Sunday, October 8, 2017

Horror Countdown 2017: Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) dir. Peter Sasdy, Hammer Film Productions

Now we're moving into the world of Hammer, and specifically the early 70's. Taste the Blood of Dracula really seemed determined to fix the problems that Dracula Has Risen from the Grave. Does it succeed?

 We open with Mr. Weller (Roy Kinnear), a traveling salesman of sort, as he ventures through the backwoods of Eastern Europe. His attempts at selling cheap junk to his fellow coach passengers results in his being tossed out of the coach and forced to walk through the dark woods. Lost, he stumbles across the castle of Dracula, in time to see his being impaled on a massive cross. He's captivated as he sees the count dissolve into a frothy mess. He snags the ring and cape that were left behind and runs.

Five years later we move to three gentlemen of some standing. William Hargood (Geoffrey Keen), Samuel Paxton (Peter Sallis), and Jonathan Secker (John Carson) are all your typical Victorian gents. 

Hargood in particular is your typical moralizer. When his daughter Alice (Linda Hayden) greets her boyfriend Paul (Anthony Higgins) outside of church, the older man has a grand mal freak out and accuses her of profaning the Sabbath by acting like a whore. He tells his wife (Gwen Watford) that he's going out and won't be back until later. Important charity work you know, nothing a woman needs to concern herself with.

We see the charity work, although most of it seems to be supporting the local population of prostitutes by giving them money in exchange for sex. Alongside Paxton (who's also Paul's father) and Secker, the trio ends up at a high end house of ill repute run by Felix (Russell Hunter). This particular night ends poorly though, as the men's favorite working gals have been swayed to the affections of Lord Courtly (Ralph Bates), a reprobate of the highest order. 

The men aren't angry, in fact they're rather intrigued. They're getting a bit bored after all, and if Courtly can show them a good time, well, why not?

What he proposes is dealing with the Devil. Buying the cape and ring from Weller, Courtly brings the trio of pleasure seekers to the ruined crypt on his estate. The men get a bit squeamish when it comes to drinking the blood Courtly has filled the cup with, blood that he found in the cape. Angered, Courtly drinks the whole thing himself and promptly drops, screaming in agony. The trio beat both a hasty retreat and Courtly too as the dying man begs for help. Once all three men have left, it is Dracula (Christopher Lee) who emerges from under the cape. He's not happy and he'll make his displeasure known.

He does this, not by killing the men himself, but rather turning their children. When Hargood returns home, he's not a good mood. When he discovers Alice had the audacity to go outside with her friends, he chases her into the garden with a riding crop in hand. Dracula, however, takes over Alice's mind and has her beat the old man to death with a shovel.

From there it's not too much trouble to have Alice lure Lucy Paxton (Ilsa Blair), who's dating Secker's son Jeremy (Martin Jarvis) away to meet her new friend.

Paul, meanwhile, is having trouble convincing the local inspector (Michael Ripper) that something is wrong. His father and Secker, however, think there might be something, so they head back to the Courtly crypt. Lucy is waiting for them though, and the senior Paxton is too weak to stake his own daughter. His daughter has no such qualms about returning the favor. 

Can Paul figure out the truth before it's too late? Will Dracula be stopped before all of London is turned into vampires?

Pretty good and leagues better than the last entry. Lee made the film under protest as before (hence why he didn't show up proper until late in the story), but his Dracula still has the sense of menace.

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