“Scars Of Dracula (1970)”
The fifth but far from final excursion into Dracula’s world by Hammer- “Scars of Dracula” is the type of film which really tests a Dracula fan’s loyalty- will you go along with it, or will you despise it with every fibre of your being due to it’s outlandish take on the character. To my begrudging amazement, personally, I thought it was fine… for what it was.
I’m not gonna bother going over the story’s finer details other than the tried and true “Dracula returns to life (this time thanks to a very fake rubber bat drooling blood onto his ashes) silly schmuck finds his way into Dracula’s lair, gets into trouble and his friends come to find him only to get into trouble themselves” schtick, however, I must confess that this film works more as a slasher than a Dracula movie- you see, Dracula doesn’t so much rely upon his supernatural abilities to cause havoc- he uses sharp implements. Yep, Dracula has become a SLASHER, a very well dressed one. With his blazing red eyes and the baring of his incisors, there is nothing sane about this guy. In a very left of center sequence, Dracula repeatedly stabs one of his wives to death with a nasty-looking dagger as her lover/victim watches in horror and then subsequently drinks blood from her dead body like a rabid wolf. What the Hell?! In another scene, Dracula’s vicious nature takes a decidedly perverted turn- he punishes his man servant, Klove (the selfsame character from DPOD), an activity that he thoroughly enjoys, but here’s the kicker- Klove seems to be enjoying this treatment and Dracula is only too happy to oblige. The widely-used term ‘torture porn’ can be truthfully applied here.
Many of his sequences involve the merciless torture of his victims, all of them in cruel and vindictive ways. But, in a way, this new side to Dracula to an extent- DOES work. Director Ray Ward Baker must be given credit for trying to take Dracula and his shenanigans in another direction- there is a distinct scent of mouldy Gothic cheese coating every sequence (though Lee himself remains cheese-proof), yet you can still appreciate the fact that Baker IS trying and not all of his efforts are wasted. Some of the more inspiring sequences include direct references to the Bram Stoker novel- for the first time, we see Lee’s Dracula scaling the wall like a lizard, some of his lines (or trash talk to be specific- “You fools! Do you think you could match your wits with mine?“) are lifted right from the pages, and, perhaps the sweetest, a nod to the notion that Dracula was once known as Vlad the Impaler. While this film isn’t an abbitor by today’s desensitised standards, you still get plentiful claret being spilled and bodies being mutilated to keep you satisfied. Despite the ever-increasing contempt Lee had for the character, he still manages to instil his unforgettable savagery into the role that you can’t imagine anybody else doing it. Even when he dies once again due to some retarded means, you know he will come back ready to rock again and that you can count on for a good time.
As long as you’re willing to go with this, this shouldn’t be too bad a ride.
However, if you are a purist Dracula fan, I suggest for your health that you avoid this movie like the Plague- most of this film, and Lee’s portrayal could be construed as an insult- long gone is his articulate nature and regal bearing, replacing it is the form of a man-beast, thirsty and single minded by his thirst. If this wasn’t Dracula, this version of the vampire would have worked wonderfully, but once again- money and public demand usually mean sell out. And here, the character of Dracula, the ESSENCE of him, has been drained completely dry. Were it not for the fact that Lee jumps into the perversity of the role, there really is no apparent reason to sit through this. Not to say the supporting players don’t do fine with the way thinner material they were given (and if you want lovely natural female nudity with your Bloody Mary, it’s right here), but honestly, by this point, the series’ only drawing point was Lee’s presence- without Lee, audiences would have given this one the shaft without even having seen it. Sad, but ultimately true, which just goes to show that selling out a once promising series wasn’t first pioneered with the “Saw’” films isn’t a contemporary practice.
In saying all of that, this isn’t what I consider the weakest link of the series, but when you compare it against the earlier outings… this one is merely serviceable. It has some memorable moments that should be given respect, but since it has actively placed itself in the series’ canon, you can’t get away from the fact this could have been so much better if you actually gave a damn about it, but if it wasn’t made, you really wouldn’t have given a damn.
Review written by Bea Harper