Peter Sasdy’s slushy TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA picks up where DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE left off, with the titular Count (Christopher Lee) a veritable puddle of essence. The 1970 picture from Hammer Film Productions tackles another side of the series’ sweltering sex, with a theme familiar to anyone with a mind on how the most sanctimonious among us often carry the murkiest of secrets. The screenplay by Anthony Hinds features plenty of cruelty at the hands of rich, jaded men.
After Weller (Roy Kinnear) comes across a fading Dracula (Lee), he takes a keepsake for himself. A while later, a trio of English gentlemen seek thrills in the underbelly of society. They meet Weller through a sinister young lord (Ralph Bates) and buy some of Dracula’s desiccated blood with intentions on performing a shady ritual. Something goes wrong and the men kill the young man. They flee back to their lives, but the ritual has turned up Dracula and he’s got revenge on his mind.
The main thrust of the tale involves William Hargood (Geoffrey Keen). He hates the fact that his daughter Alice (Linda Hayden) is in love with Paul (Anthony Corlan), who happens to be the son of one of his friends. William prohibits his daughter from seeing her beau, but she’s intent on marriage. There is a multitude of issues at play, the most compelling of which is William’s pretence. He seeks the company of whores, yet considers his own daughter a harlot because she grins at Paul in church.
TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA contends with duplicity, the way the men coil under weight of social norms while hiding their base cravings. They are distressed at Count Dracula’s imposition, upset at the blood on their hands. They like the darkness sustained, even if they’ve become bored by conventional sin, and the vampire’s robust overtures impend the oblique social order. Lee’s Dracula defies their worldview, a façade marked by muffled religiosity and suppressed by drink and domestic violence. But when the shade falls and love’s full beam is allowed, the darkness dies once more.