Previously on Dracula

Having thoroughly bested the Count in his own library, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) takes his leave of Castle Dracula and ten years go past (because we’re ignoring the Dracula-less “Brides Of Dracula”. The locals still cling to their fear of vampires and Father Sandor (the excellent Andrew Keir) prevents them from disposing of a woman’s corpse as if it were a vampire. Chastising the presiding priest for perpetuating the Dracula legend, Sandor nevertheless cautions four English tourists not to visit Karlsbad, the site of the Count’s castle. Of course, being tourists – and English – they ignore the warnings and proceed towards the area despite darkness approaching. When their superstitious coachman abandons them within sight of the castle, they decide they may as well head up there for the night and are surprised to be given a warm welcome by Klove (Philip Latham), the servant and housekeeper. They bed down for the night but soon discover that Klove’s hospitality was merely a ruse to resurrect his lord and master: Dracula.

This being a Hammer production, there’s bags of atmosphere and period detail to savour and enjoy – and it’s a good thing too, as Dracula only makes his first physical appearance (a finger!) at around the forty-five minute mark. And don’t expect Dracula to make up for lost time in terms of dialogue – Lee’s still menacing Dracula remains impassively silent throughout the film (by design, according to the writer Jimmy Sangster; by protest according to Lee himself) yet manages to infuse the film with dread and terror. There’s certainly no shortage of the lurid scarlet paint that Hammer use for blood and it flows with gay abandon as the voiceless vampire cuts a bloody swathe through the rest of the cast.

Once again, all our count wants to do is swipe right on the right lily-white skinned maiden and settle down to reign in terror but, as usual, he’s undone by a holy alliance between his would-be intended’s husband and the local clergy. This time, Dracula finds himself caught on thin ice and a few choice rifle shots from Father Sandor sends Dracula into the murky depths to a death by freezing/ drowning.

This is probably the most archetypal Hammer Horror Dracula movie of them all, and likely to be the one that people are thinking about when they discuss generic Hammer horror vampire movies. Although the blood, by modern standards, is deeply unrealistic this remains quite a gory movie and must have astonished the audiences of the 60s with its technicolour carnage. Lee’s performance once again elevates the movie above mere costumed campery and even without a word, he commands every scene he’s in.

6/10 

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