DIGITAL DISMEMBERMENT: DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS COLLECTOR’S EDITION BLU-RAY REVIEW




DIGITAL DISMEMBERMENT: DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS COLLECTOR’S EDITION BLU-RAY REVIEW




Director: Terence Fisher
Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys
Special FX: Les Bowie
Cast: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer, Charles Tingwell, Thorley Walters, Walter Brown, Philip Latham, George Woodbridge, Philip Ray, Joyce Hemson, John Maxim and Peter Cushing
Released By: Scream Factory
Release Date: 12/18/2018

THE PREMISE: “Dracula: Prince of Darkness, more than any of the Hammer Draculas, embodies the recurrent image of sexual repression threatening … to tear Victorian society apart …” – Moria Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review

Four English tourists find themselves stranded in the mysterious village of Karlsbad, a sinister and remote place with a deadly, dark legend. Their journey leads them to an abandoned castle where a nightmarish destiny awaits them: an evil in need of resurrection, a blood-craving beast known only as Count Dracula, Prince of Darkness (Christopher Lee, The Lord Of The Rings films, Wicker Man). Released in 1966, this film presents the legendary Lee’s second outing as Dracula, with Hammer Films pushing the cinematic boundaries of graphic gore and terror.

Director Terence Fisher was either a mad genius or the luckiest man alive when he started down the road of telling the story of Dracula in Hammer horror films. The ball got rolling in 1958 with Christopher Lee in the title role and was quickly followed up in 1960 with The Brides of Dracula (strangely without Lee or the Dracula character. It was the return of all three in 1966 when Dracula, Prince Of Darkness was released and the new standard for Hammer Studios and Dracula as a character was born. This is typically the film that most people speak of when they refer to the Hammer vampire films and for good reason. This release was considered to be one of the goriest of its time and even had a different theatrical cut elsewhere than it did in its home country, not to mention the fact that it did very little to hide lesbian overtures in a time when it was considered to be extremely taboo. Many of the tropes that we associate with modern day vampires are on display here, but if you keep in mind the time period in which this film was made, they actually come across as refreshing and still manage to spellbind you…

There are a few other things that stand out and separate it from many other Dracula films. The actual resurrection of Dracula is extremely dramatic and as mentioned before very gory for its time period. The other aspect that stands out is his death. It is quite common knowledge that being staked through the heart, sunlight and even decapitation and fire are all quite common methods to kill a vampire, but this would be the first time that a vampire was dispatched by drowning! Fisher’s direction is quite capable and I feel he gets the best out of his actors, in particular Lee in the starring role. Out of all the films that he played Dracula in, this is his most powerful presence. Very few actors can really immerse themselves in a role like this and no one has played it better since. There is a certain masculinity that he oozes, a confidence that he IS the Prince of Darkness and a willpower of absolute steel that will never be broken. The set pieces and locations are quite striking as well and certainly serve as a character all on their own…

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As the film starts, we see the final scenes from Dracula (1958) where we see Van Helsing (played by Peter Cushing) destroy Count Dracula with sunlight and eliminating his cult of followers so that only the memory of Dracula’s evil reign remains. We later see Father Sandor preventing the local authorities from disposing of a young woman’s body as if it were a vampire. Sandor talks with the head priest for spreading the fear of vampirism to the surrounding town and its people while reminding him that Dracula and his evil cult was destroyed ten years ago. Sandor visits the local inn and warns an English family named the Kents to not visit the village of Karlsbad, but they foolishly ignore his advice and go anyway. As it starts to get dark, the Kents are abandoned by their coach driver very close to Karlsbad and near a castle. A driverless carriage appears and takes them to the castle, where they find a dining table set for them exclusively and their bags are unpacked in the bedrooms, as if they were expected the whole time. A servant by the name of Klove tells them that his master, the late Count Dracula, had standing orders that the castle should always be ready to welcome strangers at any time…

