Review: DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)

As the third entry in Hammer Film Productions’ DRACULA series, DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS resuscitates the heat and blood of the legend and draws Christopher Lee back out of the coffin. This 1966 outing is directed by Terence Fisher and features a screenplay by Jimmy Sangster. It returns the titular character to the throne, expanding through the cult of 1960’s THE BRIDES OF DRACULA and rendering its scoundrel out of the muck and mire of human essence.

The plot begins with the Kent family on a journey. They wish to visit Carlsbad despite the advice of Father Sandor (Andrew Keir) to go elsewhere. The clan is transported to a shadowy castle by a driverless coach and they take to their new surroundings with caution, at least at first. The butler Klove (Philip Latham) informs the group that the castle’s late owner left orders to open the doors of welcome, but there’s more to the place than meets the eye. Ultimately, one of the Kents winds up dead and another is transformed into a robust servant of the night by Count Dracula (Lee) himself.

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It is encouraging to see Lee as Dracula once again. He does not speak in DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS and that forges a haunting aspect, especially as he prowls the corridors and emerges in waves of black cloth. It is up to the living, the unlucky Kents in particular, to do the talking. They wonder about their circumstances, with Charles (Francis Matthews) leading the way. He is confident before he knows what he’s into.

It is left to Helen (Barbara Shelley) to worry. She is the most apprehensive and perhaps the most careful, but she winds up the most susceptible as well. Her dread mirrors the dread of the faithful at the commencement of the picture, when Father Sandor confronts a group of local religious authorities prepared to stake a woman’s corpse. This fear – and its consequences – haunt DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS like vapour. And Lee’s Count waits, servants in tow, for the hastening leap of the blood and for the murky shroud to drape the land once more.

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