Friday, September 21, 2012

Toothless: "Dracula: Prince of Darkness" (1966)

I think people need to rethink their loyalty to Hammer Studios, since not everything they released was wonderful. This film is a prime example. A sequel to "The Horror of Dracula," it has no bite.

Two brothers, Charles and Alan, are traveling with their respective wives, Diana and Helen. (Charles and Diana... how ironic). A burly priest warns them to stay away from a certain creepy castle, but does not elaborate as to why. They are warned off this certain castle, but end up there anyway. Helen is already shown to be the uptight one, and refuses to be swayed by the castle or its creepy servant, Clove. Charles, Alan, and Diana think this is a wonderful adventure, and take advantage of the "dead" castle's owner's kindness to travelers. To make a long story short, Clove kills Alan, revives Dracula, who bites Helen, turning her from a Julie Andrews into a Julie Strain, but without the constant nudity. Diana and Charles escape to the burly priest's monastery, where Dracula is let in by one of his old employees. Dracula races Charles and burly priest back to the castle for the final showdown.

This film is an hour and a half, and still too long. There are many dull stretches as Charles and Alan say "oh, darling, there is nothing to be frightened of" much too often. Lee, who has no lines, does not appear until the midpoint of the movie (not counting the opening clip from the preceding film), leaving the viewer to have to suffer through boring plot points like where the pesky tourists will find lodging for the night and why is the burly priest so mad at the superstitious townsfolk when in fact the paranoid townsfolk had the vampire legend right all along? Charles and Alan are not Schwarzenegger and Stallone, as they often seem more annoyed by Dracula's lack of proper manners than fearing for their very lives. Helen, played by Barbara Shelley, is such a pill you wish she would get a stake in the heart long before she is turned into a vampire.

Christopher Lee is not given much to do except to hiss and bug his eyes, like a kitten with a thyroid condition. The suspense consists mostly of Dracula's resurrection, thanks to lots of Alan's blood and some shadowy appearances. The climax, obviously filmed indoors, involves Dracula almost falling through some pretty fake ice. You will need a cold bath, too, to wake yourself up from this disappointment.

I cannot recommend it, even to Hammer fanatics. (* *) out of five stars.