Let me just start by getting the dodgy stuff out of the way.
The model shot of Dracula’s castle which opens the film is so unconvincing a viewer could believe its panto season., It has the least convincing vampire bats this side of an Ed Wood film. Dennis Waterman is badly miscast, and as much as I adored Patrick Troughton in this, I wasn’t quite convinced by his character’s motivations. (Are you on Dracula’s side or not? Make up your mind, Klove!) While the ultimate demise of The Count lacks a certain dramatic irony
All that being said, THE SCARS OF DRACULA is bloody fantastic!
My word, it’s refreshing to see a Hammer Dracula film where he isn’t just a figure skirting around at the periphery, freshly revived and having to make do with whatever is in front of him. No, this is a Dracula with an infrastructure, with servants, with creatures of the night who obey his will. This is a Dracula with power and he isn’t afraid to use it. The massacre in the church for example – even we only see the aftermath – is one of the finest set-pieces Hammer ever produced.
Frankly, it’s great to have a Dracula film where Christopher Lee is given something to do.
The plot concerns various people becoming trapped in Dracula’s castle, which thanks to the frightened acquiescence of the locals, he is allowed to run unimpeded. But the plot isn’t important, what’s important is the terror Dracula can inflict when given free reign.
Most of these films I saw when I was very young, so it’s been hard for me to keep track with what I have and haven’t seen. This one I know I’ve never seen before. Absolutely, as a DOCTOR WHO fan and a HAMMER fan, I’d have remembered the Dracula movie with The Second Doctor in it. I mean, look at the eyebrows, who could forget those?
When this was made we were only a couple of years away from THE TEAXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and THE EXORCIST. A point when this whole film – this whole style of films – would suddenly be made to look incredibly dated. But even though it’s starchy costume period Hammer, even though the next decade would change horror completely, this remains an incredibly entertaining treat.
This is almost certainly the last Hammer Dracula I get to see afresh, and I think I might have saved the best to last.
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free. A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!