After dinner, everyone head off to their rooms to rest, but later that night Alan (a member of the family) hears a noise and winds up following Klove to a crypt. Klove knows that Alan has followed him and quickly kills him and then mixes his blood with Dracula’s ashes, reviving the Count from his coffin in a billow of ominous fog. Klove then gets Helen (Alan’s significant other) to enter the crypt where she becomes Dracula’s first victim after his resurrection. The next morning, Charles and Diana (the other family members) look for Alan, Helen and Klove but can’t find them anywhere on the grounds. Charles takes Diana to a woodsman’s hut for safety and then returns to the castle to search for them on his own. Klove winds up tricking Diana into returning to the castle while Charles finds Alan’s torn up corpse stuffed in a trunk in the crypt. Darkness has now fallen and Dracula rises from his slumber. Diana runs into Helen who is now a vampire. Suddenly, Dracula enters and scares Helen away from Diana. Charles bursts in and struggles with Dracula. Diana realizes that her crucifix works as an effective deterrent against vampires. Charles makes a larger cross and drives Dracula away from them. They attempt to escape from the castle in a carriage, but lose control on the steep roads…

The carriage crashes and Diana is knocked out. Charles carries her for several hours through the woods until they run into Father Sandor, who takes them to his abbey. Klove shows up at the monastery in a wagon carrying two coffins with Dracula and Helen inside, but is not allowed inside by the monks. A man by the name of Ludwig (who is a patient at the abbey) is basically hypnotized by Dracula and he invites the Count inside. Helen convinces Diana to open the window and let her in, claiming to have escaped from Dracula, but Helen then bites her arm in an attack. Dracula scares Helen off again but Charles breaks into the room and drives the vampires out. Sandor tends to the bite with the heat from an oil lamp. Sandor puts silver crosses in the two coffins to prevent the vampires from coming back to them. He later captures Helen and drives a stake through her heart and killing her. Ludwig once again lures Diana into Dracula’s presence, where the Count hypnotises her into removing her cross. Dracula tries to force her to drink his blood from his bare chest, but once again Charles returns in time to stop him and forces Dracula to flee with the knocked out Diana…

Charles and Sandor prepare for a final battle with Dracula and to save Diana. They arm themselves and set out on horseback. They take a shortcut that gets themt in front of Dracula’s wagon and they manage stop it. Charles winds up shooting Klove who had removed Sandor’s silver crosses from the coffins, but the horses have taken off in fear to the castle. Diana is rescued while Dracula’s coffin is thrown onto the ice that covers the moat surrounding the castle. Charles moves in with an attempt to kill Dracula while he is in his coffin, but Dracula springs out of his coffin and starts beating the hell out of him. Diana and Sandor take the only action that they can and start shooting the ice which breaks, causing Dracula and his coffin to sink into the freezing waters below. Was this the final ending for Dracula? Does the family survive the aftermath of the attacks? Has Dracula’s evil finally been overthrown? You are going to have to watch to find out!

BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES

Two Versions! The UK Version And The US Version From The 20th Century Fox Vaults (NEW TO THIS RELEASE)

Audio Commentary With Author Troy Howarth (NEW TO THIS RELEASE)

Audio Commentary With Film The U.S. Version (The UK cinema version was cut by the BBFC with edits to blood flows during the resurrection scene, a closeup shot of Helen’s staking, and a shortening of the seduction scene where Dracula pulls a hypnotized Diana towards his chest wound)*

4K Scan Of The Interpositive Omaker Constantine Nasr And Writer/Producer Steve Haberman (NEW TO THIS RELEASE)

Audio Commentary With Cast Members Christopher Lee, Suzan Farmer, Francis Matthews and Barbara Shelley

