Wednesday, 16 January 2019

THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA : WARNER BROTHERS BLU RAY : REVIEWED SCREEN CAPTURED GIFS AND GALLERY


SPOILERS ALERT! IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING, MOST YOU WHO HAVE come here to read this review will know that 'THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA' was the last film in the Hammer Dracula series, to star Christopher Lee as The Count, and also the final time that Peter Cushing would star as Lee's Van Helsing. . .  but I'll say it anyway, because that detail helped to shift and style the film, a film that at first, looks NOTHING like a Hammer Dracula movie!


SUCH WAS THE DISTRIBUTORS unease at what they took to be a miss matched plot, featuring a James Bond type villain vampire, and not knowing how on earth to market it, 'THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA' sat for five years gathering dust in the Warner Vault after production wrapped in 1973, until SIX years later when ex Amicus Films partner, Max Rosenberg picked it up with his bargain basement company, Dynamite Films to then, crop, chop and re-edit the film and before kicking it out in the US, to see if it had any more takers, than the UK limited release had failed to attract . . .



IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING, MOST YOU WHO HAVE come here to read this review will know that 'THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA' was the last film in the Hammer Dracula series, to star Christopher Lee as The Count, and also the final time that Peter Cushing would star as Lee's Van Helsing. . .  but I'll say it anyway, because that detail helped to shift and style the film, a film that at first, looks NOTHING like a Hammer Dracula movie! Such was the distributors unease at what they took to be a miss matched plot, featuring a James Bond type villain vampire, and not knowing how on earth to market it, 'THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA' sat for five years gathering dust in the Warner Vault after production wrapped in 1973, until SIX years later when ex Amicus Films partner, Max Rosenberg picked it up with his bargain basement company, Dynamite Films to then, crop, chop and re-edit the film and before kicking it out in the US, to see if it had any more takers, than the UK limited release had failed to attract . . .


ROSENBERG'S also recrafted the title, 'COUNT DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE', offers all you need to know about, why Amicus films always had such naff titles when they hit UK cinemas. It's true, SATANIC RITES, is nowhere in the same realm as Cushing and Lee's first Hammer DRACULA outing in 1958. But back in the days of 1958, Hammer were not only treading on new ground, they were also actually creating some very new earth, ALONG with those steps! Back then, critics blew their gaskets and censors were forever poised with their red pens!  What The Satanic Rites of Dracula gives us is, had it been succesful, a NEW direction and and style, just like back in 1958! 😉


'SATANIC' THOUGH IT HAD STEAM, arrived late at the platform, and after Lee had played the Count in FIVE other Hammer visits to Castle Dracula, wearing out the terrified villagers and squeezing the last drop of any originalty from his many buxom wench-like drought stricken vampires victims. The 'SATANIC' concept was new, refreshing and quite savvy. But it would take decades, before an audience would finally see the point, of more than Dracula's fangs. The truth is the 'Hammer Dracula Truck' had long run out of fuel and backers, the Gothic scene was thought of, as past it and well worn, long beyond the point of predictable. Hammer films were looking for a new direction, a post- Gothic box, in which to repackage and wrap Lee's Dracula. A Dracula which was still bankable and box office, if only they could get Lee to agree to return and also create a 'new scene'.




IT WAS 'THE SCENE', in the truest post psychedelic sense, that provided the new direction and path. For traditionalists, this caused a problem, in two ways. One, the film that had first stepped into this new setting for the Hammer Dracula return . . . after the hit and miss garish and gory 1970 'SCARS OF DRACULA'. .  was DRACULA AD 1972. Based in London, with a gang of hip and trendy 'youngsters' it was dressed in flared pants, flower power vests, platform shoes and had a soul and funky 'Shaft-like' score. And two, all these rebooted qualities even in 72, were slightly out of date and late, by the time Hammer brought their new and relevant setting to the big screen. It's never a good idea to bring in 'men in suits' and already in their late 50's to create a trend or fashion, their idea of youth / gang langauge and lingo for 'the kids'. Their spin and take, has usually already been long taken away and past it.



