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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dracula, Prince Of Darkness

     Despite the huge success of the first Hammer Dracula film in 1958, it took an astonishing 8 years to convince Christopher Lee to reprise his role as the evil Count Dracula.  Fortunately for us, he did, and the 1966 Hammer classic "Dracula: Prince of Darkness", is an uneven, but nonetheless awesome Hammer film, and one of the spookiest. Taking place ten years after "Horror Of Dracula", this second installment finds Count Dracula dead and gone, and two proper British couples vacationing in the Carpathian mountains. As they find themselves abandoned by their coach, a mysterious buggy arrives with no driver, and promptly whisks them away to Castle Dracula.  Upon arriving, they chillingly find a table set for four, as if they were somehow expected.  They also find that the castle is being cared for by Dracula's creepy manservant, Klove.  He proceeds to tell the bewildered group that Dracula's wish was for the castle to remain open to visitors.  They decide to stay overnight, and that's where the story takes a rather horrific turn. Later that night, one of the men are slaughtered by Klove, and his blood is mixed with the ashes of Dracula, which resurrects him.  It's a shocking scene.

     Before we know it, Dracula is back and thirsty for blood, and soon the three remaining vacationers find themselves fighting for their lives from the recently resurrected Count.  There is something undeniably spooky about Christopher Lee as Dracula- I can't quite put my finger on what it is... but it's something for sure.  Anyway, you cannot take your eyes off him whenever he's onscreen, which I'll be honest- as much as I love this movie, Dracula could have been featured a bit more prominently in the film.  But hey, at least he's in this one, right?  Lee never utters a single word in this sequel, but he doesn't need to.  He says it all with his unnerving, bloodshot stare. Rumor has it that Lee was not happy about the dialogue written for him, so he simply refused to speak it. Whether or not it's true, it does not affect the film at all. The standard Hammer use of lavish colors and foreboding grays abound- really, the visuals are quite impressive here.

      "Dracula: Prince of Darkness" has an unsettling, evil atmosphere about it- it really is in my opinion quite a remarkable Hammer film.  If I had to come up with complaints about this installment, it's that we could have used more of Dracula himself, like I said.  We are treated to Klove, the servant, more than Dracula- and although Klove comes across as quite menacing in his own right, give us more Lee already! And sadly, Peter Cushing is nowhere to be found in this sequel, either.  The script isn't the greatest, but Terence Howard delivers such a visually rich production that it doesn't really matter. It's still a classic and fan favorite, and I'm very partial to this one.

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