Dracula: Hammer Edition 🦇

The Brides of Dracula – 1960, UK, 86m. Director: Terence Fisher. Streaming: Prime

Dracula A.D. 1972 – 1972, UK, 96m. Director: Alan Gibson. Streaming: Max

Dracula: Prince of Darkness1966, UK, 90m. Director: Terence Fisher. Streaming: N/A

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave – 1968, UK, 91m. Director: Freddie Francis. Streaming: Max

Horror of Dracula – 1958, UK, 82m. Director: Terence Fisher. Streaming: Max/Prime, Max/Hulu

The Satanic Rites of Dracula – 1973, UK, 87m. Director: Alan Gibson. Streaming: Shout! TV, Tubi

Scars of Dracula – 1970, UK 95m. Director: Roy Ward Baker. Streaming: N/A

Taste the Blood of Dracula – 1970, UK, 95m. Director: Peter Sasdy. Streaming: N/A

HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) (AKA: Dracula) The first, and best, in the Hammer Dracula series, which, along with The Curse of Frankenstein the year earlier, made international stars out of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. After arriving at Castle Dracula in Romania, Harker (John Van Eyssen), under the guise of a librarian, reveals himself to be a vampire hunter, with a mission to destroy Count Dracula (Lee). Overcome by the Count and his vampire bride (Valerie Gaunt), Harker is ultimately turned into one of the undead and later vanquished by friend and colleague, Dr. Van Helsing (Cushing). Returning to his village, Van Helsing finds himself too late as Dracula has already taken a bite out of Harker’s fiancée, Lucy (Carol Marsh). The first adaptation of Dracula to be shot in color, this lean, robust film is filled with excellent performances, tight direction, and terrific action, including a spectacular demise of the Count in sunlight. Horror of Dracula is simply the best version of the Stoker tale after the 1931 Bela Lugosi classic. A

THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960) A loose sequel to Horror of Dracula that’s a continuation of the Van Helsing character played wonderfully in both films by Peter Cushing. The destruction of Count Dracula in the earlier chapter may have left Transylvania free of the monster but the land still crawls with vampires. While traveling through the decrepit countryside, a French school teacher (Yvonne Monlaur) is welcomed into the home of a kind Baroness (Martita Hunt), unaware her son (David Peel) is a vampire. Monlaur manages to escape and is aided by Prof. Van Helsing (Cushing) to protect a nearby all-girls’ school, which Peel has target to select his new brides from. This lacks the punch of its predecessor but delivers an intriguing story and good, well-written characters. Peel is no Christopher Lee but is charismatic enough to carry most of the film—he’s foiled by the scene-stealing Hunt in a rare role usually occupied by more youthful, bimbo-esque actresses. A colorful Hammer vampire epic with a corker of an ending. B+

DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) It’s been ten years since Dracula was destroyed by Van Helsing at the end of Horror of Dracula. The nearby villagers still live in fear of vampires and stake the recently deceased through the heart as a precaution. This doesn’t stop a group of British travelers from spending the night in Castle Dracula where they’re greeted by Klove (Philip Latham), who claims to serve Count Dracula even after his death. The family are eventually dispatched by the servant, with their blood used to bring Dracula (Christopher Lee) back to life—the scene where one of the party is strung up feet-first, has his throat slit, and bleeds out over Dracula’s ashes is particularly gruesome. The survivors of Dracula’s return find refuge in a monastery, which houses a Van Helsing-like monk (Andrew Keir) whose knowledge of vampires is useful in sending Dracula back to Hell. Lee’s return to the role of Dracula after an eight year absence is both welcoming and underwhelming. That’s not to say Dracula: Prince of Darkness isn’t good, because it is, but to a fault. The plot essentially becomes a repeat of both Horror of Dracula and the Dracula-less (and superior) Brides of Dracula dressed up in more blood and shot in beautiful anamorphic widescreen. The climactic battle on a frozen lake is excellent. B

DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968) A small village trying to put the pieces back together after Dracula’s reign of terror a year earlier is visited by the Monsignor (Rupert Davies), who discovers the place still lives in fear of the Count. The village is now spiritually defenseless after the local priest (Ewan Hooper) has become disillusioned, a matter made worse when Monsignor, in an act of holy authority, ventures to Castle Dracula to exorcise it only to accidentally resurrect Dracula (Christopher Lee). This being a Hammer movie, the Monsignor is supplied with a busty niece (Veronica Carlson), who Dracula sets his blood-shot eyes on, but not if her square-jawed, atheist beau (Barry Andrews) has anything to say about it. There’s a bit more character development in this one, with an interesting subplot dealing with Dracula’s betrayal of a barmaid (Barbara Ewing, who’s excellent) who’s not only thrown under the bus by the Count but by society. Lee gets more screen time here and he’s foiled nicely in Freddie Francis’s slick direction, which is handsomely mixed with vibrant, Mario Bava-esque lighting/coloring. Good stuff. B+

TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970) A traveling salesman (Roy Kinnear), who’s witness to the destruction of Dracula (Christopher Lee) at the end of Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, takes it upon himself to take a vile of the Count’s blood. He later sells Dracula’s blood, along with cloak and ring, to a mysterious Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates) who’s promised three disinterested fat cats excitement in the form of a Black Mass. When offered to drink Dracula’s blood, the trio cower and kill Courtley out of fear, but not before Dracula is resurrected and goes about seeking revenge. Dracula immediately bewitches the beautiful daughter (Linda Hayden) of one of the wealthy gentlemen to kill her father not before she becomes Dracula’s love servant, helping him take a bite out of the local lasses. It’s evident here the Hammer Draculas were starting to show some wear and tear with recycled subplots and characters from previous films in the series. Lee gets less screen time than in the other movies and doesn’t have a whole lot to do—the boring Hayden isn’t much help. In the end, Taste the Blood of Dracula is well-made and entertaining enough, but it never achieves the heights of its predecessors. Peter Cushing is sorely missed. C+

SCARS OF DRACULA (1970) A drop of blood from a bat brings Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) back from the dust, so to speak. A mob torches Dracula’s castle after the discovery of a village girl with bite marks on her neck, only little do they know Drac has escaped and wiped out an entire congregation in gory fashion—one poor barmaid has her eye gouged out, which dangles from the socket in gruesome detail. On the run from an angry aristocrat, whose daughter he recently bedded, a young man by the name of Paul (Christopher Matthews) stumbles upon Castle Dracula and is invited to spend the night by the Count. In an interesting twist on the Bram Stoker novel, Paul becomes the Jonathan Harker character as Dracula’s prisoner, and Paul’s disappearance subsequently sparks an investigation by Paul’s brother (Dennis Waterman) and his fiancée (Jenny Hanley). A lot gorier than the previous films in the series, and Lee gets more screen time (and dialogue). The characters are likable, which helps to generate some suspense along the way. There’s also a clever bit where Dracula’s resting place can only be accessed through a window on the cliff side of the castle. Scar of Dracula may be imperfect but it’s a solid entry in the series and much better than Taste the Blood of Dracula. B

DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972) To appeal to a more youthful audience, Hammer transported its most prized film series to the swinging seventies by introducing the viewer to a group of mod youngsters dabbling in black magic. Persuaded by Johnny Alacard (Christopher Neame) to perform a black mass using the ashes of Dracula (collected by Alacard’s ancestor, a follower of Dracula, in 1872), his friends become witness, and ultimately victims, to the Count’s (Christopher Lee) return. But it’s the great granddaughter of his arch nemesis whom Dracula wants, Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham), which Alacard helps Dracula in achieving in hopes of immortality. Peter Cushing’s return to the series after a 12 year hiatus is a sight for sore eyes, although here he plays the grandchild of his Van Helsing character from the earlier films. He gets more screen time than Lee, who’s pushed to the back-burner from the result of Dracula not being able to leave the church grounds he was resurrected from because of deconsecration. A shame considering the sight of Dracula walking about Piccadilly Circus and other famous London landmarks would have given the film the pop it was so desperately striving for—something the next chapter, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, does better. That shouldn’t prevent fans from enjoying this bit of schlocky entertainment. B

THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973) (AKA: Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride) The British Secret Service have infiltrated a secret Satanic sect, which several prominent members of upper crust London society are involved in. After an Agent witnesses the murder and resurrection of a woman by the Satanists, the government calls in Prof. Lorrimore Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), a descendant of Abraham, to help them with their supernatural head-scratcher. Van Helsing discovers the Satanic sect is working for Dracula (Christopher Lee)—disguised as a wealthy agoraphobic named Denham—by blackmailing scientists into developing a new strain of deadly virus that’ll wipe out most of humanity, but not before the Count makes Van Helsing’s granddaughter (Joanna Lumley) one of his brides. Although this wasn’t Hammer’s last Dracula film, it was Lee’s final appearance in the series—Lee later returned to the role of the Count in the unrelated French comedy Dracula and Son. The plot is a whole lotta hubbub, but director Alan Gibson moves the action at a fast pace and delivers several savory scenes of mayhem, including a cellar crawling with Dracula’s hungry wives. As always, Cushing and Lee are in fine form. The Satanic Rites of Dracula might not be the best of the Hammer Draculas, but it’s by far not the worst. B

As of this writing The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is unavailable for viewing.

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