After Taste the Blood of Dracula, the films in this Hammer series took a wrong turn and left them in a really weird place. From this point on, all of the movies had easy to follow continuity and I never felt confused about where the story was going. Let’s be honest, these movies aren’t very difficult. Then Scars of Dracula was released in 1970 with the intention of being a reboot, but at the same time it wasn’t a reboot. This causes a great deal of confusion and sort of sours the movie experience.
After being reanimated by blood dripping from the fangs of a bat, Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) is back to his bloody business with the help of the bat and his servant Klove (Patrick Troughton). Soon Dracula preys on a passerby, Paul (Christopher Matthews), leaving his more responsible brother Simon (Dennis Waterman) to go to Castle Dracula himself and have his revenge on the undead Count.
If you’re looking for gore in this franchise, then this is the film to look at. It’s pretty over the top for the time period and the beginning is especially shocking. Christopher Lee also has a lot of great dialogue and delivers his lines in such a way that I thought I would overdose on the menace. Those are really the only two redeeming qualities of this movie leaving the bad outweighing the good.
Scars of Dracula is such a disjointed mess. The beginning scene with the vampire bat was tacked on at the last minute so I can’t really tell for sure if this is a reboot or a sequel. Klove is in it, but wait… didn’t Klove die in Prince of Darkness? But wait, according to the prologue, this is a sequel and not a reboot. What is this movie supposed to be? The characters are so uninteresting that anytime Dracula wasn’t onscreen, my interest flew right out the window. I don’t even want to get started on the ending. It’s preposterous. Watch this movie only for some awesome Dracula scenes and gore, but prepared to be confused and bored for a good portion of the film.
In 1972 the series really went off the rails with the release of Dracula A.D. 1972.
After a fatal duel between Lawrence Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) in 1872, Dracula’s ashes are buried by one of his servants by the church where Van Helsing was buried. Cut to 100 years later where a group of bored partiers led by Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame) conduct a black mass at the very same church where Dracula’s ashes are buried in order to resurrect him. Soon the group is started to be hunted by Dracula with only the descendent of Van Helsing (also Cushing) to stop him and save his grand daughter.
Well, what do I have to say about this? The major plus is the retro vibe that radiates from the screen. What’s not to love about watching Dracula chase Van Helsing through an old gothic church to funk music? It’s also great to see Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee together and at each other’s throats once again. Saying that this is a quality movie on the other hand would be a flat out lie.
A lot of stuff happens really quickly in the middle without a lot of Dracula screen time, which is a little disappointing after the massive amount of time he had in Scars of Dracula. There are also a few characters in the young group of friends that just disappear without any explanation, which is a little weird considering they’re main characters. Why even have them in the story at all? There’s not a lot of specific things I can call out to critique. The movie is just not solid whatsoever, and the retro vibe almost turns it into an unintentional comedy. I would classify this in the category of so bad it’s good. For the Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee finale and the silliness in between, it may be worth a watch.
1973 brought a whole new layer of awful, however, with what I and most people consider the last of the Dracula series, The Satanic Rites of Dracula.
When a British secret service agent discovers a group of societal elites engaging in black mass rituals, the police once again bring in Lorrimer Van Helsing to help with the investigation. He ultimately discovers that these rituals were performed for Count Dracula, who is back and planning to release a new strand of the bubonic plague with the goal of painfully wiping out the human race.
Yes, really. Dracula can now be compared to a Bond villain. I have no idea what Hammer Studios were thinking when they passed this movie to be shot and released. I almost don’t even consider it a Dracula movie since he’s only in it for like 7 minutes, and the rest of the time is spent talking about espionage and science. I was shocked when I saw this out of the sheer audacity of it all. You think Dracula A.D. 1972 was strange? Well believe it or not, there were times during this movie that I wished I was watching Dracula A.D. 1972.
The only time this ever felt like a Dracula movie was at the end when Van Helsing and Dracula have their show down. Thank goodness Peter Cushing is in most of the scenes, and Dracula’s monologue at the end is great, but the rest of the movie is absolutely terrible. It’s not scary, unintentionally funny, or even that rewarding. It is, without a doubt, the worst entry in this series, and quite possibly one of the worst Hammer films.
Well that’s Hammer’s Dracula series. All in all, it’s a mostly positive series with an excellent beginning, shaky middle, and an unfortunate tragedy of a movie as its finale. For any horror fans, this is a great series to watch for Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and also the emphasis on blood and gore that was never really in any Dracula fins up until then. If you haven’t seen any of these films, give them a watchband enjoy the gothic horror that is Dracula.