In contemporary Boston, Dracula gatecrashes a Satanic ritual and makes off with the intended sacrifice, Delores. Overcome with love for her, he's unable to drink her blood and instead settles down with her and fathers a child, Janus. But Dracula's enemies are massing against him—a team of vampire hunters, including the wheelchair-bound Hans Harker, crossbow wielding and new recruit Frank Drake, a descendant of Dracula, are closing in. And Dracula has been stripped of his vampire powers by Satan and he desperately needs another vampire to restore his powers so that he can both see off his pursuers and avenge the death of Janus at the hands of vengeful Satanists.
A classic of bad anime panels at various conventions, Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned as it was titled for it's US release in the 80s by Harmony Gold is an example of how not to adapt an American comic book into film, especially a low budget anime one.
For one thing, this movie mostly takes place in Boston, and it's quite obvious that the creators have not only never been to Boston but didn't even research the city at all, which is why modern day (circa the 80s) Boston looks like an old European city with O'Hare International titled 'Boston Airport'. Even worse is
New York City, which not only looks like Columbus, Oh instead of the Big Apple but also has gas street lamps and empty streets everywhere.
The story itself isn't too grand either, Dracula steals away a girl being sacrificed as Satan's Bride for his own greed but instead falls in love with her, has a kid, gets screwed over by Satan and God both and then has to deal with a group of idiotic vampire hunters going after him.
The dub is another mediocre bumble from Harmony Gold featuring a plodding narration throughout, flat performances, and goofy and awkward dialog like most
of their works.
If you're in need of something to torture your friends or anime club with or like to do homebrew MSTing of bad movies, this title is choice for that, as the horribleness of the movie makes it a fun watch. Highlights include the antics of the crazy old professor trying to kill Dracula and Dracula mugging a guy to get money to buy a hamburger, truly the greatest scene ever in a vampire anime!
There's something unsettling—and hilariously incongruous—about the way Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned tries to replicate the classic Hammer Horror aesthetic with some of the cheapest, clunkiest, flattest-looking herky-jerky animation this side of Hanna-Barbera.
I mean, seriously?
Call me crazy, but I'm not sure if the likes of Jabberjaw and Jonny Quest should occupy the same universe as vampires, devil worshippers, child-murdering priests, zombies, karate-kicking demon slayers, wheelchair ninjas, hyperintelligent dobermans, disco studs, reincarnated babies with Jesus powers, and—in a cameo appearance—a surprisingly pointy-eared Satan (or "Lucifer Satan, as he calls himself).
Uh, scratch that. On second thought, all of that actually sounds kinda awesome. And hell,
let's be honest. It's not like a surprise supporting turn from Scrappy-Doo or The Funky Phantom would make this shit any less ridiculous.
Dracula: Sovereign of the Dracula appears to be an attempt at compressing the events of its source material into a 90-minute film, resulting in really sloppy storytelling and rushed pacing of its events.
The major element of the film that was rather confusing was how the title attempted to depict Dracula. Sovereign of the Damned tries making efforts at depicting him as a tragic figure who wanted to live happily with his family, wanted to be left alone and experience life as a mortal man. Yet at the same time, he had no qualms with sucking on the blood of humans or killing others who threaten
him and he tries regaining his immortality later in the film when he loses his vampire power.
Other sloppy elements to the film have to do with the implementation of its storytelling. The title's logic with elements to its world get messy, deus ex machina is employed quite often, questionable plot directions take place, certain characters who seem relevant in the film are actually mostly worthless, plot twists occur without any prior foreshadowing and an anti-climactic ending takes place with Dracula's fate. Adding more to this fun mess is that Toei attempts rendering a Western animation style with its character designs, yet this makes them appear more stiff and lifeless in appearance compared to conventional anime designs of the time period.
The English dub for Sovereign of the Damned is also a nice example of the rather low standards of anime voice acting in many 1980s dubs with two different types of acting from the voice cast: either bored and flat acting or over-the-top in an attempt at being dramatic, such as the case with Dracula's dub actor in many of the film's moments. Scenes in the film are also usually accompanied by a narrator who acts just as over-the-top as Dracula in attempting to give Sovereign of the Damned's events any sort of meaning or emotion.
Overall, Sovereign of the Damned is mostly worth a look just to see how laughably bad it is. Otherwise, don't waste your time seeing it if you are expecting any kind of decent quality to it.
Hoo-boy, was this a train wreck, from beginning to end! A ridiculous, incongruous, silly, improbably train wreck for the ages! Worth watching just because of how bad it really is -- and how it seems to take itself seriously but comes across as so over the top bonkers you cannot look away!
The Scooby-Doo analogy is unfortunately apt -- the style and quality of artwork and low-end animation are comparable. And you do have a mismatched rag-tag team (complete with dog!) hunting down the vampire. And the
vampire (and the vampire's enemy, too) are so over the top they would fit right in to any Hanna Barbera episode.
The plot is beyond insane. Don't try to make sense of it, because you can't. Some of the twists and turns will literally make your IQ drop just by watching. Like I said, Scooby-Doo.