Director: Alan Gibson
Writer: Don Houghton
Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Coles, William Franklyn, Freddie Jones, Joanna Lumley, Richard Vernon, Barbara Yu Ling, Patrick Barr, Richard Mathews, Lockwood West, Valerie Van Ost, Maurice O’Connell, Peter Adair, Maggie Fitzgerald, Pauline Peart, Finnuala O’Shannon, Mia Martin, John Harvey, Marc Zuber, Paul Weston, Ian Dewar, and Graham Rees
Composer: John Cacavas
Release Date: 11/3/1973
MPAA Rating: R
Investigating a case of vampirism, Inspector Murray (Michael Coles) of Scotland Yard calls on occult expert Professor Lorrimer Van Helsing for assistance. Before long, Van Helsing stumbles onto a conspiracy involving Count Dracula—determined to exterminate mankind with the help of a manufactured plague.
Combining action movie tropes with the narrative structure of an espionage thriller, The Satanic Rites of Dracula is marred by a distinct lack of atmosphere. Horror enthusiasts may therefore wish to avoid this film, which forgoes the elegant dialogue, Gothic set pieces, and suspenseful character moments that define prior installments of the Hammer Dracula series.
Similar to Horror of Dracula and Dracula A.D. 1972, this offering benefits from the chemistry of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee—the main highlights of an otherwise dated and poorly written film. Specifically intriguing is the initial confrontation between Dracula (now posing as a property developer named D. D. Denham) and Van Helsing, who employs a clever trick in order to expose the true identity of his long-time adversary—a subtle homage to the 1931 version of Dracula, wherein Professor Van Helsing (Edward Van Sloan) uses a common mirror to reveal the secret nature of Dracula (Bela Lugosi).
With its heavy emphasis on high-tech gadgets and motorcycle chases, The Satanic Rites of Dracula will likely fail to captivate fans of the Gothic horror genre—the original target audience for Hammer’s lineup of Dracula films.
On a related note, this production suffers from an early 1970s timeline—an awkward period in which to introduce Count Dracula, who, having first appeared in an 1897 novel by Bram Stoker, seems out of place in a 20th-century setting.
Connecting a fictional doomsday scheme to the Biblical prophecy of Armageddon, this film alludes to a strong parallel between Count Dracula and the Christian Devil. (Viewers may, however, question the logic of Dracula’s plan to destroy all humans, which, if implemented, would deprive vampires of their primary food source.)
The Satanic Rites of Dracula operates on a captivating premise. Classic horror buffs may nevertheless take issue with this film, which contains an obscene ritual murder, a silly fight sequence, and a hackneyed twist ending.
Overall Quality: 4/10
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