TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970)

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TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970)

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Dracula returned again, as did Christopher Lee, in his fourth portrayal and while it’s not quite as audacious fun as Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, it is still a bit livelier than Dracula: Prince Of Darkness. This chapter opens with an entrepreneur (Roy Kinnear) being thrown from his coach by some ruffians and finding himself witnessing Dracula’s demise from the last installment. Seeing an opportunity, he gathers Dracula artifacts and a generous amount of his powdered blood. The film then introduces us to three older ‘thrill seekers’ Hargood (Geoffrey Keen), Paxton (Peter Sallis) and Secker (John Carson), village aristocrats who secretly delve into questionable activities at a local brothel. These three are finding little thrills to seek, as of late and turn to younger Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates), a man known to dabble in the black arts. They buy Dracula’s blood and artifacts for a Satanic black mass Courtley plans to hold in his family’s deconsecrated church…a ceremony that involves the drinking of The Count’s blood to ensure their darkest fantasies come true. The three noblemen have second thoughts during the ceremony and after he alone drinks Dracula’s blood, Courtley is slain by the fearful men. As the three men plan alibi’s for their crime, the body of Courtley transforms into Dracula (Christopher Lee) himself . The Count considers the murdered Courtley a servant and thus plans his vengeance on the unsuspecting men…and their innocent offspring.

The film is once again written by Anthony Hinds but, now finds Peter Sasdy in the director’s chair. Sasdy doesn’t quite have Freddie Francis’ flair for the bloody dramatic, pacing, or visual eye, but, he takes the somewhat ludicrous story seriously and still has some fun with it. The film has some actual nudity in it, during the brothel sequence and there is the usual blood spattering. While the three noblemen start out as the main characters, the film switches focus to their adult children once Dracula rises, about halfway through, and begins to stalk them. There is an interesting plot point of Dracula taking a woman, Hargood’s pretty daughter Alice (Linda Hayden), as his servant, to do his bidding and transforming Paxton’s daughter Lucy (Isla Blair) into a vampire. This leaves Paul Paxton (Anthony Corlan), Alice’s boyfriend and Lucy’s brother, to enter the story as our valiant hero and take on the Prince Of Darkness. This also gives us a fun and fairly action-packed last act, after a more moderate beginning and middle, which helps overcome the long wait for Dracula to appear. Bernard once again gives us a fitting score and Arthur Grant returns as cinematographer and gives us the vibrant colors he did in Dracula Has Risen From The Grave. While an entertaining entry, the story does show the idea well is starting to drain a bit in coming up with ways/reasons for Dracula to resurrect.

If these film are consistent about one thing it’s assembling a good cast. Lee is solid, as always, even though it was said, at this point, he was getting tired of the role. Keen, Sallis, and Secker are all good as the village aristocracy who secretly seek the darker pleasures and pay for it dearly. Ralph Bates is over-the-top fun as the disinherited Lord Courtley and it’s actually a shame he didn’t stick around longer. Obviously, they needed the job of Dracula’s servant open for Alice, which as a female familiar was a refreshing twist. The young cast, Hayden, Blair, Corlan and Martin Jarvis as Lucy’s boyfriend Jeremy Secker, all do a perfectly fine job with Hayden making both a pretty heroine and sinister servant and Anthony Corlan a dashing hero. Good casts go a long way in making things work, even if there are creative flaws and this series knows it.

I liked this one, though not as much as Dracula Has Risen From The Grave. It’s not quite as fun but, it still has some blood running in it’s veins and while the story is a bit loopy, there are some nice set pieces…especially the church-set climax…and the film still succeeds in presenting the gothic atmosphere that is a series staple. Sasdy’s direction has a bit more restraint than Freddie Francis but, still far less formal than that of Terrance Fisher. Lee is great and despite a reluctance at this point, would play Dracula for Hammer three more times and would soon reunite with his arch nemesis, Cushing’s Van Helsing.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)

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DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)

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Eight years after Horror of Dracula, Christopher Lee and The Count returned, as did writer Jimmy Sangster, from a story by Anthony Hinds, and director Terence Fisher. Sequel takes place ten years after the previous film’s events with the villages surrounding Dracula’s castle still fearful and superstitious, despite his demise. Two couples are journeying past and are warned not to go to nearby Karlsbad and certainly stay away from the castle. They do not listen and when their driver abandons them on the road, a mysterious carriage picks them up and brings them to the castle. A man named Klove (Philip Latham) claims to be the servant of the long dead Dracula and that his master bid the castle always be prepared to receive guests…I’ll bet! Klove sacrifices one of the guests and pours their blood over Dracula’s ashes and soon The Count (Christopher Lee) rises from the dead and is hungry for the surviving members of the ill-fated party. Will they survive his thirst even with the help of a vampire savvy monk (Andrew Keir)?

Sequel is fun but, is a bit of a letdown when compared to the first film. Fisher does give the film some atmosphere and it can be quite bloody, but, it takes half the running time for Dracula to finally rise and then he doesn’t have all that many scenes. That and he never speaks a world of dialogue, just glares or hisses when angered and robs us of Lee’s intimidating baritone voice and impeccable line delivery. Andrew Keir’s Father Sandor is a fine enough adversary but, he’s no Van Helsing and no Peter Cushing. It’s a mystery why Cushing’s vampire fighter wasn’t brought back till Dracula A.D. 1972. The sets and production design are still a gothic treat and there is some intense action but, it’s too bad the film waits 45 minutes to reintroduce The Count and then never really gives us time to re-establish his threat. The film is technically sound. There is another effective score by the returning James Bernard and Michael Reed matches the muted color scheme of Jack Asher’s cinematography from the first film. A lesser effort but, still has a lot of what we like in these movies.

The cast are all fine. Lee is still intimidating as Dracula despite being given no dialogue and only having maybe ten minutes, or so, of screen time. Andrew Keir is suitable enough as Father Sandor and he is a good character but, Cushing’s Van Helsing is sorely lacking. Renown British actress Barbara Shelley makes for a fine female lead and then vampiress, but, it is Suzan Farmer’s Diane who is the real heroine of the film, though pretty much just a damsel in distress. Francis Matthews is a fine hero as Diane’s husband Charles who confronts Dracula to save his wife. Rounding out, Charles Tingwell is the ill-fated Alan Kent and gives his character some life while he is onscreen and Thorley Walters gives an off-beat performances as the disturbed Ludwig, a Renfield-like character who has encountered Dracula before and may still be in his thrall.

The film may not equal Horror of Dracula but, is still full of charm and fairly entertaining. It does make a bit of a mistake taking so long for Dracula to finally show up and then giving him nothing to say, but, Lee makes him intimidating despite minimal screen time and being reduced to more of a simple monster. It’s not the worst of the series and a lot of these flaws would be fixed in the following entry, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 fangs.

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