Review: Dracula Prince of Darkness

18 Oct

October Horror Month

It’s time for another Hammer vampire film and this is one with Count Dracula but no Van Helsing this time around. This sequel to Hammer’s first Dracula film starts with a recap of the events that led to the destruction of Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) at the hands of Abraham Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) and it is being narrated by Father Sandor (Andrew Keir) who is Van Helsing’s replacement in this story and he really is a great character

There’s seems to be funeral procession in the woods? A group of men are carrying the body of a young woman followed by a priest and a man with a hammer and a wooden stake and suddenly it becomes clear. Instead of burying her they are going to stake the body through the heart and burn it on a pyre. Frau Koenig the mother of the dead woman runs towards them to try to stop them. The priest tries to comfort her and assure her that it’s for the best. They are interrupted by a gunshot. A very angry Father Sandor insults them and calls them superstitious frightened idiots and scolds the priest for being about commit blasphemy. He orders the men to take body to the churchyard and since the priest refuses to do it he will carry out the service.

At the local bar a tourist Charles Kent (Francis Matthews) is splashing the cash buying drinks for the locals and enjoying himself. His sister-in-law Helen (Barbara Shelley) is offended by Charles enjoying himself and seems to have been permanently complaining about everything and everyone since they left England. Helen is married to Charles’s brother Alan (Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell) and along with as Charles’s wife Diana (Suzan Farmer) they are a sightseeing and rock climbing tour of the Carpathian Mountains. Father Sandor enters and he sneers and insults the locals, tearing down the garlic hanging from the ceiling. Sandor joins the group of tourists at the fire and warms his arse. At the fire and Charles introduces everyone and Sandor introduces himself as the Abbot of Kleinburg. Sandor invites them to the monastery but Helen tells him that they are planning to go to Karlsbad land he says they shouldn’t go there but he doesn’t say why then he tells them to at least stay away from the castle that’s not on the map which probably not the right thing to say to this bunch.

The coach driver dumps them off the coach at crossroads two miles outside of Karlsbad. The castle that’s not on the map dominates the landscape but the coach driver won’t look at it or even acknowledge its existence. He dumps their luggage so he’s not robbing them and says he’ll be back in morning after sunrise to take anyone still there on to Karlsbad. Helen wants to complain to authorities but there are not many police out in the countryside. Helen really doesn’t want to go the castle so they go to a broken down hut to wait out the night.

A coach and horses suddenly appears with no driver and stops at the crossing. Everyone gets on board and Charles tries to drive the horses to Karlsbad but they head for the castle and can’t be stopped until they get there. The men get out then Helen and Diana. Helen really is scared of the place. Charles finds the door is open and while they debate entering the coach leaves with their luggage. Helen and Charles bicker while Diana finds the table in castle is set for four. Helen is really freaking and again tells them that she wants to leave.

Charles goes upstairs and looks around for someone and finds two bedrooms with their luggage in them. He fetches Alan and shows him. Klove (Philip Latham) appears creeping out of the shadows and Helen screams so Alan and Charles run down and Klove introduces himself and apologizes for startling Helen. He is ready to serve dinner and everyone seems to settling and Helen can’t understand why they aren’t seeing this is all a trap. Charles asks when Klove’s master will be joining them. Klove tells him that his master is dead, but he left instructions the castle should always be prepared for guests. Klove tells them his master was Count Dracula and Helen seems to expecting the room to suddenly bite down and eat them  while the others toast the late Count.

It’s bedtime and Charles and Diana are getting ready for bed. Diana asks Charles if he noticed the change in Helen mood and of course he’s oblivious. She is genuine afraid not just the grumpy whiner she usually is

Klove knocks on Helen and Alan’s door to ask if there’s anything they need and wishes them a good night. Helen says she feels like she’s in a bad dream and she can’t convince anyone of the danger they are in. When Alan tries to assure her that she’ll feel better in the morning Helen replies “There’ll be no morning for us.”

Helen is having bad dreams and she wakes Alan saying somebody called her name but Alan says she was just dreaming. There are noises from the hallway and Alan looks and sees Klove dragging a trunk downstairs. Helen begs him not to go but Alan follows Klove to see what he’s up to. Helen is scared to be alone and locks her door. Alan finds a passageway behind a tapestry that leads down to a tomb inscribed Dracula. As he’s nosing around Klove appears and stabs him. He used a pulley to hang Alan’s body over the tomb and puts the ashes of Dracula in then he slits Alan’s throat and the blood pours into the tomb and Dracula reforms out of the blood and remains

Klove fetches Helen, mentioning her husband in a tone that suggests that he’s in trouble and sends her down to the tomb where she sees Alan’s dead body just hanging there and screams. Then Dracula appears and he doesn’t say anything. He smiles a big toothy grin and he wraps Helen under his cloak and I’m guessing he bites her.

