Friday, May 7, 2010
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) review
TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA 1970
Christopher Lee (Dracula), Geoffrey Keen (William Hargood), Linda Hayden (Alice Hargood), Peter Sallis (Samuel Paxton), Anthony Corlan (Paul Paxton), John Carson (Jonathan Secker), Ralph Bates (Lord Courtley)
Directed by Peter Sasdy
Three men of some reputation lead alternate lives as seedy playboys seeking carnal thrills. Wishing to partake in something new and exciting, the three gentlemen meet up with the mysterious Lord Courtley. Promising them sights unseen if only they participate in a devilish ceremony, the three men eventually realize what Courtley offers isn't what expected. Leaving the Devil's disciple for dead, the three men make a pact to never repeat what they've done. However, Dracula is resurrected and seeks revenge for the murder of his apostate by using the three men's children as instruments of his vengeance.
Chris Lee returns in a direct sequel to the previous RISEN FROM THE GRAVE picture much to his dismay. What's funny about this one is that the script originally wasn't written as a Dracula movie, but to have revolved around his disciple played by Ralph Bates. As Lee was continuously asking for more money to appear as Dracula, the Hammer execs felt it would be too costly. Apparently, Warner Brothers was not keen on this idea and insisted that Lee be a part of the movie anyways and paid him enough extra for his liking. So the character of Dracula was worked in "as an afterthought", as Lee liked to put it in regards to the sequels he participated in. Lee has the least amount of screen time here than in all of the others.
He literally does next to nothing but stand around and look menacing. He puts the bite on one of the girls and that's about it. He commands the young adults to carry out the revenge which is a characteristically brutal touch just the same. But as has been stated time and time again, Dracula is reduced to a background character in his own movie.
Ralph Bates was chosen for his performance in a series entitled THE CAESARS which had Bates playing Caligula. It's a shame Bates didn't get to headline this Dracula production. Instead, he got to take the lead in the dismal and only occasionally humorous HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN that same year. His big break to show off his acting chops came with DR. JEKYLL & SISTER HYDE (1971).
The films location was also changed from Transylvania to Victorian London. The change in locale adds a fresh approach to the production in addition to a contrasting set design. This was also a slightly sexier Hammer horror as there was nudity and added bloody violence with much of it being cut for the American release. The cuts made in the US version are quite jarring even disrupting the pounding soundtrack from James Bernard. Thankfully, the recent Warner DVD is the complete version. In the original script, the film was to have been even more violent as Courtley was to have been stabbed multiple times during his death scene.
For whatever reason, the accent on characterization is given a lot of attention this time out compared with the problems Freddie Francis had in the previous film. Little is done with Dracula, though. Chris Lee seemingly refused some of the dialog inherent in the original script from Anthony Hinds resulting in it either being altered or removed entirely. Hungarian director, Sasdy also directed the very good later Hammer horror, HANDS OF THE RIPPER (1971). He was also responsible for the mostly drab COUNTESS DRACULA (1971).
The ending is the most unusual and creative of the entire Dracula series. Since setting up camp within the defiled church, the couple are cornered there by Dracula who attempt to fend him off with a large cross. Now on an upper level of the church, Dracula smashes a stained glass window and suddenly you hear a prayer being echoed in the background. The church has suddenly been transformed into a house of holiness and Dracula is destroyed by God himself.
Containing great performances, an imposing musical score and a good script accompanied by added violence, TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970) is easily one of the best entries in the series despite the amount of screen time afforded the King of the Undead.
This review is representative of the Warner DVD