TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA - 1970
Hammer Films / Warner Bros.
Rating: USA: N/A
In this sort of kind of sequel to DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, we see a horse drawn carriage moving along a dirt road at a brisk clip. A very rotund salesman named Weller (Roy Kinnear: MADAME SIN, THE HOUND OF BASKERVILLES ) within attempts to sell wares to his two traveling companions. Neither are bright but both are very covetous and don't see the value in paying good money for what can be taken for free.
The salesman is soon thrown out of the carriage and, with a knock on his noggin, is out for a bit. When he wakes up he hears odd noises which spook him greatly. He goes running off into the woods and comes upon Dracula's death scene from DRACULA HAS RISEN. Dracula (Christopher Lee: HORROR HOTEL, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, THE WICKER MAN, GREMLINS 2, SLEEPY HOLLOW, THE LORD OF THE RINGS [all], THE CORPSE BRIDE). Dracula dries up and blows away except for his blood which dries but stays and Weller collects it.
Some time later, folks are leaving a church and this is where we meet the characters in this film. There is William Hargood (Geoffrey Keen: HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, DOOMWATCH), his wife Martha (Gwen Watford: THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER , THE GHOUL ), and their young adult daughter, Alice (Linda Hayden: BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW, NIGHT WATCH, VAMPIRA, MADHOUSE, EXPOSE, QUEEN KONG, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL). They stop so we can get a good look at them, the father fusses, and they move on so the next group can step up.
This batch has two folks, Jonathon Secker (John Carson: NIGHT CALLER FROM OUTER SPACE, THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, THE MAN WHO HAUNTED HIMSELF, CAPTAIN KRONOS: VAMPIRE HUNTER, DOOMSDAY) and his young adult son Jeremy (Martin Jarvis).
Next up is Samuel Paxton (Peter Sallis: THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN, FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY, WALLACE & GROMIT: CURSE OF THE WERERABBIT), his son Paul (Anthony Higgins: VAMPIRE CIRCUS, FLAVIA: THE HERETIC, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, THE BRIDE), and his daughter Lucy (Isla Blair: DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, THE MONK).
William Hargood gets home, calls his daughter Alice all manner of foul names in the spirit of discipline, and goes off into the night. While Martha consoles her daughter, William meets up with Jonathon and Samuel and, together they go out to enjoy a night of debauchery. Their escapades are short lived however when they are interrupted by a young man by the name of Lord Courtley. Courtley barges in to their private room, looks around, and with a snap of his fingers summons William's plaything away.
The three men are both outraged and intrigued. When the foppish pimp, Felix (Russell Hunter) tells them who the young man was and how he lives, the men are even more curious. Lord Courtley was involved in some delightfully decadent scandal a few years back and now lives off the largess of the house prostitutes, who pay to keep him.
Soon the three men take Lord Courtley to dinner where he regales the men with his insouciance and tales of grand ribaldry. The older men would like a bit of that themselves and Lord Courtley promises them that they can have it... in exchange for their souls. The three men consider the implications but go along with it, one thing leads to another, they get the blood of Dracula, and go off to perform a summoning.
The summoning derails a bit, winding up with one dead Lord Courtley and the three men running scared into the night. Little do the men know that the summoning still completes itself and Drac is back swearing vengeance on the three men for killing his servant Courtley.
There is also a romantic angle between Alice, who loves Paul though her father hates him. And a second romance between Lucy and Jeremy. Of course, with a name like Lucy in a movie about Dracula, we know where she is heading. Which leaves Alice to be the bride of Dracula. Because when you are telling a Dracula story, he is always after another bride. He can't get enough of them.
TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA concerns itself with the trials and tribulations of Victorian England at a time when the law was ineffectual due to bureaucracy. People knew their place and if your societal place was above the station of a policeman, then there wasn't a whole lot the copper could do to solve a crime if you were the criminal - so long as you harmed someone beneath your level. The three men all brought harm to Lord Courtley, a criminal considerably above their station and so all of them are terribly frightened even without knowledge of Dracula alive and hunting them down.
Written and produced by Hammer Films major domo producer and screenwriter, Anthony Hinds (THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT, QUATERMASS 2, THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, CAPTAIN CLEGG, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA , THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, THE REPTILE, FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN, THE MUMMY'S SHROUD, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, SCARS OF DRACULA, THE GHOUL , LEGEND OF THE WEREWOLF), it seems a given that this movie would be a hit. What director Peter Sasdy (COUNTESS DRACULA, DOOMWATCH, NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT, I DON'T WANT TO BE BORN) brought was solid direction and attention to detail. We learn about these men not only by what they say but how other people react to them. When the three men leave their carriage to enter the whorehouse false front (a charity soup kitchen), the street urchins gather around only one of the men, cheerfully begging for coins. Touches like these let us know what the world thinks of these men regardless of their public face.
In TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA we have a murder, many villains and layers of villainy, love in the time of a repressed Victorian era, a scandal about to blow sky-high in London, and Dracula only making matters worse.
The problems with it are the needless call backs to Stoker's original material. With so much changed we hardly needed to trot out the obvious like Lucy's inevitable destiny at the fangs of Dracula. This is especially critical when you watch Christopher Lee's series of Dracula movies (like on the current DVD sets where they have four or more of them). Holy crap! How many versions of Lucy are going to get it? Oh my God! He killed Lucy! You bastard!
Though I found the ending anti-climatic, all in all this is one of Christopher Lee's better Dracula flicks which is why I give TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA a high three!
This review copyright 2009 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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