AND SO, it was declared, even though the NEXT film, would be in some sense a sequel to DRACULA AD 1972, it would drop most of the fashion statements, and focus the concept not on long hair, hot pants and 'time', but craftily pick up a genre, that had been picking up BIG box office returns and small screen profits and followers for the last few years. The world of Spies, Intrigue, Bankers, Science and the James Bond Villain! The script writer, in my personal opinion got it spot on, not just with SATANIC RITES but DRACULA AD 1972 also. Hammer had run out of DRACULA puff, both 'SCARS' and 'TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA' suffer from Christopher Lee's reluctance to appear in the films, reducing his screen time, affecting the story, side tracking into support casts love stories and 'dirty mac brigade' titillation . ..  more importantly, everything produced after the 1968 DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, failed to provide DRACULA with a worthy and competent advisory. Van Helsing Hammer's box office vampire slayer, was AWOL! It was only when Cushing returned, and the story was given some historical character back bone detail, that Dracula truly engages in, that we are to some respect, back in the frame of anything resembling what we love about that 1958 classic. Danger. Emotion. Conflict and Reason. 





THE SCRIPT WRITER for both films, AD and Satanic was Don Houghton. Don had written episodes of the BBC series DOCTOR WHO, ACE OF WANDS and 38 episodes of drama and doctor stories in tv's 'EMERGENCY WARD 10'. Though not really responsible for the flapping fashion, the 'cool man' dig it lingo, Don's feel for drama and tension is spot on and would serve him well just a few years later, in the very popular tv series, 'The Professionals'. Houghton's mixing of the Hammer Gothic DRACULA, with a wink to black magic and the historical baggage of the Van Helsing family, worked like a treat! For some, that is. As in 1972, there are still some traditionalist Hammer fans, that will not watch AD or Satanic Rites nor except the changes that Broughton brought to these productions. . .   Even though, there are many moments of high drama within the re-connection and appearance of Lee and Cushing, battling on the screen together again, that offer some great scenes and moments. Moments that had not been seen in previous Hammer Dracula movies, for quite sometime.





IF YOU HAVE SEEN any of the grotty, blurred and rip off VHS and DVD's of 'SATANIC RITES' over the past 30 odd years, you'll have an idea of what most of the story is about, even though watching the fuzzy film, was like it was being reflected on a Fun House Mirror! Needless to say, all that pirated, time wasting and expensive lack of visual quality, has now all gone! The TECHNICAL WONDER of the remastered film, has like the story, been pushed into a NEW AGE, and lovingly remastered onto BLU RAY! 😚😉


SO DOES THE WARNER BROTHERS BLU RAY get THE RITES... RIGHT? Firstly, the good news is, you can take all your previous DVD dodgy copies and put them to rest or in the trash. The Warner Brothers scare ANOTHER MAJOR HIT with their remastering. The colours are beautiful and quite vivid. Skin tones and texture are not waxy, but look real and features are sharp. The blacks are BLACK. There is great depth to interior shots and some of Director Alan Gibson's focus pulls, are a treat to watch. 



SEVERAL TIMES I saw things on screen, I had never seen before. The close up's on Cushing's face, are very clear, as with the details on Christopher Lee's facial reactions, they look surprisingly powerful and different, if you have become used to that blurred DVD version. During the DRACULA death scene, new ellements can now be seen and these too look amazingly clear and again contain touches, you would have not seen before. While watching all these new qualities, you'll be pleased to hear... just THAT! The quality of the audio is excellent. I have watched this blu ray, exactly as I watch all my movies, wearing headphones. I don't want to missed anything! Presented as it was, back in 1973, the soundtrack in mono with a musical score, that has never sounded better. I could not hear any distortions, even when the Valerie Van Ost vampire screamed or the motor cycles or thunder rumbled!


WARNER BROTHERS yet again, score maxium points, continuing their very high standard of remastering excellence, first started with their outstanding Hammer Horror Collection Volume One release box set. Any Hammer, Cushing, Lee, Dracula fan or collector, who has suffered years of the dire poorness of previous releases of this film, would be truly missing out on what is now, the best gob-smacking experence of the film, at last available to watch, enhanced and worth every penny or cent! HIGHLY recommended! 


 
 A FULL REVIEW, GALLERY AND SCREEN CAPTURES from WARNER BROTHERS remastered blu ray of DRACULA AD 1972, coming VERY soon . . 
 

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