Countess Dracula (1971)
By: Michael Helms on June 10, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Magna Pacific (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 90 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Peter Sasdy
Starring: Ingrid Pitt, Nigel Green, Sandor Eles, Maurice Denham, Patience Collier, Leon Lissek,
Screenplay: Jeremy Paul
Country: UK
The Rank Organisation did put money into Countess Dracula and did distribute the film in Britain so in Australia you'll find this Hammer Film vying for shelf space under Magna Pacific's Rank Classics banner. Countess Dracula which was the first film brought to Hammer by an outside source that actually went into production, is hardly a classic though despite having the lush look of the best Hammer period productions (care of a leftover set from a Universal film). Where Countess Dracula lets the team down is in it's lack of attention to cruelty and gore.

Essentially a fey, fantastical re-telling of the legend of Erzsebet Bathory, the activities of whom were once repressed by the Catholic church, Countess Dracula has Ingrid Pitt in the title role (with a dubbed voice; her naturally heavy European accent not being put to good use here) who mainly concentrates on doffing her ornate Hungarian noblewoman costumes at every given opportunity. However, after offering indifference to a peasant who has his head crushed by her carriage Pitt does almost get medieval on the ass of her voluptuos and viriginal servant who she forces to injure herself. When splattered with her blood Pitt discovers the miraculous rejuvanating powers it has on her own aging bonce and then embarks on a program of deception and manipulation in order to secure the blood of virgins for her to bathe in order to remain superficially beautiful. Her activities include having her daughter held captive by a devious but easily outwitted brute man (who stars in several sequences including a weird foot fetish scene), taking over her daughter's identity, offering to have sex to get her way, and even performing some of her own kills including some neat handiwork with a hat pin on an unfortunate gypsy woman.

Besides her frequent transformations back to her character's true ugly self there's more female flesh on display here than gore scenes although Pitt does get caught naked in a bath of blood in one brief climatic moment. Instead, you get gratuitous belly dancing, drunken pop-topping and a cupboard filled with dead naked corpses.
Video
The interior visuals are quite stunning in Countess Dracula which makes quite a contrast to the dull grey castle exterior. All sorts of optical effects are used and expertly pulled off as is the full use of the widescreen. Fleshtones are superb throughout except for one sequence where Pitt's age make-up is introduced with a yellowing around the lips that also appears on the male next to her. Strange but otherwise beautifully presented throughout.
Audio
Countess Dracula doesn't sound as good as it looks but remains effective enough.
Extra Features
None.
The Verdict
As mentioned not a classic mainly because of it's toned down approach to Countess Elisabeth's behaviour and also due to a tendency of having reams of largely inconsequential dialogue being read out in corridors. Nonetheless worthy of a viewing just because they simply don't make films like Countess Dracula on major studio sets any more.

Besides the lack of the director/actress commentary that exists on the US/MGM release of Countess Dracula, the only real drawback to the Australian vanilla version of this film are the credited chapter stops. There's only actually ten but thanks to some chronic typos that no one bothered to check there's 12 listed erroneously.
Movie Score
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