From the video case: A young party traveling to the Carpathian Mountains receives a strange warning from Father Sandor, the Abbot of Kleinberg, telling them not to proceed with their plans. Despite his advice, the Kents continue but are prematurely abandoned in a forest by their coachman, who refuses to continue after dark. Finally, their luck is changing it seems, when another mysterious black coach appears and delivers them to an enormous, eerie castle where they are offered the hospitality of Count Dracula. (1966, color)
Mark says: The opening flashback scene in Dracula: Prince of Darkness establishes it as the official sequel to Hammer’s Horror of Dracula. Though two vampire pictures were produced in between the films (Brides of Dracula and Kiss of the Vampire), neither one featured Christopher Lee as the famous bloodsucking Count.
Reportedly, Christopher Lee (Horror Hotel, Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors) was so appalled by the dialog, that he was allowed to play the character mute. To his credit, Lee’s silence is hardly noticeable as his presence is still very powerful, though much more limited than in the original feature.
Dracula: Prince of Darkness lacks Peter Cushing in the Van Helsing role, but it does have Andrew Keir (Quatermass and the Pit) in the role of Father Sandor, an abbot well-versed in vampire folklore. Keir does an excellent job as a bold and rather nontraditional clergyman.
The major portion of the story focuses on two couples who, despite Father Sandor’s warning, find themselves guests in Dracula’s Castle. The couples are Charles and Diana Kent, played by Francis Matthews (The Revenge of Frankenstein) and Suzan Farmer (Rasputin: The Mad Monk), and Alan and Helen Kent, portrayed by Charles Tingwell and Barbara Shelley (Blood of the Vampire).
Charles is the friendly and adventurous leader of the group. He possesses charm, but he makes some tragic decisions. His wife, Diana, is alluring and agreeable, though rather one-dimensional. Charles and Diana (sound like English royalty, don’t they?) make a fine couple and it’s their story we follow until the conclusion.
On the other hand, Alan and Helen have problems. Helen is prudish and disapproves of almost everything. Her character is so disagreeable that she seems more personable as a vampire. However, it is Helen who senses the evil of the castle when no one else does. If the clan would have only listened to her, they could have avoided the whole bloody ordeal. But then we wouldn’t have this fine film.
Alan is not as much a hen-pecked husband as one who is simply frustrated with his wife’s griping. When he follows Klove (Philip Latham) into the cellar, we get a sense that it is not entirely curiosity that drives him, but a chance to get a few moments peace away from Helen. Either way, it proves to be a disastrous decision, and it is this blunder that ultimately provides the blood sacrifice needed for Dracula’s resurrection.
The resurrection is a particularly ghastly scene. Alan is hoisted up by his heels like a pig to slaughter. Klove slashes Alan’s throat with a sickening fwip!, and then that famous Hammer blood pours over Dracula’s ashes. We witness Dracula regenerate from ashes, to bones, to veins and arteries, and then finally to flesh.
There’s also a fun, albeit unconvincing, scene where Charles and Diana battle Dracula and Helen (now a vampire). Barbara Shelley is a fantastic succubus. She is both enticing and horrible. Unfortunately, there is so much wrestling around in this scene that it brinks on comical.
The climatic act, though original, isn’t completely satisfying. Of course, for me, nothing is going to beat Peter Cushing’s lunge for the curtains at the conclusion of Horror of Dracula.
Though Dracula: Prince of Darkness never reaches the glory of the original feature, it is still very watchable and one of my favorite films of the series.
Scene to watch for: You can’t trust Dracula’s servant, Klove; he’s a backstabber.
Line to listen for: “My master died without issue, sir, in the accepted sense of the term.”
Trivia: Apparently, Suzan Farmer dubbed all of Barbara Shelley’s screams in the film.
Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ½ out of 5.