familiarity with Kishida and felt he would be a good fit for the part.
- Main article: Lake of Dracula/Gallery.
- Cursed House: Bloodsucking Eyes (literal Japanese title)
- The Phantom Vampire (幻の吸血鬼 Maboroshi no Kyūketsuki, early Japanese title)
- The Lake of Dracula (U.S. television title)
- Japula (alternate English title)
- Dracula's Lust for Blood (alternate English title)
- The Bloodthirsty Eyes (alternate English title)
- Lake of Death (alternate English title)
- Lake of Dracula: The Bloodthirsty Eyes (U.K. DVD title)
- The Lake of Dracula (El lago de Dracula; Mexico)
Lake of Dracula was released with English subtitles in the United States in August of 1973. The film was later dubbed into English in Hong Kong and aired on television in the U.S. by UPA in 1980, as The Lake of Dracula. The television version runs 79 minutes, three minutes shorter than the original Japanese version, as the scene depicting the vampire decaying as he is destroyed is removed. Paramount Pictures released the film on VHS in 1994, which remained the only way to watch the film on home video in the U.S. until 2018, when Arrow Video released all three entries in the Bloodthirsty Trilogy in a Blu-ray set in the U.S. and United Kingdom.
Writing for the Los Angeles Times, critic Fredric Milstein gave the film a positive review, noting that while it was "superficial" and "unsubtle" it still managed to be "appealingly gruesome and exciting." Milstein also praised Rokuro Nishigaki's cinematography, particularly the atmosphere it provided to the film. In his 1994 book Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, film historian Stuart Galbraith IV called the film "above average" for its genre, and felt that while it was not an exceptional movie, it was still acceptable thanks to its unique setting and attempts to provide greater development to its characters.
Artsmagic DVD (2003)
- Region: 2
- Audio: Japanese
- Subtitles: English
- Special features: Shin Kishida biography; portrait gallery; stills gallery; original promotional materials gallery
- Notes: Also released in The Bloodthirsty Trilogy Limited Edition Collector's Box with Legacy of Dracula and Evil of Dracula. Out of print.
Toho DVD (2005)
- Region: 2
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese
- Special features: Audio commentary by Fumio Tanaka
- Notes: Re-released on February 7, 2014 and on August 19, 2015 as part of the Toho DVD Masterpiece Selection. Also released in 2005 as part of the Bloodthirsty Box with The Vampire Doll and Evil of Dracula.
Arrow Video Blu-ray (2018) [The Bloodthirsty Trilogy]
- Region: A and B
- Discs: 3
- Audio: Japanese (1.0 Mono), English (1.0 Mono)
- Subtitles: English
- Special features: Kim Newman on The Bloodthirsty Trilogy, a new video appraisal by the critic and writer; stills gallery; original trailers; reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin; collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp (first pressing only)
- Notes: Packaged with The Vampire Doll and Evil of Dracula. The English audio tracks for Lake of Dracula and Evil of Dracula are not listed on the packaging or the disc menus.
- Despite its English title being Lake of Dracula, this film does not actually feature the character Dracula. However, the character is alluded to twice. The vampire sends his coffin to Lake Fujimi with the package addressed "from Dracula via Nishihara Transport." Later, when discussing vampire lore with Akiko, Takashi specifically mentions the novel Dracula.
- Stock footage of Hiroshi Takagi's car driving down the highway from The Vampire Doll is employed in this film to show Takashi and Akiko traveling to her hometown.
- While Shin Kishida would go on to play the vampire again in the third entry of the Bloodthirsty Trilogy, Evil of Dracula, it does not share continuity with this film.
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