Pity poor Dracula (Christopher Lee)! Last time we saw the contentious Count, he’d been impaled on a golden crucifix but as if that wasn’t indignity enough, it turns out his demise – into a pile of rust-coloured dust – was witnessed by Weller (Roy Kinnear), a travelling salesman who was hurled from his coach by his fellow passengers after refusing to sell them a snow globe.

Years later, Hargood (Geoffrey Keen), Baxter (Peter Sallis) and Secker (John Carson) a trio of English gentlemen who meet on the last Sunday of each month use the pretence of charity work in the East End of London as a cover for an evening of hedonism and debauchery at a private brothel run by the flamboyant Felix (Russell Hunter). But even the exotic delights of their private chambers are starting to wane in their appeal. Enter disgraced and disinherited Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates) who promises them something truly diverting. Tantalised by the idea of forbidden pleasures, they agree only to find themselves involved in a black mass which inadvertently resurrects a certain vampire and man, is Dracula pissed.

No doubt tiring of being resurrected and immediately killed off like some kind of ironic metaphor for Universal’s Dark Universe, Dracula’s return this time instantly claims the life of Lord Courtley but Drac sets his sights on revenge against all three members of the league of extraordinarily depraved gentlemen.

Geoffrey Keen – familiar to Bond fans as Frederick Gray, Minister of Defence from “The Spy Who Loved Me” to “The Living Daylights” – plays against type as the ringleader and most depraved and jaded of the trio of sleazy gentlemen, almost Trumpian in his moral hypocrisy and tendency to describe his only daughter Alice (Linda Hayden) in terms of her sexual maturity. Likewise, Peter Sallis, that gentle-souled voice of Wallis, is way outside his usual comfort zone as another of the louche lords but its Dracula’s quest for vengeance against them that makes this film so much fun. Dracula really switches things up in this one, using hypnosis to act by proxy and killing his enemies not only with fang but with a well-timed shovel to the head too.

A bawdy gleefully grisly entry in the Hammer oeuvre, “Taste The Blood Of Dracula” delivers everything you could want from a Hammer Horror with the added bonus of getting to see a bunch of august English thesps earning their crust in a schlocky horror picture show. Of course, once more Dracula is undone by the boyfriend of one of his would-be conquests and dusted for a second time, bringing to an end the uninterrupted continuity of the Hammer Dracula films as the next one would offer no explanation for how a Dyson’s worth of Dracula made it from this recently reconsecrated London church all the way back to his castle in Transylvania…

7/10 

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