Review: SCARS OF DRACULA (1970)

SCARS OF DRACULA is among the most visceral of the outings in Hammer Film Productions’ DRACULA series and that leaves it with its own distinction, even as the deeper narrative is rather threadbare. There are some neat tricks in this 1970 picture, which is directed by Roy Ward Baker and features a screenplay by Anthony Hinds, and the title character is less a loiterer and more a palpitating but civil thing of the damned.

Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) is once more brought back to life. Inhabitants of the surrounding area are troubled by his crimes and attempt to burn down his stronghold, only to find their women and children butchered by bats. When Paul (Christopher Matthews) finds himself in the Count’s castle, he too is set upon by its dweller. That sends Paul’s brother Simon (Dennis Waterman) to find out what happened. Simon’s fiancé (Jenny Hanley) is in tow, which only gives Dracula more insidious incentive.

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SCARS OF DRACULA takes some time to get its motor running, with Paul’s story cruising through a few bendy sidetracks before reaching the main event. There is an untrue and disappointingly comic allegation of rape, which ostensibly establishes Paul as a bed-hopping libertine. This, in turn, seemingly founds his justification for bonking Dracula’s mistress (Anouska Hempel) and afterward serves to contrast Paul with his more lucid and moral brother.

Whether or not that sets up some sort of reason for the violence that follows is in the eye of the beholder, but the Count is magnetic. SCARS OF DRACULA finally lets us into his castle and we see what goes on behind bolted doors. His servants are explored in frightening detail and Klove (Patrick Troughton) is tortured for disloyalty. This insight is welcome, but the collaged plot is less absorbing than previous entries and the heroes are as milquetoast as the law allows. In the end, SCARS OF DRACULA is mostly notable for its graphic, lavish approach and its giant quaking bats.

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