Tag Archive for Michael Pataki

A Dozen Diabolical Dogs – #2: Zoltan

"Zoltan, Hound of Dracula" (1978)

They say “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.” Well, what if Dracula bites dog bites man? I’d say that’s pretty damn newsworthy. Strangely enough, that’s also the plot synopsis for this little bit of fluff from 1978.

Summoned by the living dead, they come in the night, thirsting for human blood, led by the most terrifying creature that ever walked the earth… Zoltan, Hound of Dracula.

Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (also known as Dracula’s Dog) is the brainchild of Frank Ray Perilli, the genius behind another canine classic, The Doberman Gang (1972) as well as the cult films Little Cigars (1973) and Laserblast (1978).

After directing the surprisingly watchable thriller I Bury the Living (1958), Albert Band helmed a few forgettable films, including a couple of Gordon Scott actioners before taking the reins on Zoltan. Albert and his son Charles are more well-known as producers, going on to create genre stalwarts Empire Pictures and Full Moon Productions.

In this shaggy dog story, Michael Pataki stars as psychiatrist Michael Drake. Michael has an idyllic suburban life; a wife, two kids, a Winnebago. It couldn’t be more normal.

All of that changes once his own personal Van Helsing shows up to tell him that he’s the last living descendant of the old Transylvanian bloodline. Michael Drake, it seems, is more properly Michael Dracula. The role of resident Van Helsing, Inspector Branco, is phoned in by a very bored José Ferrer. He’s even brought a photograph of Count Drac from the old country to make the familial resemblance patently obvious, especially since it’s Pataki himself in the photo as Dracula. No idea when, where, or how someone took a Polaroid of the Lord of Vampires, but that won’t be the toughest bit to swallow in this plot.

Thai movie poster for "Zoltan, Hound of Dracula"

Thai movie poster for
Zoltan, Hound of Dracula

Besides the photograph, another supposed flaw in the plot concerns how Michael could be the last living descendant of Dracula when he has two children himself. Well, perhaps that’s not an oversight, but a clue. While Michael was busy attending to the emotional needs of his patients on his psychiatrist’s couch, he was ignoring the needs of his wife, Marla (Jan Shutan). She was busy getting impregnated on the couch at home by the mailman or the like. Such a randy twist seems at home in a script by Perilli, the writer of an erotic take on Cinderella (1977) just a year before that was directed by Pataki, but it remains completely undeveloped in Zoltan. A missed opportunity, really.

As Branco warns, Michael is now being pursued by vampire’s best friend, the faithful family dog named Zoltan. Zoltan has his own dutiful servant, his former master in life, Veidt Smith. Not enough is made of this bit of role-reversal, but Reggie Nalder (Mark of the Devil) and his creepy facial scars bring their best.

What follows is an extended siege against Zoltan, Veidt, and a pack of vampiric hounds that does not exactly threaten the reputations of either Night of the Living Dead or Assault on Precinct 13. The “twist” ending manages to be anticlimactic, absurd, and downright adorable. It is all things to all people and deserves to be seen.

Pataki himself is fondly remembered (by me, at least) as one half of the Mallachi Brothers (innovators of “The Mallachi Crunch”) on the television series Happy Days. Just before appearing in Zoltan, he had a recurring role as Captain Barbera in the live-not-so-much-action series The Amazing Spider-Man. His career credits include far too many exploitation and cult films to name, making it highly unlikely that this is the last we’ll see of him here on WeirdFlix.

“Now, there’s a nice doggy, but before you pet it, take a good look…
It might be a friend of Zoltan, Hound of Dracula…”

We may no longer be in the literal “Dog Days of Summer”, but we’re still going to “let the dogs out” one last time as we finish counting down “A Dozen Diabolical Dogs”.
I hope you’ll join us.