Pretty certain Zoltan, Hound Of Dracula was the first vampire film I ever saw as a kid, as it was a running joke in our cat-centric house when I was growing up that all "vicious" dogs were called "Zoltan, Hound Of Dracula".
A cheesy B-movie, with a novel central concept, a modicum of gore, and almost zero scares, no one will ever mistake Zoltan, Hound Of Dracula (aka Dracula's Dog) for high art, as ultimately the "idea" is better than the execution.
A unit of Cold War era Soviet soldiers unearth a "Dracula tomb" in Romania, accidentally releasing Zoltan, The Hound Of Dracula, and his handler, Veidt Smit (Reggie Nalder).
Police inspector - and vampire expert - Inspector Branco (José Ferrer) correctly deduces that Smit is heading to America to pledge his allegiance to Dracula's last living relative, psychiatrist Michael Drake (Michael Pataki).
Smit (or 'Smith') and Zoltan arrive in California ahead of Branco, but Drake, his family, and their dogs (two full-grown German Shepherds and three puppies) have already left for a two-week camping vacation at Clear (not Crystal!) Lake.
To be honest, I was horrified that this family took their new-born puppies on a wilderness camping trip. Horror compounded by the fact that one gets lost almost immediately, and eventually falls prey to Zoltan's fangs.
The Hound Of Dracula, and his handler, have followed the Drake family to the wilderness, and begin a campaign of harassment, with the eventual idea (I think) of letting Zoltan bite Michael and turn him into a vampire.
It's all a bit vague really, and I don't truly understand why they don't just storm in there on the first night and turn Michael lickety-split.
By drawing things out, they only allow time for Branco to roll up, from "The Old Country", fill Michael in on what's going on and formulate a defence strategy.
Drake is clearly au fait with his historical heritage as he takes everything that Branco tells him at face value and has no problems accepting the existence of vampires.
Of course, if everyone had listened to Drake's young daughter, Linda (Libby Chase), earlier - after she bumped into Smit and his rather on-the-nose hearse - matters might have been resolved quicker and more easily.
I did like the fact that neither Michael nor Branco actually actually knew about Zoltan until the climax of the final act.
Conversely, I didn't quite grasp Smit's obsession with Michael as the last blood relative of Dracula, when Drake had two kids: Linda and Steve (John Levin). Surely, THEY were Dracula's last descendants? And probably better targets for vampiric transformation?
There's an exciting siege in a wooden hut, when Michael and Branco are attacked by Zoltan and a couple of dogs he's converted to his cause, but otherwise this movie pretty much fails to live up to its potential.
Although everyone gets bloodied and bruised in the final fight, ultimately the good guys win way too easily.
However, the denouement is worthy of a wry chuckle.
Inescapable comparisons with Cujo exist, as this is another "people attacked by blood-hungry canines" yarns, but Zoltan - unsurprisingly - pales in comparison.
An ill thought-out story, riddled with plot holes, pretty much sinks Zoltan, Hound Of Dracula, leaving us, simply, with the brilliant idea of the immortal count's pet having a cinematic un-life of its own.
All vampire lords worth their salt have, among their coterie of followers, an undead vampiric hound known as a Zoltan.
Although dogs, their howl resembles a terrifying blend of the roar of a bear and a wolf.
The Zoltan will be the responsibility of one of the vampire lord's half-vampire thralls, a Renfield or "fractional lamia", (a servile creature that is only part vampire, able to function in the daytime and having no need to drink blood), who can command the undead dog telepathically (with a range of up to half a mile).
This symbiotic relationship allows the dog's handler to see through the Zoltan's eyes.
While its intelligence isn't on th same level as a human, a Zoltan's cunning and instincts are more highly tuned than a typical dog, making it capable to basic tool manipulation and planning.
AC: 2 
Atk: Bite (1d8+1)
- CANINE HYPNOSIS: If the Zoltan spends an action fixing another dog (or up to four standing next to each other) within 10ft, the target dog(s) must make a saving throw (at -2) or stand perfectly still, hypnotised. This will allow the Zoltan to bite them in the neck, and convert them to minor vampire hounds (a single bite drains a normal dog's life force).
- VAMPIRE CONVERSION: Against non-canines, a Zoltan's bite - even with its large fangs - will only cause damage. It can only convert other dogs into vampires
- REGENERATION: While out of direct sunlight, a Zoltan takes half damage from all attacks and can heal three points of damage per round. A stake through the heart will stop this regeneration, but ultimately, the only way to dispatch a Zoltan is to burn its body. Only fire and magic does full damage to one.
- IMMUNITIES: As a member of the undead, a Zoltan is immune to mental magic such as sleep, charm, control etc (except that of its master)
- VAMPIRIC WEAKNESS: Must sleep during daylight hours, out of direct sunshine. It doesn't suffer damage in sunlight, but will be flee from it and find shelter to rest in. It also shies away from holy symbols and can be repelled/halted like any other undead with the correct incantations and willpower.
- PACK: A Zoltan can control a pack of minor vampire hounds with a total number of hit dice equal to his own (ie six). Dogs turned by a Zoltan will rise the next day with a gaunt appearance, their fur having taken on a darker, grey-black, hue and having grown a pair of viscous fangs. They gain one extra HD, get a +2 bonus to AC, do +1 damage with their bite, and gain the Zoltan's regenerative ability and damage resistance.
Not everyone a vampire turns becomes another vampire, some powerful lords are capable of creating Fractional Lamias, half-human/half-vampire undead servants.
After prolonged service, the creature will lose its human ability to speak, but it will be able to communicate telepathically with both its master and its charge, which will usually be its master's Zoltan.
The range of this ability is about half-a-mile. And, remember, when bonded with a Zoltan, the Fractional Lamia is able to look through its eyes should it so desire.
Able to move in daylight, the Fractional Lamia is stronger than a typical human and has some of a vampire's resistance to damage as well as its regenerative abilities.
While it retains the intelligence and skills it had in life, the creature's sole purpose now is to do its master's bidding.
Should its master be killed, the Fractional Lamia's goal will then be to find a worthy successor (usually a blood relative, or descendent, of its old master).
AC: 5 
Atk: Weapon or Fist (1d4+4)
- STRENGTH: This half-human creature has the equivalent of 19 Strength, granting it a bonus of +4 to hit and damage (damage already included in unarmed attack listed above).
- REGENERATION: A Fractional Lamia takes half damage from all attacks and can heal three points of damage per round. A stake through the heart will stop this regeneration, but ultimately, the only way to dispatch a Fractional Lamia is to burn its body. Only fire and magic does full damage to one.
- IMMUNITIES: As a member of the undead, a Fractional Lamia is immune to mental magic such as sleep, charm, control etc (except that of its master)
FILMS WATCHED: 34
NEW TO ME: 25