The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
By: David Michael Brown on August 29, 2006  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Big Sky Video (Australia). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (Non-anamorphic). English DD 2.0. 87 minutes
The Movie
Director: Alan Gibson
Starring: Brook Adams, Peter Cushing, John Carradine
Screenplay: Don Houghton
Music: John Cacavas
Tagline: "The Masters of Menace Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. They're dead but they're alive..."
Country: UK
AKA: Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride; Dracula Is Dead... and Well and Living in London; Rites of Dracula

Many thought Hammer had reached their nadir with Dracula 1972 AD. From 1958's Horror of Dracula through to 1972's Scars of Dracula Christopher Lee had made the role his own, giving the vampire a graceful and stately presence. Fans had become accustomed to seeing Dracula in the distant past but Dracula 1972 AD brought the dark lord screaming into the 21st Century. This time he had to deal with jazz listening hippies and some unspeakably hip Seventies dialogue, and looked very uneasy doing so. The film is certainly a guilty pleasure for this reviewer but Hammer listened to the majority with what was to be Dracula's swan song with the Studio, The Satanic Rites of Dracula.

Director Alan Gibson ignores the psychedelic kitsch that he gave Dracula 1972 AD, instead giving this film a gritty and sombre outlook whilst maintaining the films modern day setting. The plot, involving Dracula spreading the black-death throughout the world to destroy the human race, is the stuff of James Bond films. In fact the whole film plays more like a Sixties spy movie than a horror film. Yes, Dracula uses the occult and bloody sacrifices to spread his cloak of evil but you keep expecting 007 to pop up and save the day. The hilarious credits featuring a silhouette of Dracula casting his shadow over the empty streets of London recalls the eerie otherworld frequented by Steed and Emma Peel in The Avengers.

The performances are what you expect from a Hammer film. By this point Christopher Lee was sleep walking through the role and is not given much to do apart from menace a young lady every 10 minutes or so. The High Priestess Chin Yang played by Barbara Yu Ling and Dracula's vampire brides provide more chills than their leader. Whenever one of our heroes ventures down to the coffin filled basement you know you're in for a thrill. Able support is given by the likes of genre stalwart Freddie Jones, and the legendary Peter Cushing brings authority and realism to even the daftest of dialogue and does so in the role of a descendent of vampire hunter Van Helsing.

The film was called Dracula Is Dead... and Well and Living in London in some territories and the streets of the UK capitol certainly play an ominous role in the film. Strangely enough Dracula didn't really need to be in the film as the rest of the cast provide enough scares and excitement to make the film work; its' almost as if Hammer already had a storyline and then added in Dracula at the last minute. Saying that it's all great fun, providing your tongue is firmly in your cheek and you don't hold the earlier Hammer Dracula films in to high a reverence.
The print isn't too bad. Some scenes are a bit murky and therefore grain is present but on the whole the picture is sharp and free of noise. The reds of the opening satanic rituals in particular are bright and vibrant and make a colourful contrast to the grey streets of London town. There is a small amount of print damage present but it doesn't distract.
Nothing spectacular to report; the mono soundtrack is clear but that's about it.
Extra Features
All you get is the trailer!
The Verdict
A fun modern take on a horror classic. The leads are obviously over their roles but everyone else seems to having fun. Hammer were constantly trying to reinvent their catalogue and with The Satanic Rites of Dracula they succeeded in giving Dracula a entertaining, if un-traditional, send off. A thumbs up for Dracula's fanged brides and his motorcycle henchman then but the disc does lose a point for its almost complete lack of extras.
Movie Score
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