Kitchen sink dramas drew critical kudos, but British cinema's global success story was the house that Hammer built. Their original Dracula (1958) rescued distributors Warner Brothers from bankruptcy, but by the seventies the formula was looking pretty stale. Thus began Hammer's experimental decade, pushing sex and gore to the forefront in films good (Demons of the Mind (1972), Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter (1972)), bad (Lust for a Vampire (1970)), and downright bonkers, such as this, all over the place, sixth entry in the Dracula series.
You know you're in for a wild ride when the opening scene features a blood spewing rubber bat reviving the diabolical Count (Christopher Lee). When local lothario Paul (Christopher Matthews) spends the night at Castle Dracula, the result is pretty much what you'd expect. His brother Simon (Dennis Waterman - who disappointingly, neither writes nor sings the theme tune) and girlfriend Sarah (Jenny Hanley) search for him desperately, but encounter only the genre's requisite rude, grumbling, superstitious peasants. Soon, Dracula is out to put the bite on lovely Sarah and much eye gouging, impaling and face ripping mayhem ensues.
Gorier than previous Dracula films, its violent set-pieces staged with gusto by old hand Roy Ward Baker, this still suffers from a severe lack of vitality, colourless leads (Waterman sports a distracting, silly posh accent), and a story that goes nowhere. Lee has more dialogue and action, chomping necks with relish, devilish eyes bewitching his latest, buxom, belle du jour (Hanley wears Hammer costumiers' trademark, low-cut nighties), but faces some pretty feeble opponents. Amidst the supporting cast of cowardly parsons and nasty, self-serving villagers, Peter Cushing's moral authority is sorely missed.
Worse still, there is a touch of Benny Hill about its comic scenes, with Paul's randy antics more in line with British sex comedies. When he flees the Burgomaster, having seduced his daughter, one can almost hear the 'yakkity sax'. Further, unintentional comedy features in a scene where the vengeful mob, ready to storm Castle Dracula, decide to ring the doorbell first. Sequences at the castle carry hints of gothic style with spooky lighting and swathes of fog. This was the only entry featuring the count scaling his castle walls as he did in Bram Stoker's novel.
Patrick Troughton tackles the reoccurring character of Klove, Dracula's manservant, giving a more bestial performance than his predecessors. A strained attempt at pathos sees him fall in love with Sarah, while his relationship with the count carries a bizarre sadomasochistic tinge when Klove bears his flesh for scalding with a red-hot poker. If nothing else, catch this film for the once in a lifetime sight of a former Doctor Who as Dracula's S&M plaything. Remember the BBC's recent Dracula adaptation? Now you know why David Tennant stayed clear.
Reliable British director who worked his way up from teaboy to assistant to Alfred Hitchcock to overseeing his own hit projects from the 1940s to the 1970s. Making his debut with The October Man, he continued with Morning Departure, Don't Bother To Knock, Inferno, The One That Got Away and what is considered by many to be the best Titanic film, A Night To Remember.