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  Taste the Blood of Dracula It's salty!
Year: 1969
Director: Peter Sasdy
Stars: Christopher Lee, Linda Hayden, Geoffrey Keen, Peter Sallis, John Carson, Ralph Bates, Anthony Corlan, Isla Blair, Martin Jarvis, Roy Kinnear, Russell Hunter
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Hammer Films’ fifth Dracula movie is one of their finest. Taste The Blood Of Dracula begins with a bumbling, travelling salesman (Roy Kinnear) witnessing Dracula’s bloody demise, restaged from the climax of Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968). Seizing a chance for profit, he brings a vial of Dracula’s powdered blood to London and sells it to suave Satanist, Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates). Our central characters are William Hargood (Geoffrey Keen), Sam Paxton (Wallace & Gromit’s Peter Sallis), and Jonathan Secker (John Carson), three pillars of Victorian respectability who congregate at their local brothel every month to indulge in strippers, harlots, opium and other sordid pleasures.

Here they meet Courtley, who offers them the thrill to end all the thrills -- a chance to partake in a ritual that will bring Dracula back from the dead. The men agree, but freak out when asked to drink the vampire’s blood. After bludgeoning Courtley to death, they flee the scene, whereupon his corpse transforms -- into Dracula! The vengeful vampire sets about corrupting his adversaries’ children, beginning with beautiful Alice Hargood (Linda Hayden), whose hypocritical father rejects her suitor, Paul Paxton (Anthony Corlan). Hypnotized by Dracula, Alice helps spread the vampire plague to Lucy Paxton (Isla Blair) and Jeremy Secker (Martin Jarvis), and one by one, the children punish the sins of their fathers.

With Christopher Lee initially reluctant to don cape and fangs once again, the original idea was that Ralph Bates would be chief villain, a disciple possessed by the spirit of Dracula. Even after Lee acquiesced and hopped aboard, the actor refused to deliver much of the dialogue he claimed was poorly written. Despite the hastily rewritten script and a handful of meandering scenes, Taste The Blood Of Dracula is excellent, a film that really turns the tables on the vampire-hunters. Hungarian-born director Peter Sasdy mounts a spirited attack on Victorian hypocrisy and draws parallels with the conflicts raging between young and old in the late Sixties. His use of dizzying, hand-held cameras during the snake-dancing brothel scenes establishes this is a seedy, corrupt world where Dracula’s evil can flourish. Lee’s lack of dialogue actually serves the film well, as Dracula wields satanic power via sheer presence alone. He becomes a Charles Manson-like figure, corrupting Victorian-era flower children and turning them on three, weak fathers.

Most of the action centres around Dracula’s angel of vengeance, Alice. No surprise, since she’s played by everyone’s favourite satanic nymphet, Linda Hayden, a cult figure among horror fans for films like this and Blood on Satan’s Claw (1969). She’s not the only visual delight on offer, as Sasdy crafts striking imagery: the vampire’s bloodshot eyes, the powdered blood that seeps with a life of its own, and the cocooning of Courtley’s corpse that cracks open to reveal Count Dracula. Most wondrous is the church-set climax where prayers, lit candles and crucifixes coalesce into the divine presence that finally fells Dracula once the guilty have been punished and only innocents remain. Ah, but he came back… in Scars of Dracula (1970).
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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