Scars of Dracula

Hammer Films, 1970
Directed by Roy Ward Baker

Hammer films followed up Taste the Blood of Dracula the same year with one of its most violent Dracula sequels, and the last one to be set in the Victorian period of the original story. 

This edition finds the Count fallen on rather hard times, his castle having been burned by the locals and only partly restored. He never ventures forth, but relies on various natural and supernatural servants to bring him victims. These servants include an anomalous giant bat (evidently blood-drinking, like the New World vampire bat, but as large as the fruit-eating "flying foxes" of Australia) who seems to communicate with the Count telephathically.

Also on hand is one of the most memorably seedy henchman in a horror movie, the unkempt and grumpy Clove, played by Patrick Troughton (of Dr. Who fame). Clove is the kind of guy who can happily whistle while sawing up a corpse and dropping the severed limbs into a bathtub of acid. 

After a lengthy introduction regarding the romantic entanglements of several young people, the story finally brings them to Dracula's castle, where terror (naturally) awaits.

As in Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, the local priest is a trembling, meek fellow who lacks the courage to lead the necessary holy crusades against the vampire. He is portrayed with such an absurd hairstyle and manner as to seem, at times, like an escapee from some Monty Python sketch.

The local innkeeper is predictably grumpy and uncooperative. It's a bit jarring to see him played by the stalwart Michael Ripper, who had such a light-comic role in Dracula Has Risen From the Grave. This inn's barmaid is a bit more helpful, but due to being "loose," is naturally destined for a bad end.

Dracula seems at his most sadistic in this movie. Not only is he intent on drinking blood, but he also displays visible pleasure when torturing his servant Clove with a red- hot sword, and murders his current live-in vampire femme with a knife in a fit of pique.

In the DVD extras, director Roy Ward Baker comments that the script was quite brutal, and so he determined to direct the film in that spirit and go all out. However, the makeup effects representing wounds are so cheap as to rob them of much of their scare value. Baker also comments on being the first to film Dracula climbing a sheer castle wall, as the Count is described doing in the novel. This image would be picked up to better effect in later films like Count Dracula

While there is much that can be criticized in this film, it does achieve a certain primitive intensity. It doesn't hurt that the heroine is played by one of Hammer's most beautiful actresses, Jenny Hanley, who spends most of the film in a low-cut negligee. Curiously, the crucifix shown draped across her bosom in repeated close-up shots seems to used by the filmmakers  more as a sexual fetish than a symbol of religious faith. 

Vampire Lore
As in the other Hammer films, Dracula never transforms into any bat or other animal, nor is there any implication that he would not appear in a mirror. The usual theory that daylight would be lethal is not referred to here, but not contradicted either, as he is seen only at night.

Dracula Redivivus
The preceding film in the series established the strange fact that Dracula's blood, when he dies, changes into a fine red powder like kumkum. This time around, some unnamed person or agency has transported Dracula's blood to an old castle, perhaps his family castle, and the giant bat mentioned previously revives him by regurgitating some blood into his spectral red ashes. This is odd, in that we never find out who sent the bat to revive Dracula, or whether it is an independent and intelligent creature with some agenda of its own.

Dracula Remortis - Spoiler
Of course, half the fun of the Hammer Dracula series is seeing what the writers dreamed up for his death scene each time. This time the evil Count is literally struck by lightning while waving a metal spike at the hero. The ironic twist is that the spike turns red-hot, like the blade that he previously used to torture his servant. 

Extras - The Many Faces of Christopher Lee
The copy of this DVD that I have, from Anchor Bay, includes a "Limited Edition BONUS DVD" in which Christopher Lee reminisces about his career and some of his major roles, which of course have gone far beyond Dracula and include other famous villains such as Fu Manchu, Rasputin, Rochefort, and the Man With the Golden Gun, as well as more mainstream and "serious" roles such as in The Far Pavilions. His remarks are interspersed with a generous sampling of clips from the various films. Unfortunately, this was apparently filmed before his recent appearances in the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars series, so he doesn't comment on those. Still, this program is definitely a treat for Lee fans.

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