Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)

Directed by:
Peter Sasdy

The fifth Hammer Dracula entry - picking up right where DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968) left off - is a step back for the series. The last time we saw the evil Count (Christopher Lee), he was impaled on a large bronze cross and disintegrating to a bloody mess at the base of his mountaintop castle home. Greedy Weller (Roy Kinnear) somehow stumbles onto the scene just in time to witness the entire thing and makes sure to take a few souvenirs back with him to his antique shop. Meanwhile, three middle-aged, upper-class married men; William Hargood (Geoffrey Keen), Samuel Paxton (Peter Sallis) and Jonathan Secker (John Carson), are looking to escape from their humdrum family lives by paying their weekly visit to a neighborhood brothel. There they meet a handsome young aristocratic man - Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates) - who promises to reward them with excitement if they'll accompany him to a few places about town. Their first stop is an antique store to buy Dracula's cloak, pendant and a vial of his powdered vampire blood. Next up is an abandoned church, where Courtley will perform a ceremony to resurrect the count. He slices his hand and drips blood into the powder, which swells into a full glass of bubbly vampire blood. The three older men chicken out on drinking it, but Courtley obliges, starts convulsing on the floor and is then beat to death by the three men, who vow to keep it a secret.

But the sins of the father are about to revisited upon each man's entire family as Count Dracula, resurrected from Courtley's ashes, comes back to destroy them all. William is shown to be the ultimate hypocrite and manages to be a more imposing and unlikable presence than Lee! A church-goer who claims he's off doing charity work while he's actually off with his buddies at the whorehouse, William is not only a liar and hypocrite, but an abusive alcoholic who bosses his weak wife Martha (Gwen Watford) around and accuses his cherubic daughter Alice (Linda Hayden) of being a "harlot" for simply talking to a boy. The boy - Paul (Anthony Corlan) - is actually Samuel's son, who's in love with Alice (and vice versa). Samuel also has a daughter -Lucy (Isla Blair) - who is being courted by Jonathan's son Jeremy (Martin Jarvis). Both daughters become entraced by the vampire and are used to help lure the men to their deaths.

Unfortunately, despite acceptible performances and production values, this chapter never really seems to take off. Both the characters and the scenarios said characters find themselves in seem dull and recycled. The exceptions here are Bates and Hayden. Bates vividly portrays a dashing, arrogant eccentric and his black magic scene is a nice departure from the norm. Hayden also makes an impression for her ability to switch from baby-faced innocent to evil, voracious seductress. It's easy to see why both actors - making their genre debuts here - would become familiar faces in the British horror industry of the 70s. Lee on the other hand has just a few lines and seems to have even less screentime than he did in the previous films. No wonder he was getting fed up playing the part at this stage in his career! Hammer regular Michael Ripper pops in briefly as a police inspector.

Followed by SCARS OF DRACULA (1970).


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