Dracula - Prince of Darkness (1966)
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Anchor Bay (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 2.35:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 1.0, French DD 1.0. 90 minutes
The Movie
Director: Terence Fisher
Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer
Screenplay: John Sansom (Jimmy Sangster)
Music: James Bernard
AKA: The Bloody Scream of Dracula, Disciple of Dracula, Dracula 3, Revenge of Dracula
Although the third Dracula film in the series (Brides of Dracula being the second, even though Dracula wasn't actually in it) this is only the first reprisal of the role by Christopher Lee. This time around Peter Cushing is conspicuous by his absence in the role of nemesis to the vampiric Count. In fact, it was a whole 16 years after the first Hammer Dracula outing before Cushing and Lee would face off against each other again as Van Helsing and Dracula respectively. However, in Dracula - Prince of Darkness, the Lord of the Undead is pitted against a new foe, Father Sandor, played capably and aggressively by Andrew Keir, who is in fine form here and more than makes up for the absence of Cushing. The supporting cast is also exceptionally good, especially Barbara Shelley as Helen Kent who ably portrays her character as a prim and proper English Lady and then becomes the surprisingly voluptuous vampire vixen once she is transformed by the bite of the Count. The production values are very good and the story is told effectively by director Terence Fisher, who is as capable and reliable as ever. It also features some surprisingly graphic violence and gore, and it's worth noting that this release by Anchor Bay is uncut, whereas the recent Warner Bros UK disc was trimmed.

The story itself is a simple affair, four English travellers, Charles Kent (Francis Matthews), Alan Kent (Charles Tingwell), Diana Kent (Suzan Farmer) and Helen Kent (Barbara Shelley), are holidaying in Eastern Europe and whilst resting up at an old inn meet the inimitable Father Sandor. He asks where they are headed and they inform him that they are heading for Carlsbad. Horrified, Sandor warns them against going there, but that if they must, they are to avoid the castle there. But, we all know that they are going to discard this advice and they head for Carlsbad anyway. However, their coachman reaches the vicinity of the dreaded castle and refuses to take them any further as nightfall is approaching. He tells them he'll be back in the morning and abandons them in the midst of the forest. Bewildered and unsure as to what to do they begin discussing their options when suddenly a driverless carriage appears out of nowhere. Foolishly, they jump aboard with the intention of heading onto Carlsbad, but the horses have other ideas and so, unable to control the horses, they are taken straight to Castle Dracula. Of course, they are expected, and arrive to find the dinner table set for four. Soon, a manservant appears in the menacing form of Klove (Philip Latham) who informs them that even though his master is dead he left instructions that the castle always be ready to receive visitors and offer courteous hospitality. Tired and weary, they eagerly accept the invitation, with the exception of Helen, who senses that something is dreadfully wrong. Her intuition is correct and later that evening Klove murders Alan Kent and utilises his blood to resurrect the undead Count in a surprisingly gory sequence. From this point on Dracula resumes his reign of terror, his first victim being Helen Kent whom he transforms into a vampire that obeys his bidding. It is then left to Father Sandor to dispatch the evil Count, which he does effectively.

This is standard Hammer fare and as such is highly entertaining. The cast turn in some great performances, especially Keir, Shelley and Lee. The one disappointment though is that Lee doesn't utter a single syllable throughout the entire film. Lee has a wonderfully deep and menacing voice and it's a shame that in all of the Dracula sequels Lee gets to say very little. However, this is a great Hammer classic and well worth owning on DVD. This is quite an old disc now, having been released by Anchor Bay back in 1998, but copies are readily available from most online retailers. This reviewer recommends that fans of Hammer gothic horror snap up a copy while it's still available, especially UK collectors as the R2 disc contains a trimmed print of the film.
Being an early DVD from 1998, this is obviously not as good as newer discs. However, it is of a perfectly acceptable standard and really doesn't look too bad. The print looks a bit worn in places and occasionally the image becomes a little unstable, but overall it's a very nice looking transfer. Not great, but pretty much what you'd expect from a DVD this old now. It's also good to see the film presented in its theatrical ratio of 2:35:1, which is quite a revelation and shows off the attention to detail in the production more than previous fullscreen incarnations ever have.
The audio is presented in simple Dolby Digital Mono, but it is surprisingly rich and powerful and far better than you would expect. The dialogue is crisp and clear and the score by James Bernard is reproduced with great clarity and sounds excellent. Despite being mono, the audio does not disappoint and envelops the viewer in the atmosphere of the film perfectly. Surprisingly good.
Extra Features
Anchor Bay have provided some interesting extras on the disc (to be found on the flip side - it's a double-sided single-layered DVD). There is some on-set footage that was filmed by Francis Matthews' brother, Paul. It's interesting to watch and is accompanied by a commentary by cast members. There is a theatrical trailer and a combo-trailer with Plague of the Zombies which has an amusing voice-over that sounds a little dated now, to say the least. Also amusing on the trailer is the advertising for 'Dracula Fangs' for the boys and 'Zombie Eyes' for the girls. Hmmmmm.. Also included is an Episode of the World of Hammer series entitled Dracula and the Undead. Relatively entertaining, but looks a bit cheap and cheerful. Finally there is an audio commentary accompanying the main feature with cast members Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer. It's a fairly lively and informative commentary and, as ever, Lee shows himself a wonderful commentator. Definitely worth a listen. A good effort here by Anchor Bay with some very worthwhile extras.
The Verdict
Overall this is a very nice package from Anchor Bay. Any minor faults it may have are forgivable due to the age of the DVD, but, to be honest, it's actually really very good. Of course, it cannot compare to newer Hammer discs from Anchor Bay which are mastered to a higher standard, but the disc doesn't disappoint too much and is a great addition to any horror fan's collection - especially fans of classical gothic horror. Highly recommended and the disc has been given a reasonably high rating because it's a great film and has interesting extra features
Movie Score
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