Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1965)

DIRECTOR: Terence Fisher

CAST: Christopher Lee, Andrew Keir, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer, Charles Tingwell, Thorley Walters, Philip Latham, George Woodbridge.

This is one of the strongest entries in the Dracula series, mainly because it is the last to have a truly impressive protagonist in the shape of Andrew Keir as Father Sandor. Dracula's central foes in later films were increasingly weak, culminating in the awful The Scars of Dracula (1970), which totally lacked a convincing hero.

The first half of the film is a tense, suspenseful build-up to Dracula's appearance. Two travelling couples find themselves in Dracula's castle - against the advice of Father Sandor - and during the night, one of them finds themselves victim to the sinister servant Klove, who uses his victim's blood to revive the count. This resurrection scene is the most impressive episode in the film, with Klove acting as priest in an inverted Eucharistic ritual to bring his master back to life.

The second half of the film is taken up with Sandor's pursuit of Dracula and the attempt to destroy him. It is a pacier second half, though not as impressive.

As well as Keir's weighty performance, Barbara Shelley is particularly effective as Helen Kent, the repressed Englishwoman for whom vampirization unleashes an underlying feral, carnal sensuality. Lee is given no lines, having reportedly rejected some badly written dialogue, and is more or less the hissing, bestial creature that he became in the second half of the original Dracula (1958). He retains a powerful presence, however.

Michael Reed returned as cinematographer for his second Hammer film, the first being The Gorgon in 1964. He brings a visual richness to the film, particularly in the castle scenes.

Gallery

The prologue reused footage from the ending of Dracula (1958), filling out the edges with a mist effect to compensate for the unusually narrow Cinemascope dimensions:

Title card from Dracula, Prince of Darkness:

Andrew Keir makes his first appearance, as Father Sandor (location is Black Park):

The Bray Studios backlot became home to Dracula's castle:

Suzan Farmer and Barbara Shelley:

A very eerie Philip Latham as Dracula's servant, Klove:

Klove prepares for the ritual that will bring his master back to life:

Charles Kent's blood provides new life for Dracula:

Resurrection:

Christopher Lee's first appearance in the film (excepting the prologue). Note that rich blood red background, courtesy of cinematographer Michael Reed:

Close up of Christopher Lee:

Francis Matthews and Christopher Lee:

Thorley Walters as Ludwig (based on Stoker's Renfield) invites Dracula into the monastery:

Dracula seduces Diana Kent (Suzan Farmer):

Dracula contemplates his demise:

Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer and Andrew Keir look on:

Dracula is destroyed in the icy waters of his castle moat:

 

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David L Rattigan 2005
 

 

 

 

 

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