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Dracula, Prince of Darkness: Collector's Edition (1965) - Blu-ray Review

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Dracula, Prince of Darkness: Collector's Edition - Blu-ray

Directed by Terence Fisher, Dracula, Prince of Darkness is Hammer Films' first sequel to 1958's Horror of Dracula to feature the return of Christopher Lee as the Count (who was absent from 1960's Brides of Dracula).  It also marks a sort of crossroads marker for Hammer’s brand of horror.  The genre was a becoming a bit stale and Hammer knew it.  It was time to do something … bold.

Hammer’s strong production values are still present throughout much of Dracula, Prince of Darkness.  That never changes regardless of the era.  Most importantly, this is the start of the second wave of classic Hammer as they made an executive decision to amp up the gore and the sexuality and, in doing so, managed to reinvigorate the genre and their bottom line.

"While the first half of the picture is better than the largely mechanical finale, John Samson’s screenplay is ripe with pent-up sexual repression that Dracula exploits"


Dracula, Prince of Darkness begins with the ending of 1958’s film – in which a younger looking Peter Cushing defeats the Count – and then jumps a good decade into the future.  The Count’s castle stands ready for its next round of victims … er … guests.  When two  vacationing couples experience a mishap with their plans, their wagon is mysteriously guided to Count Dracula’s castle.  Watched over by the Count's servant Klove (Philip Latham), the castle stands ready to greet them and make them feel secure.

Klove has a plan that will resurrect his deceased master.  It involves a grisly murder, his master’s coffin, and a freakishly deadpan expression.  And only Andrew Keir as a vampire slaying monk can stop the madness.

While the first half of the picture is better than the largely mechanical finale, John Samson’s screenplay is ripe with pent-up sexual repression that Dracula exploits.  In one scene, a gang of priests hold a writing female vampire down and pierce her heart with a stake.  Read in between the lines if you wish, but this puppy is loaded with interesting sexual situations that make for strangely bizarre intrigue.

Lee who returns to the role without uttering a single line of dialogue is exceptional as the bloodsucker – complete with great big red eyes and teeth – and reclaims the role he so richly deserves to be remembered for.  So what if he only snarls and goes for the flesh?!  And so what if he sinks into the chilling waters of his own private moat all too soon?!

Dracula, Prince of Darkness: Collector's Edition - Blu-ray

That’s the major problem with the movie: Dracula – other than look like beastly royalty – has nothing to do.  There are ongoing debates about the script changes that caused the screenwriter to change his name and Lee to remain silent but – the only truth that matters – is that we will never know what the original version offered.

Chunks of Dracula, Prince of Darkness are derived from Bram Stoker's novel – even the inclusion of the demented fly-eating Ludwig (Thorley Walters) in a nod to Renfield – but the film fails to match the strength of the first film in the series.  That doesn’t stop the film from being one the best Dracula features to have been made, though.

Almost 50 years later, Dracula, Prince of Darkness still offers something to sink your teeth into.

4 beers

Dracula, Prince of Darkness: Collector's Edition - Blu-ray

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
90 mins
Director
: Terence Fisher
Writer:
Jimmy Sangster
Cast:
Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
FIGHT BACK! DEFEND YOURSELF!
Memorable Movie Quote: "We'll pray. We'll pray. We'll pray for the last time. We'll pray."
Theatrical Distributor:
United Artists
Official Site:
Release Date:
November 16, 1976
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
October 11, 2016
Synopsis: His name was Count Dracula. An old and distinguished family. That is the coat of arms over the fireplace.

Dracula, Prince of Darkness: Collector's Edition - Blu-ray

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Shout Factory
Available on Blu-ray
- December 18, 2018
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: LPCM mono track
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Scream Factory gets in the Hammer Films market with this release and offers the restored 1080p transfer with a few impressive results.  First, there’s no denying the film has never looked better with this 4K scan.  Colors are bold and dynamic and that fake blood is more obvious than ever.  That being said, there are a few problems with the shading as most of the blacks bleed into other colors more often than they should.  Obviously, there are some issues with the original film stock and while the sets are glorious under the restoration, it is more than obvious details aren’t exactly being picked up like one might expect.  An LPCM mono track is a welcome addition. Bernard's excellent score benefits from some extra definition and the clarity of the dialogue enables the film to be followed satisfactorily. English subtitles are also available during the feature.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • There are TWO commentaries: a NEW one with author Troy Howarth and one featuring Christopher Lee, Suzan Farmer, Francis Matthews, and Barbara ShelleyLee is quite long-winded and does try to command the conversation throughout, even when Shelley and Matthews have their own anecdotes to contribute.  It’s a good recording to have for fans.

Special Features:

There's quite a good set of extras included here.  Marcus Hearn and the frankly marvellous Mark Gatiss contribute to a retrospective documentary on the film. Hearn sets the background and Gatiss offers his personal feelings on the film, and Matthews and Shelley pop up as talking heads as well.  Happily included is a World of Hammer episode on Lee narrated by the late great Oliver Reed which celebrates the tall one's monsters and his more dramatic roles.

  • The World of Hammer Episode: Dracula and the Undead
  • Back to Black Documentary
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Still Gallery

Dracula, Prince of Darkness: Collector's Edition - Blu-ray

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