Saturday, June 2, 2012

Scars of Dracula

SCARS OF DRACULA (1970)

Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Written by Bram Stoker and Anthony Hinds
Starring: Christopher Lee, Patrick Troughton, Dennis Waterman, Jenny Hanley and Michael Ripper.

This is my favourite of the Lee's Dracula films. It's the only one in my collection of Hammer Horror films that gets replayed the most, even though Lee is hardly in it, says hardly much, and isn't really linked to Bram Stoker's tale in any way. Van Helsing doesn't even make an appearance.

Lee hasn't kept it a secret how much he despised playing Dracula in his later years. He explains that in the end he was blackmailed as the producers told him if he didn't replay the role, then he would be putting entire films crews out of work. That's certainly a horrible thing to put over someone. Perhaps this is the reason why he either doesn't speak much or appear with much screen time in the later productions, but when he does he certainly commands the same presence he always did, moreso I believe than any other character he has played from Duc de Richleau in "The Devil Rides Out" to Saruman in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy or Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels. 


The films starts in Dracula's castle with the eponymous crap bat resurrecting Dracula's corpse from red ash by dripping blood from its mouth as it hovers over his stone crypt. A reverse lap dissolve later and Dracula is back in action killing the locals. Fed up with this killing, the locals storm the castle (leaving their wives and children in the town chapel), bypassing his feral looking servant Klove, and set it alight, while Klove mocks them that the fire will never reach the resting place of his Master. 


In revenge Dracula sends his vampire crap bats to kill and mutilate the women and children in the chapel, leaving them as a horrid sight to behold to the returning vigilantes, and a ghastly reminder to learn their place in his dark domain.


The film then takes a full human shift with Paul Carlson getting a bit frisky with the burgomaster's daughter (and getting caught red-handed) he is chased by guards with the belief that his daughter was the victim of a rape. Paul manages to escape to a nearby birthday party of his friend and unrequited love Sarah, and his brother Simon, who also desires Sarah's heart. Found once more by the guards he escapes Kleinenberg into the woods, is turned away at an inn, and finally falls asleep in an unattended carriage, which is owned by Count Dracula.


He wakes up a while later at the castle, and curiously stumbles around, crossing paths with the exquisite Vampire Bride Tania, who offers him a hot meal and a bed for the night. Dracula arrives in the room, offers Paul some wine, and insists Paul stays, somehow knowing more about Paul than he would like, putting him at unease. 


That night Tania comes to Paul's room and seduces him, they make love and at the end when Tania decides to feast, Dracula storms into the room and kills her with an ancient dagger, knocking Paul unconscious in the process. I'm not sure whether Dracula killed her because she revealed their true nature, she knew Paul was intended for Dracula but still decided to feed anyway, or she broke the rule of hospitality that the Count adheres to.


Later Paul tries to escape by tying the bed sheets together, descending into a dark room below he discovers a coffin with Dracula asleep inside. 


While dismembering Tania's corpse, Klove comes across a small picture frame with Sarah's face in it left behind by Paul. He immediately becomes smitten with her visage, and hides it so Dracula cannot take it away from him. Worried about their friend Paul, Sarah and Simon retrace his footsteps, first arriving at the inn when they are thrown out when the maid tells them where Paul was headed and eventually arrive at the castle.


Dracula welcomes them "warmly", denies that Paul set foot in the castle, and using eye mojo causes Sarah to faint and carries her off to the guest chambers, while a confused Simon is given the couch prepared by Klove.


That night when Dracula comes to feast on Sarah he is warded off by the cross around her neck. Summoning Klove in a fury he demands he remove the cross, but he refuses to do so when he recognises the girl's face from the portrait. Soon enough Klove allows them to escape happy with the knowledge that Sarah will live, but pays the price with a violent torture from a red hot sword tip. 


Returning to the inn, Simon attempts to muster up the courage of the villagers to storm Dracula's castle once more, but only manages to enlist the help of the priest. The three return and this time Simon is betrayed by Klove and led to the same dark room where Dracula slumbers, and the priest is killed by a crap bat. Simon tries to kill Dracula but is repelled by eye mojo, and he faints. Dracula scales the outside wall like a spider to the room above, while Simon awakes to find the impaled dead body of his brother in the room. 


Dracula discovers Sarah and summons a crap bat to remove her crucifix. Klove frees Simon in bid to save Sarah, and there is a showdown in the courtyard with a storm looming overhead. Klove dies first and is tossed aside like a dirty rag over the battlements, and Simon tries to impale Dracula with a tossed iron spike. Pulling the iron spike out of his body, Dracula is about to return the favour when lightning strikes the spike, immediately setting alit to Dracula, with his burning body cascading over the end of the castle.


What I would have done:


I don't know what Dracula's problem was in this film. Perhaps he has hit his head hard on his coffin lid. I think he let his sadism get the better of him in this one. Firstly he killed all the woman of the village, but no-one else. Sure he drained the will of the men, but for how long? The people will always rise up eventually.


In regards to Paul, he should have killed him straight away and the same with Sarah and Simon. I never understood the problem with crucifixes on sleeping victims either. There is more to one side of a person. If they are sleeping on their backs when you come for your nightly visit, just roll them over onto their stomach and feed from there, or break the chain from behind and roll the victim back on top of it problem solved.


I would have to say though that Dracula's use of crap bat familiars though was sublime. First in killing the townsfolk, and eventually figuring out a way to take off the dreaded crucifix. He certainly had them trained well to locate victims that ventured to close to the castle. 


Lastly I found that his sadism was misdirected. He should have killed Paul with the dagger in the bed, and not Tania, and together they could have gorged on his blood, and descended further in the dark depths of vampiric depravity. With Tania still alive and in his thrall, she would have aided him in despatching Simon and Sarah, or broken their will to become vampire servants replacing an outdated and treacherous Klove. 









2 comments:

  1. Welcome back Basarab :)

    This is, I think, an unfairly maligned Hammer Dracula and one I personally, like you, really enjoy.

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    Replies
    1. Greetings Taliesin,

      Yes it is one of the better Hammer Draculas besides Horror of Dracula. To be honest I find Taste, Risen from the Grave, and the two modern ones to be quite pedestrian.
      I'd like to see a new series of Dracula movies in this vein, even a TV series perhaps but with British actors of course ;)

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