In the morning Charles and Diana are looking for Helen and Alan or even Klove. Diana wants to leave and Charles agrees. He takes her to the hut at the crossing and he goes back to the castle to find Helen and Alan. At the castle he calls for Klove but he’s not around. That’s because Klove is back at the crossing with a horse and cart and he picks up Diana saying Charles sent him to pick her up.

Charles finds the passage behind the tapestry and he goes down to tomb but he doesn’t see Dracula in his tomb asleep butt he does find Alan’s body and runs off in horror. The sun sets and Dracula wakes up

Klove arrives at the castle with Diana and he locks her inside. Helen appears with hair down dressed in a nightdress and letting it all hang out. She has fangs and goes to bite Diana and Dracula appears snarling at her and tosses her away and grabs Diana. Charles appears and tells him to let her go. Helen tries to attack Charles and he drives her off. Then Dracula and Charles fight. Charles gets a sword but Dracula is too strong and grabs the sword out of Charles’s hand and snaps it and starts strangling Charles. Diana’s cross burns Helen so she uses it to ward off Helen while Charles forms a cross from the broken sword and wards off Dracula and they get away out of the castle. Helen goes to Dracula but he’s after Diana.

Charles and Diana are fleeing at full speed but the coach loses a wheel and tips them out and Diana is knocked unconscious. Charles carries her until he’s exhausted and he meets Sandor who takes them to Kleinburg monastery. Charles thought vampires were just a legend but Sandor tells him that in Carpathians Dracula is real and tells him there are ways of destroying a vampire, running water, sunlight, a stake through the heart. Sandor suggests they send Diana back to England out of Dracula’s reach then they can both return to the castle and destroy him.

Sandor takes Charles to see Ludwig (Thorley Walters) the monastery’s pet insane person who decorates book covers with gold leaf and eats files. He wants Sandor to approve his latest work and once he’s done that he tells them to go. Outside Klove has arrived in a covered wagon containing two coffins. He asks if he can come in for the night but they don’t let him inside. Ludwig senses Dracula and seems to receive hi instructions and starts working on the bars in his window with hammer and chisel. Sandor is saying that Dracula wil try to come after Diana but he cannot cross a threshold unless invited. Ludwig climbs out of the window through the broken bars and he goes to the main door and lets Dracula in

Diana hears knock on window its Helen claiming to have gotten away from Dracula and begging to be let inside. Diana of course falls for it and Helen bites her but Dracula grabs her away and Diana screams at the sight of him. Sandor wants to see bite and then uses a lamp to burn out the evil. He and Charles the leave Diana getting treated by monk and go out to the wagon and Sandor puts crucifixes in Dracula’s coffin

The monks have caught Helen and Sandor takes Charles to see what he has to do. Sandor tells Charles that Helen is dead and that is just evil using her body. The monks hold her down; Sandor hammers a stake into her heart and Charles turns away in horror. Afterwards he says a prayer over Helen who is now looking peacefully dead.

Ludwig fetches Diana to come see Sandor but really it’s for Dracula and she falls for it again. He locks the door and with his red eyes and pointy finger he mesmerises Diana and makes her remove her cross. He opens his shirt and cuts his chest with a fingernail and just about to make Diana drink it when he hears the voice of Charles out in the hallway and runs away with her into the coach.

Sandor and Charles get horses. They need to catch up on the wagon before it reaches it castle and Klove is driving the horses really fast. They take a short-cut off-road and overtake Klove. Charles shoots Klove but the horses run off by themselves back to the castle where they hit the side of a bridge and knock Dracula’s coffin out onto the ice covering a river (which is the first time it has even looked cold never mind wintry). Charles goes to take care of staking Dracula but the sunsets and Dracula wakes up and fights him. Diana shoots at Dracula but misses and breaks the ice. Dracula is looking worried so Sandor keeps shooting the ice until it cracks and dumps Dracula in the river flowing under the ice which just about the weakest vampire death I’ve ever seen.

Although it doesn’t have Peter Cushing Andrew Kier is great fun as the no-nonsense Father Sandor. Christopher Lee was very unhappy with dialogue written for him in this film so he just tossed it and never says a thing and still delivers a great performance as Dracula. Barbara Shelley is really excellent as Helen, and I especially enjoyed her performance where she’s very sensibly terrified and her friends are oblivious to the danger. It’s not the best of Hammer Dracula films but it is pretty solid apart from the ending and broad daylight pretending to be the middle of the night.

Rating 8.0/10

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Posted by on October 18, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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