Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hammer Rewatch: Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)

            A look at Hammer’s Dracula series, Part 5…

            I’m starting to regret reviewing all of these Hammer Dracula movies in order: it’s not that I regret watching them all, but they’re so similar to each other it is hard to find anything new to say about each successive entry. Taste the Blood of Dracula has a little more going for it than the previous installment at least, with far more interesting characters and a better story overall, but there’s still little to distinguish it from the rest: a bunch of ne’er do wells unwittingly resurrect Dracula, who then proceeds to hypnotize all the pretty girls into doing his bidding and murdering townspeople left and right, only to then be overcome in the end by the lover of the main girl. It’s enjoyable after a fashion, but with five movies and counting, is certainly beginning to wear thin.

            The story concerns a group of three wealthy men, the types who scold their daughters for making googly eyes at the boys in church only to then meet up at the local brothel for a night of drunken debauchery. The three have been doing this for a time, and soon begin to crave something a little more exciting. Then they meet the black magic-obsessed Lord Courtley, who woos them with tales of black mass and selling his soul to Satan and the like, and the three think they’ve found just the thing they’re looking for to spice up their night lives. That is until they buy Dracula’s effects from a local dealer and summon the great vampire once again, by having Courtley drink Drac’s powderized blood and turning into the Count himself (they’re certainly getting creative with the resurrections). Angry at the three men for somewhat confusing reasons, Dracula then sets out to get his revenge upon each.

            The general set-up is interesting enough to carry the whole film, and it’s really only halfway through that we’re reminded this is actually a Dracula movie. Fitting, as Hammer originally wanted to replace both Lee and Dracula in the series with the new Lord Courtely character. But the studio’s American distributor wasn’t pleased with the lack of Lee, so the actor was courted to come back once more. The resulting film makes for a somewhat confused entry, almost like two different films merged together uncomfortably, but having Dracula hunting down the three men at least gives the film a forward momentum the last entry lacked. Lee is as solid as ever, but you can certainly feel a weariness in his performance that wasn’t there previously. Ralph Bates plays Courtley, and had things gone according to the original plan, would have been a perfectly serviceable replacement for the Count, as the actor brings a renewed energy to a series that was already deflating with each and every installment.

           We’ve got one more entry in the series before Peter Cushing makes his triumphant return - will I make it until then? Come back tomorrow to find out!  

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