SCARS OF DRACULA (1970)
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Scars Of Dracula was released a scant six months after Taste The Blood Of Dracula and returns the action to Dracula’s home turf and presents possibly the most vicious incarnation of Lee’s Count under the direction of Roy Ward Baker, who directed quite a few memorable horrors, including the classic Quatermass And The Pit.
The film wastes no time resurrecting Dracula (Christopher Lee) in the very first scene. A vampire bat dribbles blood over his remains from the previous film, which are now laid out in his castle…possibly brought there by the returning Klove (now Patrick Troughton). Dracula too, wastes no time getting down to bloodsucking business and this earns him the wrath of the villagers, who set fire to his castle. Dracula survives and when the villagers return home, find every woman and child left behind in the local church, slaughtered by Dracula’s personal winged air force…a flock of vampire bats. That’ll learn ’em! Soon after, notorious philanderer Paul (Christopher Matthews) makes the mistake of bedding the Burgomaster’s (Bob Todd) daughter, Alice (Delia Lindsay), who denies her part was consensual upon discovery. Paul flees and winds up hiding out in Dracula’s castle, which, if you haven’t guessed, isn’t the best place to hide. After Paul has a dalliance…the boy never learns!… with Dracula’s mistress, Tania (Anouska Hempel)…his attempt at escape finds him trapped in Dracula’s crypt and…well, you can guess what happens next. Suffice to say Paul’s brother Simon (Dennis Waterman) and his beautiful fiancee, Sarah (Jenny Hanley) come searching for him and a showdown in Dracula’s castle is eminent…though when Klove falls for Sarah, Dracula may have an insurrection to deal with, as well as, the vengeful Simon!
Anthony Hinds writes again for new director Baker and the film is effective and fun and really ups the violence quota, which earned this series it’s first R rating in the U.S. It also shows Hinds running out of ideas as there is no explanation as to Klove’s return after being shot, assumedly to death, in Dracula: Price Of Darkness and no explanation to Dracula’s odd resurrection, other than possible loyalty from his winged comrades. It does give Lee a lot to do and gives the usually dignified Dracula a very nasty mean streak. After taking the action abroad in previous films, we are returned to Dracula’s home and that’s where a good portion of the action takes place. It does limit the scope a bit but, gives Dracula a large amount of screen time and who can argue with that? Baker directs with a more moderate pace and with the action restricted to the halls of Castle Dracula, it is on a smaller and less impressive scale. To balance things out, though, Baker does give the film some nice atmosphere, the sets are as vampire chic as always and the new level of violence adds a little shock element to the proceedings. New cinematographer Moray Grant gives the film a bit of a different look but, true to the gothic tone and James Bernard once again scores atmospherically. There is a little humor spliced here and there, too, which is a first in this series but, Baker contrasts it with some of the most violent scenes in a Hammer Dracula flick, up to this time. Film also has some nice charm and the Hammer ladies have their charms as well.
To say Lee is in top form, despite not wanting to play Dracula anymore, is an understatement. His Count is intimidating, downright nasty at times and still has a little sex appeal left for the ladies. It was cool to see Dracula commanding his legion of bats and climbing castle walls straight out of Stoker’s book…elements this series hadn’t tapped into much, previously. The rest of the cast are all solid in their roles including Troughton taking over the part of Klove, Waterman as our valiant hero, with Hanley, Hempel, Lindsay and Wendy Hamilton as beer wench Julie, all filling their parts and corsets quite effectively.
Another fun entry in a series that, up to this point, has kept a standard of quality even with the formula wearing a bit thin by now and it’s star not being completely committed to the role. It’s one of the nastier entries, though, also the first to have some outright humor in the proceedings. Roy Ward Baker does a solid job directing and creates a moody and sometimes very violent horror and gave us one more quality chapter before the series started to really show signs of running out of gas.