AND SO, HERE WE ARE with another Saturday, which for THIS website, means something CHRISTOPHER LEE connected, to meet your #ChristopherLeeSaturday shopping list!! LAST WEEK we started our short season of CHRISTOPHER LEE: THE HAMMER DRACULA FLICKS: THE MOMENTS WE LOVE, and dipped into 'Dracula Has Risen From The Grave' and 'Scars Of Dracula', and very popular they were too! Thank you! This week, we have PART TWO and another two Hammer Dracula films.
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?
Last week, I also received a few emails asking, why is a Peter Cushing Appreciation Society website, giving so much space to films that AIN'T really anything to do with Mr C? Well, even before Lee passed, we were already making regular space and time, to covering Lee's career, and why? The Official Christopher Lee Fan Club, sort of folded and with that so did any regular official internet presence. Good Lee photographs can be rare and expensive, so no 'official fan' was going to be posting and sharing their goodies. Lee of course made twenty two great films with Peter Cushing, plus he and Peter were very close and long time friends. So, I tested with the posting of Lee material at our now, closed PCAS Facebook Fan Page, and the results were good. On posting the series of rare clips called, THE LAST MEETING where Cushing and Lee worked and met for the last time, it proved there was much interest and many many people who came to PCAS, who wanted to see more from THE LAST MEETING and basically ANYTHING that connected to Christopher Lee.So, as always I give you, what you ask for. AND here it is! This week we are looking at the BITS WE LIKE from another two GREAT Christopher Lee Hammer Dracula films. I hope you like this week's contents!
THE AMAZING CAST: Andrew Keir (Father Shandor), Christopher Lee (Count Dracula), Francis Matthews (Charles Kent), Barbara Shelley (Helen Kent), Suzan Farmer (Diana Kent), Charles Tingwell (Alan Kent), Philip Latham (Klove), Thorley Walters (Ludwig)
THE TERRIFIC PRODUCTION CREW: Director – Terence Fisher, Screenplay – John Sansom, Story – John Elder [Anthony Hinds], Producer – Anthony Nelson-Keys, Photography – Michael Reed, Music – James Bernard, Music Supervisor – Philip Martell, Special Effects – Bowie Films Ltd, Makeup – Roy Ashton, Production Design – Bernard Robinson. Production Company – Hammer/Seven Arts. UK. 1966.
DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS dramatically opens with the final sequence from Hammer Films 1958 'DRACULA', showing the spectacular demise of Christopher Lee's Count Dracula at the hands of Peter Cushing's Van Helsing. This sequence is enclosed in a smoky frame because the earlier movie was shot in a different aspectic ratio - DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS was one of the few Hammer movie to be shot in 'scope. Little did they know, come the release of the LIONSGATE blu ray of the film, the smokey ratio would cause a few probs, that would how ever be solved.
EVERYONE in this DARKNESS, does a very good job and has their time in the LIGHT!! Maybe the pace of the first half of the film, lays out time, for us to understand the characters and beleive the performances, Something that most Hammer films, hardly ever did, for anyone other than the top layer of performers. CHRISTOPHER LEE as DRACULA, is very good, BUT not quite as feral and rabid as in his first performance.
THE KENT'S trip and their time on the journey finally arriving at CASTLE DRACULA does take a little time . . . it ALL takes time.
DRACULA,PRINCE OF DARKNESS DOES take a little while to get started, but once the the FIRST SPATS of BLOOD start following, director Terence Fisher makes sure the horror pace doesn't stop. Personally, I feel the long fist half of the film without DRACULA, I think was probably caused by several thing, two nothing to do with the script and building tension, more maybe to do with Lee's opinion and resistance to play the Count again for Hammer, and maybe the COST per scene, of actually getting him to do that!
OVERALL IT EMERGES as a fine sequel to Hammer's first DRACULA / HORROR OF DRACULA. Andrew Keir as Father Sandor makes a fine character, stepping in as the Vampire Hunter, as Peter Cushing did as Van Helsing, in the previous movie. It's kind of a shame that Hammer didn't run two series in parallel, one with Dracula against various savants and one with Van Helsing against various villains, but I guess Cushing was already quite busy with their FRANKENSTEIN series.
AS FOR MOMENTS WE LIKE . . one of the most remarkable sequence in the film is the scene where Barbara Shelley is held down on a table, hissing and writhing, as a stake is hammered into her heart by the dispassionate priesthood. It is perhaps the most potent image of sexual repression in all of British horror cinema. Indeed, Dracula - Prince of Darkness, more than any of the Hammer Draculas, embodies the recurrent image of sexual repression threatening to emerge to tear Victorian society apart and its dispassionate elimination by men of reason.
