Virtues and Vices
Dracula faces a different foe this time in the person of Father Sandor, a gruff and eccentric clergyman who totes a rifle. Andrew Keir embodies him as a larger-than-life figure: bearlike but steadfast, outwardly a man of action while inwardly a main of faith.
The hapless travelers are a more mixed bag. As the party-happy Charles, Francis Matthews sounds uncannily like Cary Grant in some 40's comedy. Barbara Shelley, though revered among horror fans, plays here a crabby, uptight woman who's all the more irritating for being the only one in the group with a trace of common sense! It's a decided relief when she comes to a bad end.
He explains the strange state of the vampire: "He is already dead. He is Undead, Mr. Kent. He can be destroyed, but not killed." Of another vampire, Sandor says: "Bear in mind, Mr. Kent: This woman is not your sister-in-law. She's dead. This is the shell, and what it contains is pure evil. When we destroy it, we destroy only the evil." This is all very pre-Ann Rice, so there is no sign that these creatures have any redeeming features. Dracula has so little regard even for his latest vampire femme that he simply hurls her aside when she seeks his approval.
Of Dracula's powers, the remarkable strength is demonstrated here when he breaks a sword with his hands. His hypnotic force also comes into play when he bends Diana to his will. As in other Hammer films, Dracula never transforms into a bat or other animal. The issue of whether he casts a reflection is not addressed.
Sandor explains the rules for entering houses: "What the inhabitants of these parts don't realize is that a vampire cannot cross a threshold unless he's invited by someone already inside. And if he is, all the garlic flowers in the world won't keep him out."
Sandor's catalog of the methods for killing Dracula is typical of the Hammer series: "He can be traced to his resting place during the daylight hours and there, a stake through the heart. He can be exposed to the direct rays of the sun. Running water will drown him. The cross will burn him. He is not invulnerable." Although Sandor prays after slaying the vampiress, there seems no need to pray while slaying the creature, as would later be required in Dracula Has Risen From the Grave.
The most striking scene from Brides of Dracula is echoed here when Sandor uses the flame from a lamp to cauterize a vampire bite that was received by the heroine. The implication is that she would have been in danger if he had not done so, even though she had not died or even lost significant blood at that point.
Dracula's Demise - Spoiler
Sugar and Spice
Phillip Latham makes a memorably funereal impression as Klove, who to all appearances meets his end when he is shot by Charles. An oddity, however, is that in the later film Scars of Dracula, the Count also has a servant named Klove (played in that film by Patrick Troughton). In that film, Klove is a much hairier and dirtier character, though even in Dracula Prince of Darkness, it is remarked that Klove is none too clean. Are we to suppose that Klove survived the gunshot wound? Perhaps he has unnatural vitality due to some partial infection with the vampire taint. If these Kloves are the same person, then he has certainly degenerated by the latter film, when he can no longer make a polite impression, and has become the target of regular sadistic cruelty from the Count. It doesn't pay to serve the Dark One.
Dracula Prince of Darkness is not currently available on video or DVD in the U.S., but foreign editions may be available occasionally from vendors on eBay.com. Be aware that DVDs or videos from other countries may not be playable on your equipment. Be sure to read the fine print and contact the vendor in advance if you have any questions about whether a video, VCD, or DVD is compatible with your player.
Left margin pattern: the Dracula coat of arms, from Dracula Prince of Darkness.
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Copyright (c) 2005 by Joseph Morales