October 29, 2016

Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

Review #859: Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

Christopher Lee (Count Dracula), Barbara Shelley (Helen Kent), Andrew Keir (Father Sandor), Francis Matthews (Charles Kent), Suzan Farmer (Diana Kent), Charles Tingwell (Alan Kent), Thorley Walters (Ludwig), Philip Latham (Klove), Walter Brown (Brother Mark), and Jack Lambert (Brother Peter) Directed by Terence Fisher (#257 - The Curse of Frankenstein, #258 - Dracula (1958), #272 - The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959), #469 - The Revenge of Frankenstein, #833 - Spaceways, #857 - Frankenstein Created Woman, and #858 - Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed)

This was the second of the Dracula Hammer films to feature Christopher Lee (eight years after his last appearance), though this time Peter Cushing (as Van Helsing) does not return. In fact, Cushing wouldn't feature with Lee in a Dracula film again until Dracula A.D. 1972 (I should note that Cushing starred in The Brides of Dracula, whereas Lee did not), though he is shown in the prologue, taken right from Dracula (#258) and its climax. This time around, the Kent family are the ones who encounter Dracula, revived due to mixing blood of one of the Kents with his ashes. The scenery is brilliant as usual. Dracula appears halfway through the movie, and the effects used to show his revival (along with his awakening from the place he was buried) is quite excellent. It should be noted that Lee doesn't speak all throughout the movie, with it either being due to Lee not wanting to speak the lines written for him (as said by Lee) or that there were no lines written for him (as said by the writer). In any case, his performance relies on his facial expressions, his hissing, and his imposing features, which he does quite well. Shelley is somewhat annoying (yes, she is the one who warns them to leave), but she is interesting after she becomes one of the undead. Keir is good at giving some sort of exposition about Dracula but also being quite entertaining. Matthews and Farmer are fine, having the sort of chemistry together one would expect in a horror film like this, which isn't overbearing nor too radically different. The scene where Lee and Farmer are alone together is also quite eerie and creepy, in part due to the music by James Bernard. It's interesting to see Walters (who you'd recognize from Frankenstein Created Women) as a sort of Renfield type of character, and he has a certain strangeness about him that works. You don't have to see the first one in order to get a grip on this film, which is nice. This time around, Dracula succumbs not due to the sun or a stake, but...(are you ready for this): running water. There is something amusing about that, in part because of Lee flailing around in the ice, but the movie doesn't really lose too much steam, in part because it ends not long after. On the whole, it's obviously not as good as the first film, but it is enjoyable in its own right, even after over 50 years.

Side note: If one is checking the Labels section and wondering why (British born) Jack Lambert is listed with a (B) next to his label, it is to differentiate him from the American actor of the same name.

Overall, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

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