Thursday, 20 August 2015

Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

"There'll be no morning for us!"

Christopher Lee is the nominal star of this film, but he doesn't get to do much other than be a frightening presence: his only line is "Go on!", twice, and that's only to horses. He doesn't even appear until halfway through the film, and his appearances are rationed. Nevertheless, this is a splendid example of mid-'60s Hammer, with Terence Fisher providing atmosphere aplenty and superb performances from Barbara Shelley and Andrew Keir.

We begin with a flashback, glossing over the fact that this is the second sequel, after Brides of Dracula, to Hammer's original Dracula, but we move swiftly on to our new take, centred on four English travellers and a substitute for Peter Cushing's absent Van Helsing in the person of Keir's Father Sandor.

The eerie mystery of the castle is well-set up and well developed to maximise. Both effects and the  an early sense of foreboding. A young Philip Latham (we Doctor Who fans know him as President Borusa from The Five Doctors) is superb as a sinister butler in the early part of the film, but Thorley Walters also puts in a strong turn as Ludwig, an obvious Renfield substitute.

The central scene of the film- Dracula's resurrection- is superb, comparable I. Effect to a regeneration in Doctor Who. Both the effects and the framing of the scene are utterly masterful. Sufficiently so, in fact, as to successfully gloss over how easy it is for the supposedly dead vampire to be revived.

The ending is sudden, perhaps, but better this than it outstay its welcome. This is an excellent example of Hammer during its golden years.

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