THE TRAVELERS, played by Shelley, Farmer, Matthews and Tingwell are deliberately set up as representatives of 'English genteel' in order to be torn apart – the strongest image of this polarity is the turning of the prim, uptight and anxious Barbara Shelley into a voluptuous vampire, begging Francis Matthews “Give us a kiss.” The sexual overtones in the scene where Christopher Lee causes Suzan Farmer to kneel and drink from the cut he opens with his fingernail in his chest are incredibly vivid.
ANOTHER GREAT MOMENT would have to be Farmers shock and terror, on seeing Lee's Count, unknown to her, standing in the room. Personally, I fond her reaction THE most genuine and terrified reaction I have EVER see. Totally convincing. AND there is of course DRACULA bowing out horribly in the ICY RUNNING WATER . . .
AND WE MUST MENTION Thorley Walters. I have seen some odd comments on blogs and websites, annoyed that Walters doesn't play a very good, RENFIELD. Well, firstly that is because, this isn't the character of Renfield, it's LUDWIG, and second, this is Thorley not Dwight Frye. Take a faff through the flicks featuring vampires, as well as DRACULA and you will often find a suspect individual who isn't called Renfield, BUT does eat FLIES!
OUR SECOND DRACULA FEATURE has several fine moments and a great cast. TASTE also has moments where the story and reasons, do drift and stray from what made the previous Hammer DRACULA's so great. The element that makes TASTE fall short, is the fall out from some of the pre production problems that effected the script and stability of the film. Sadly, we don't get to see Christopher Lee as DRACULA, as many times as we should, and when we DO it's those preproduction issues, that make his presence wobble . .
Geoffrey Keen (William Hargood), Linda Hayden (Alice Hargood), Anthony Corlan (Paul Paxton), Christopher Lee (Count Dracula), John Carson (Jonathan Secker), Peter Sallis (Samuel Paxton), Ralph Bates (Lord Courtley), Isla Blair (Lucy Paxton), Martin Jarvis (Jeremy Secker), Gwen Watford (Martha Hargood), Roy Kinnear (Weller), Michael Ripper (Cobb)
ABOVE: A RARE CONTACT SHEET of photographs from TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA taken on set by the production photographer
Director: Peter Sasdy, Screenplay: John Elder [Anthony Hinds], Producer: Aida Young, Photography: Arthur Grant, Music: James Bernard, Music Supervisor: Philip Martell, Special Effects: Brian Johncock, Makeup: Gerry Fletcher, Art Direction: Scott MacGregor. Production Company: Hammer.
Three Victorian men who lead upstanding and moralistic lives, sneak out to a brothel on the pretext of conducting charity work. Their pleasure is interrupted by the libertine Lord Courtley who offers to show them far greater pleasures. He takes them to an antique shop where he gets them to purchase Dracula’s cape, signet ring and a vial of his powdered blood. Courtley conducts a ceremony in an abandoned church. But when he asks the men to drink the blood, they are disgusted. Drinking it himself, he collapses. The men kick and beat Courtley to death and then flee the scene. But Courtley’s spilt blood revives Dracula who swears vengeance on the other men for killing his disciple. Dracula then seduces each of the men’s children, making them vampires and turning them against their fathers.
TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA was the fifth of the Hammer Dracula films and by for many fans, it was the last Hammer Dracula worth seeing. It saw the entry of a promising new director Peter Sasdy. A Hungarian immigrant, Sasdy had come from noted tv work during the 1960s, including episodes of the sf anthology series Out of the Unknown (1956-71) and the acclaimed BBC adaptation of Wuthering Heights (1970). The problem with Taste the Blood of Dracula is, like many it doesn’t always work – as usual with the Hammer Dracula sequels, the script has difficulty coming up with worthwhile motivation for Dracula. The vengeance theme that drives the story, isn't well connected – it does seem overly generous of Dracula to swear vengeance for Ralph Bates's Courtley’s murder, having not even MET Courtley!
CONSIDERING that Courtley’s death was necessary for him to be resurrected it does seem slightly irrational of Dracula to then swear vengeance on Courtley’s murderers. Further it makes Taste the Blood of Dracula into a Hammer Dracula, that is something really different from the other Hammer Drac films. It now becomes a film about vengeance rather than one about vampirism. Throughout the focus is on Dracula corrupting the children and turning them against their parents and the usual business of blood-letting hardly even figures at all.
BUT AGAIN, LIKE ALL the Hammer Dracula films that followed the 1958 production, it's MOMENTS and VISUALS that make the films watching. I have selected several of these moments in our GIFS and images, of the moments that worked for me personally. IF you have seen either of these films, MAYBE you would like to send me an email, about your thoughts and opinions..and I will ADD THEM to this feature, as they arrive. I hope you have enjoyed our latest DOUBLE BILL of Hammer Dracula Flicks. We have just one MORE DOUBLE next week... Please JOIN US then!