Review: COUNTESS DRACULA (1971)

Pride goeth before destruction in COUNTESS DRACULA, the 1971 horror picture from Hammer Film Productions. Directed by Peter Sasdy from a screenplay by Jeremy Paul, this movie is based on the story of Elizabeth Báthory and takes sure delight in the remarkable mythology surrounding the Hungarian noble/serial killer. But where Sasdy’s production really hammers things down is in its exploration of what drives her actions. She is a frenzied ruin, a wretch clinging to youth’s tender treachery.

The widowed Countess Elisabeth Nádasdy (Ingrid Pitt) is living a discontented existence despite the company of her lover Captain Dobi (Nigel Green). She dreadfully seeks youth, which leads her to the discovery that she can be young again with the help of the blood of fledgling women. She sets off on a crime spree, which involves the slaughter of several women and the kidnapping of her own daughter (Lesley-Anne Down).

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Captain Dobi is a compelling piece of work as the acquiescent part-time lover of Elisabeth. He is hideously aware of her lust for Imre Toth (Sandor Elès) and his impeccable moustache. By hook or by crook, Dobi slogs on and seems capable of actual gladness and even some inadvertent compassion. He supplies the Countess with her supply of young flesh and blood, but he’s sure to tip the fated blonde (Andrea Lawrence) a little something extra before she meets her end.

Captain Dobi permits the Countess’ behaviour, which stems from a lack of self-worth. The ensuing trail of blood logically settles at a wedding, with the eager woman and her followers getting what’s coming to them. This must be the ultimate indignity for Pitt’s Nádasdy, but it’s hard to argue that her vicious exploitation of the poor is something that can face adequate retribution. Sasdy is sure of this, exposing her horror for what it is and making sure her craven enablers see their share of the crossbeams as well.

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