Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
Director: Peter Sasdy
Anthony Higgins/Paul Paxton
During the Victorian era, three high class dudes lead drastic double lives. They are upstanding citizens by day and hedonistic thrill-seekers by night. Things go sour when they strike up a pact with a loud-mouth Satanist (Bates) in the hopes of finding a new pleasure fix. They eventually resurrect Count Dracula (Lee) who wakes up on the wrong side of the coffin ready, willing and able to cause some damage.
They taste his blood and the horror begins!
I finally got the Hammer Horror Collection in my possession (now available in stores-- seek it out, Helsings of the world!). The set includes: The Curse of Frankenstein - Dracula Has Risen from the Grave - Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed - Horror of Dracula (read review here) - The Mummy - Taste the Blood of Dracula. I chose to review the latter title in order to celebrate the release of this badass collection.
"Taste the Blood of Dracula" (the fifth entry in the Hammer Drac flicks) was a fascinating and nasty little ditty. Not only did I get what I relish from Hammer offerings in high doses (inventive directing, bleak atmosphere, ample cleavage and gorgeously macabre settings), but I was also totally taken aback by its audacity (especially for the time that it was made). This tale aimed higher than being a simple “vamp” opus and ventured bravely into the darker corners of the human psyche. The hypocrisy of the “BS” Victorian era was addressed while the themes of incest and murdering within one’s family were also touched upon. Nope, we’re not talking “Bud Light” here, this was some potent stuff and I was digging it the whole way! Coupled with stellar acting all around that helped give the events more impact, a slow, yet infectious, pace, slick old school effects (Drac’s resurrection rocked!) and stellar production designs left and right, and you get a tight little bat that delivered the Drac goods in a mostly courageous and refreshing fashion.
Unfortunately, Christopher Lee’s presence and dialogue in the film was minimalized. Not counting the opening, good old “cape boy” surfaced for the first time in the story at the 40 minute mark (see Bull's Eye section for more on that). But it kind of worked in the flick’s favor where Dracula’s “raison d’etre” here was less about being your typical bloodsucker and more about acting as a tool of “punishment” for these immoral mooks and their “party heavy” ways. What an original way to bring The Count back for more! It is a statement to Lee's magnetic charisma and talent that even via little screen time, he still managed to deliver a gripping and highly memorable show. Nobody says “the first” or “the second” like the Lee Machine does. The man just can do no wrong!
On the stale side of the stake, I wasn't too keen on the young lovers-- their plight and lovey-dovey antics were too syrupy, even for a sensitive prick like me. And where the hell was Van Helsing? I missed the lad here and weakling Paul (Higgins) was a beyond-poor substitute. Furthermore, Dracula’s motive for killing didn’t make much sense to me. Didn’t he need “so and so” to die anyways for him to live? And why would he care about some lowly servant with a bad hair cut? Lastly, the manner in which Drac was defeated was a tad lame. Seeing the all mighty Count reduced to throwing furniture at his foes like a peeved housewife was embarrassing and the manner in which he was sent back to hell, somewhat trivial. He’s The Count, man! Let him expire with some dignity!
But all in all, "Taste the Blood of Dracula" was yet another endearing and satisfying Hammer journey for yours truly and I am looking forward to biting into more of that sweet, sweet, sweet Lee/Drac stuff! He vants to suck your…”BLEEP”!
The flick was gory enough with an impaling, self hand mutilation, a shovel in the face, stakings and stabbings in the house. The bright red blood also worked like a charm within the eerie feel of the picture.
Christopher Lee (Dracula) kicked all kinds of bootie via his economic, yet totally absorbing, display. Wow! Geoffrey Keen (Harwood) was amazing as the self centered, boozing father. Talk about intense! Linda Hayden (Alice) touched upon two levels perfectly: naïve and vicious. Loved her and loved her big boobs even more! Anthony Higgins (Paul Paxton) got on my nerves. The man would need to grow chest hair and take a beating before I could take him seriously as a “hero”. Ralph Bates (Lord Courtney) overacted a bit, but he played a Dracula-worshipping Satanist. What can you do? I had fun with his off-the-wall performance.
T & A
In usual Hammer tradition, cleavage was abundant here and we even got a couple of tits shots. We also got a skimpy dressed, yet skanky, gal dancing with a phallic snake! The ladies get Lee looking like Lee.
Peter Sasdy brought a dread-filled mood to the proceedings while slapping all kinds of inventive visual devices out there, all of which almost gave the flick a “Pulp” feel at times. AWESOME!
James Bernard’s powerful score supported this carriage ride perfectly.
Distributor: Warner Brothers
IMAGE: All six films have been newly re-mastered in Widescreen - 1.85.
SOUND: We get English and French Dolby mono tracks.
EXTRAS: The films are boxed in “snap cases” with solely a theatrical trailer acting as extras on each disc.
"Taste the Blood of Dracula" might be too slow for some and not pure “Dracula-ish” enough for others, but I relished its fresh approach in terms of the Count’s purpose, its courage in touching upon touchy themes and its “Damn, I love this jazz” classy Hammer feel. Sure, it was flawed in places (that ending man…), but overall, it was well worth the whole hearted neck chomp. I’m not done with you, Dracul! I will be back for more you suave, sharp-toothed, cape-wearing bastard!
Initially, Dracula wasn’t supposed to be in the film since Lee and Hammer couldn’t agree on a salary, so they wrote the screenplay without Drac. The screenplay was eventually retooled to include the Count because Warner Brothers wouldn’t distribute the picture without him in it. I guess Lee got his money after all!