Director: Terence Fisher
Writer: John Sansom
Cast: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer, Charles Tingwell, Thorley Walters, Philip Latham, Walter Brown, George Woodbridge, Jack Lambert, Philip Ray, Joyce Hemson, and John Maxim
Composer: James Bernard
Release Date: 1/9/1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
While visiting Karlsbad, travelers Helen (Barbara Shelley), Charles (Francis Matthews), Diana (Suzan Famer), and Alan (Charles Tingwell) spend the night in Castle Dracula. Trouble soon occurs when Klove (Philip Latham), servant of the late Count Dracula, brings his master back to life by draining the blood of Alan—with a ghastly outcome for the remaining guests.
Dracula: Prince of Darkness benefits from haunting set pieces, sympathetic main characters, and intense physical sequences involving Christopher Lee’s Dracula—a towering, aggressive creature with animal instincts. Hammer horror fans and diehard monster buffs will therefore enjoy this film, which offers a decent follow-up narrative to Horror of Dracula.
Taking place in a spooky Gothic castle, Dracula: Prince of Darkness builds a compelling layer of suspense prior to revealing the titular vampire. Especially ominous are the premonitions of Helen, who, while staying in Castle Dracula overnight, develops a strange feeling that something terrible will happen—an effective use of foreshadowing that, when combined with an eerie setting, contributes to the atmospheric tension leading up to Dracula’s entrance.
Standing in for Peter’s Cushing’s role of Doctor Van Helsing, Father Sandor (Andrew Keir) will also evoke praise for his authoritative, compassionate, and good-humored attributes, which make him a likable and worthy foe to Count Dracula.
Though powerful and imposing, Lee’s Dracula fails to embody the elegance and affability that many associate with a cunning vampire—undoubtedly a consequence of Lee’s lack of dialogue in this film. (Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, in contrast, wears a charming and humble facade while luring victims into his thrall, allowing him to prey on those of a trusting or weak-minded nature.)
Featuring a Renfield-like character who feeds on flies, Dracula: Prince of Darkness pays direct homage to the 1897 novel by Bram Stoker—unlike the aforementioned Horror of Dracula, which tells an original story based on key elements from Stoker’s account.
Combining classic vampire tropes with a gory resurrection angle, Dracula: Prince of Darkness is a solid entry in Hammer’s lineup of horror films. Viewers may, however, take issue with Lee’s limited screen presence and late arrival in this offering.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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