World Of Hammer Episode “Dracula And The Undead”: (Run Time of 24 minutes, 53 seconds) This is part of a British television documentary series that was created and written by Robert and Ashley Sidaway and was narrated by Oliver Reed. On this particular episode, the discussion turns to Hammer Films associated with Dracula and The Undead. Films mentioned include Dracula (1958), Brides Of Dracula (1960), Captain Kronos- Vampire Hunter (1974), Vampire Circus (1972), Dracula, Prince Of Darkness (1966), The Legend Of The Seven Golden Vampires (1974), Scars Of Dracula (1970) and Kiss Of The Vampire (1964). It shows scenes from each of the films and names the lead from each as well. Very informative and a nice glimpse into Hammer’s history…

Back To Black – The Making Of Dracula: Prince Of Darkness: (Run Time of 30 minutes, 34 seconds) This is a great piece featuring Marcus Hearn (Hammer Films Historian), Mark Gattis (Actor and Writer), Jonathan Rigby (Author, English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema), Barbara Shelley (Actress), Francis Matthews (Actor), David Huckvale (Author, James Bernard, Composer To Count Dracula) and Jon Mann (Technical Restoration Manager, Pinewood Studios). They discuss how the film is one of the most iconic of Hammer’s releases, all of the typical tropes that were seen in Hammer’s productions, the uptick of violence and gore (for its time), the subversive touch of lesbianism in the film, history of the studio and more. Plenty of archival photos are presented as well segments from the film. There is also a tremendous amount of information on the director, actors and the crew as well. Bonus points for the breaking down of the restoration for this release as well as as an education on the score for particular scenes in the film. Pretty much anything you could want to know is supplied here…

Super 8mm Behind-The-Scenes Footage: (Run Time of 4 minutes, 38 seconds) This is footage shot by Paul Shelley (Francis Matthews’ brother) on a 8mm home movie camera. It includes audio from Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Suzan Farmer Francis Matthews that was recorded on February 23rd, 1997. This is an amazing look at different times on the set, rehearsals and locations and the audio is quite priceless. This is certainly a crowning piece for this release!

Theatrical Trailers Trailer 1 runs 2 minutes, 28 seconds, Trailer 2 is a combo trailer of Dracula, Prince of Darkness and Plague of the Zombies that runs 3 minutes 20 seconds and Trailer 3 is a combo trailer for Dracula, Prince of Darkness and Frankenstein Created Woman that runs 35 seconds.

Still Gallery: This is a 7 minute, 5 second long compilation of studio still and behind the scene photos from the release of the film. An amazing wealth of history is contained here!

Poster Gallery: This is a 4 minute, 50 second compilation of different poster and ads advertising the film from all over the world. A stunning addition to this release!

Special Thanks

Discs: 1
Format: NTSC
Color: Color
Rating: NR
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Language: English

Scream Factory once again does an amazing job bringing us this film and and is a great beginning for anyone looking to start a Hammer Horror collection. The quality of the transfer to 2K is pretty stunning for its age and shows very little print damage or grain and the audio will leave you with chills. The Still and Poster Galleries are a fantastic addition, again giving us some great looks at the behind the scenes. The audio commentaries are informative and shed even more light on the cast, crew and the production but if you are going to pick just one to listen to, then I highly recommend the one with cast members Christopher Lee, Suzan Farmer, Francis Matthews and Barbara Shelley as it comes across as the most personal one. To be perfectly blunt, there is not a bad Special Feature included on this release. I am hard pressed to pick the crown jewel of this release as the three featurettes (World Of Hammer Episode “Dracula And The Undead”, Back To Black – The Making Of Dracula: Prince Of Darkness and the Super 8mm Behind-The-Scenes Footage) are all some of the most informative put to disc, so enjoy them all! Even the trailers that are included show a slice of how double features used to be the standard of the movie going experience!

Movie Rating: 4 out of 5
Blu-Ray Rating: 8 out of 10

*IMDB: Dracula, Prince Of Darkness


Posted by Dedman

Writer for House of Tortured Souls website, Coffin Cuties & Digital Dead Magazines, Podcast Host for The Calling Hours & Owner of Slit of the Wrist Fx

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