[Bea’s Reviews] Dracula: Prince Of Darkness (1966)

“Dracula: Prince Of Darkness (1966)

Dracula Prince of Darkness 01

Dracula- Prince of Darkness” could have failed miserably. It shouldn’t have had the right to have been made, because at heart, Hammer Horror was more about getting the green than truly entertaining it’s fans. Yet, despite these technicalities, “DPOD” really is a worthy follow-up to the it’s predecessor. While ”Brides of Dracula” was released after ”Horror” it wasn’t a true sequel in the sense of the word, and therefore it doesn’t warrant a write up because not only did it not make any mention of the previous film, it is also because Dracula wasn’t even in it! Plus it was also rather goofy. Just as well Hammer decided to go back a step and push the old coffin in another direction which resulted in a damn good follow up, and thanks to returning director Terence Fisher, we are given another solid addition to the mausoleum of Dracula films.

It’s the same old tale- a bunch of ignorant tourists (four, rich, BRITISH tourists) run afoul Dracula’s castle, stay the night, Dracula is resurrected through blood sacrifice and gets back to his old tricks again, that’s that, pussy cat. But as we all know, while a idea may not be original, how it’s executed is what matters. Obviously, Fisher knew that he would once again need to put all of his skills to the test to make this picture deliver and it was a risk well worth taking.

Hammer once again struck gold when casting the most appropriate actors for the roles- it’s not a massively character-driven movie, but all of the actors are still a pleasure to watch and you actually do care about them. The actors playing the young newly-weds, Francis Matthews and Suzanne Farmer given their roles of Charles and Diana (!!!!) a genial, natural chemistry about them that makes them difficult to dislike even when they make some rather silly moves (such as needlessly returning to Dracula’s castle after he has just chased them out). The same can be said for Australian actor (sorry, couldn’t resist the plug) Charles Tingwell and Barbara Shelly (who looks DAMN foxy as a vampire) as the older married couple, Alan and Helen, while rather formal around each other, they are still convincing. Special mention must be given to the imposing Philip Latham who plays Solomon Grundy’s younger brother Klove, Dracula’s faithful manservant who is willing to bring back his master at any cost. With his slow, deliberate walk, gravelly voice and dead eyes, he looks like he has been awake night and day, waiting for the perfect sacrifice to come. There is a particularly memorable scene when Klove coolly and efficiently slits a character’s throat while the body is hanging upside down and he doesn’t even blink.

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Huzzah, Barbara!

Speaking of which, ”DPOD” is actually a lot braver in the blood-letting department, thanks to the positive reception ”Horror” was given upon release. While it’s obviously not a gore-feast by any means, blood runs thicker and freer than before, such as in said sacrifice scene. I was actually a little taken aback when I saw it happen, so make of that what you will. And it’s not just the blood that has become richer, the visual effects by that point had progressed to a bigger level. For example, Dracula’s grand resurgence consisted of a number of cleverly cut overlapping dissolves are utilised alongside the use of gradual ‘stages’ make up, so we literally see Dracula regenerate before our eyes. If such a sequence had been made today, it would have probably been done with CGI, but here, we’re treated to some old-school finery. It’s simple yet at the same time so technical and wonderfully effective. As expected of course, we still get some mighty nice stakings- who doesn’t love those?

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Hold still!

Going back to the actors, I would hate myself for not bringing Andrew Keir as the brash hardass vampire hunter extraordinaire Father Sandor. While he is not Peter Cushing, Keir delivers a praise worthy performance that makes you almost wish would have taken the place of Van Helsing in the later sequels. While hard-nosed, abrupt and unable to tolerate stupidity, Sandor is the sort of guy who can take charge at the flip of a coin and nobody would argue because they know he knows what he is talking about. It makes me wish that Hammer had put Keir and Cushing in the same movie together as Sandor and Van Helsing to team up against Dracula- THAT would have been hardcore!

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BAD. ASS.

Christopher Lee? He has absolutely no dialogue (unless you count the beastial sounds he makes when he’s pissed off), this time, he is a total animal wearing a noble’s clothing. Athletic, tall and lean, he tends to remind one more of a rabid panther the way he stalks around like it’s nobody’s business. It’s a purely physical performance and Lee excels in selling it to the max. He is a lot more sexual this time around because as Sandor himself explains with regards to Diana “He has seen her, and touched her. He considers that she belongs to him already. He’ll want her badly.” He’s as hungry for a woman as he is hungry for blood. In a sequence that clearly pays reference to the novel, Dracula attempts to claim Diana by making her drink blood from his chest while she is under his thrall. He has that distinct look in his eyes that makes you believe that when Dracula wants pussy, he GETS pussy.

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This look.

So are there any real negatives about this film? I wouldn’t say so exactly. Yes, it is a sequel and predictably, Dracula’s destruction is rather absurd when you remember that he just keeps on coming back, but as a sequel, it is solid and as a standalone, it’s stronger than you’d think. The character of Ludwig (Thorley Walters) who is obviously a reference to Renfield in the book feels more of a simple case of plot logistics than a formally introduced character that may jar the viewer when he appears. Indeed, the characters are in some cases very naive, but it merely serves as a plot device rather than an intentional means to piss you off. Without thoughtless people, Dracula wouldn’t have come back, and we wouldn’t have had one of Hammer’s stronger entries to a franchise that would soon be in it’s coffin.

Review written by Bea Harper

Rating:
StarRating-04
Four blood-soaked stars

One thought on “[Bea’s Reviews] Dracula: Prince Of Darkness (1966)

  1. Pingback: The House Of Hammer Vol 1 #1, Oct/1976 | Vintage (and not so vintage) Paperbacks

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