DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS (director: Terence Fisher; screenwriters: Anthony Hinds/Jimmy Sangster/from the story by Bram Stoker; cinematographer: Michael Reed; editor: Chris Barnes; music: James Bernard; cast: Christopher Lee (Dracula), Barbara Shelley (Helen Kent), Andrew Keir (Father Sandor), Francis Matthews (Charles Kent), Suzan Farmer (Diana Kent), Charles Tingwell (Alan Kent), Philip Latham (Klove), Thorley Walters (Ludwig), John Maxim (Coach Driver), Walter Brown (Brother Mark); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Anthony Nelson Keys; Twentieth Century–Fox; 1966-UK)
“Only average made Hammer horror pic about Dracula’s resurrection.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Dracula, Prince Of Darkness, based on the story by Bram Stoker and written by Anthony Hinds and Jimmy Sangster, was the official sequel to Hammer’s Horror of Dracula (1958), but not as good. Christopher Lee revisits the Dracula role after waiting eight years. This was Hammer’s third Dracula movie. Director Terence Fisher (“The Devil’s Bride”/”The Curse of Frankenstein”/”The Hound of the Baskervilles”) opens the film with a magic mirror in which we witness the destruction of Dracula by his nemesis Van Helsing. Unfortunately this piece of stock footage is better than anything that follows, in this only average Hammer made horror pic about Dracula’s resurrection thanks to the unwitting help of four snooty upper-class British tourists on vacation to the Carpathian Mountains to broaden their mind. The carefree couple of Charles (Francis Matthews) and his wife Diana Kent (Suzan Farmer), his uptight older brother Alan (Charles Tingwell) and his prudish disapproving wife Helen (Barbara Shelley, known as the first lady of horror movies).
The curious tourist couples are deserted by their superstitiouscoachman (John Maxim) in the secluded woods of Carlsbad, as he refuses to travel there in the dark. Deciding not to take shelter in a rundown woodcutter’s shack, they allow the driverless horse carriage that suddenly appears to take them to Dracula’s castle atop the hill even though they were warned the other day by the abbot of a nearby monastery, Father Sandor (Andrew Keir), under no circumstances to go to the castle. The creepy looking sinister butler, Klove (Philip Latham), prepares them a fine meal and tells them “My Master’s hospitality is renowned.” He further tells them his master died ten years ago, but ordered him to carry out the tradition.
At night Alan leaves a frightened Helen alone in her room as he goes down the long hallway to investigate a noise that Klove is making. Klove knocks him unconscious, hangs him upside down and slits his throat. Alan’s blood pours over his master’s ashes in a coffin and soon Dracula is resuscitated. Helen is then lured down to see Dracula and becomes his first victim, as after he sucks her blood she’s transformed into a vampire. The no longer repressed Helen tries to vamp Charles and Diana, but they flee for the monastery after brandishing crosses and seek the help of the authoritative blustery gun-toting vampire expert Father Sandor (a Van Helsing substitute). Also staying at the monastery is a seemingly harmless craftsman named Ludwig (Thorley Walters), who is under the influence of Dracula and tries to help him get his victims out of the safety of the monastery. When, indeed, Diana is taken by Dracula back to the castle Father Sandor and Charles pursue and Dracula is standing in the dark on his frozen moat in front of the castle and Father Sandor uses his rifle to put holes in the ground and, as one should very well know, running water will kill a vampire.
Though Dracula, Prince Of Darkness is a well-made film, is stylishly Gothic and well-acted (Christopher Lee speaks no dialogue, just puts the scare on us by flashing his vampire fangs), it’s not much fun, the unsympathetic vics are such unpleasant dolts that it’s hard to care what happens to them and it’s plot machinations become rather lethargic. It’s probably one of the weaker Dracula films Hammer made.
REVIEWED ON 10/2/2010 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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