{2jtab: Movie Review}

Dracula: Prince of Darkness - Blu-ray Review


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3 Stars

Bela Legosi was to Dracula as Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones to modern audiences. He so indelibly brought Bram Stoker’s count to life that whenever the world’s most famous vampire was mentioned, everyone would picture the angular caped man with a widow’s peak and a mesmerizing glare.

Imagine (painfully, I know) if tomorrow the trades announced a new actor was going to play Indiana Jones. You’d pitch a fit, right? Dracula is one of the most over utilized fictional characters in the history of cinema, and there were no doubt plenty of actors between Legosi’s immortal 1931 debut and the late fifties, when a popular tall Brit named Christopher Lee strapped on the cape. But no one—no one—owned the character like Legosi until Lee showed up.

Depending on your thirst for film history, it may surprise you to know that Lee was not all that enthusiastic about his most famous role. He has claimed many times that Hammer Films all but blackmailed him into returning, for fear of putting British cast and crew out of work. Something this reviewer didn’t realise was there being an eight year gap between Lee’s debut as the count: Dracula (or Horror of Dracula in the US) and this follow up.

Dracula: Prince of Darkness, helmed by Horror’s returned director Terrence Fisher, picks up a decade after the count burned to ashes at the hands of Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing. A pair of British gentlemen and their attractive wives tour the area where the count met his end. The village is very superstitious about their dead, and there are rumours that Dracula’s castle is still a danger. Of course these nosey Brits end up in the castle, served by a creeper caretaker who all but has nefarious tattooed across his forehead and the games begin. When Dracula does return, it is left to the survivors, along with a rather violent priest, to return the count to the grave.

Modern eyes will see these as hokey—much like the 1931 original—but these films successfully put the shivers in folk back in ’66. The script is as contrived and simplistic as a horror movie gets; there are no surprises bar one: Lee truly was not happy to be in this film and so Dracula doesn’t say a word—not one. The screenwriter claims he never wrote dialogue for the count, because vampires don’t talk (since when?), and Lee claims the dialogue was so atrocious he refused to utter it. What you get is Lee’s towering physique, his hard cruel stare, and real sense of menace. But compared to the previous film, this one suffers in the count’s simplification, the lack of an equal like Cushing, and the fact—and this happened in plenty of the following entries—that it takes nearly an hour for Dracula to return.

These are economically budgeted pictures, but the production design, craftsmanship, and cinematography is first rate, and a credit to the talent that Hammer possessed in those days. This was before diminishing returns and budgetary cuts mired their once stellar reputation. These were audacious pictures back then, crossing boundaries that might seem tame now, but were as shocking to a sixties’ audience as a torture porn flick is today. And just like today, Hammer copped its share of flack.

Prince of Darkness may not be the greatest Dracula film, but it cemented Lee in his iconic role, and paved the way for a slew of follow ups. Collectively, they are now revered as classics, and Lee as one of only a handful of actors to definitively embody Bram Stoker’s beloved character. Watch it with that in mind, try not to impose your modern expectations on this now vintage entry, and this reviewer promises a good time.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Dracula: Prince of Darkness - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: BBFC: 15.
: Terence Fisher
: Jimmy Sangster
Cast: Christopher Lee; Barbara Shelley; Andrew Keir; Francis Matthews; Suzan Farmer
Genre: Horror
Memorable Movie Quote: "My master died without issue, sir... In the accepted sense of the term."
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Site:
Release Date: January 12, 1966
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
April 30, 2012

Synopsis: Dracula is resurrected, preying on four unsuspecting visitors to his castle.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Dracula: Prince of Darkness - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
3 Stars

3 Stars

Blu-ray Experience
3 Stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - April 30, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
: English SDH
Audio: English: LPCM 2.0 (Original)
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set (1 BD, 1 DVD); DVD copy
Playback: Locked to Region B

Well, there have been problems, and this disc is currently not available in the UK on Amazon, due to sound flaws. The copy this reviewer was delivered had no such problems. The LPCM 2.0 audio is really not going to set an audiophile’s night on fire, but it does its job. What it does do is give the listener an appreciation for how things used to be. The picture has been restored, but DNR is fairly heavy handed. Colour and saturation have probably never looked this good. There are stills signs of grain, and inconsistent restoration between outdoor scenes, studios shot scenes, and stock footage, but again it kind of helps the nostalgic feel a little. Extras are decent: there is a half hour featurette on the making of the film; a rather dull gimmick, showing the pre-restored and post-restored versions; and a commentary with cast including Christopher Lee (unpreviewed).



  • Feature-length audio commentary with Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, and Francis Matthews

Special Features:

  • Documentary - with retrospect by Marcus Hearn and Mark Gatiss
  • Restoration comparison
  • World of Hammer episode on Lee narrated by Oliver Reed

{2jtab: Trailer}