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Warner Home Video presents
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)

"Would you be willing to sell your soul to the devil?"
- Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: April 25, 2004

Stars: Christopher Lee, Linda Hayden
Other Stars: Anthony Corlan, Peter Sallis, Gwen Watford, Geoffrey Keen, Isla Blair, Ralph Bates, Russell Hunter, Roy Kinnear, John Carson
Director: Peter Sasdy

MPAA Rating: R for some sexual content/nudity and brief violence
Run Time: 01h:35m:14s
Release Date: April 27, 2004
UPC: 085393185022
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- C-B+B D

DVD Review

This 1970 entry in the Hammer Films Victorian oeuvre of Christopher-Lee-as-Dracula flicks suffers from a confusingly odd spin placed on traditional vampire lore, in that the count here seems to exist solely as a vengeful sort, out to kill a trio of men who resurrected him. Conceptually it makes little sense, something that the Anthony Hinds (writing as John Elder) screenplay does little to explain away, and Lee himself seems to sleepwalk through a role that was his signature during this era.

Director Peter Sasdy, who the same year released a nekkid Ingrid Pitt in the superior Countess Dracula, opens this film with a nod to the end of Hammer's Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), with Drac dissolving away to into red-eyed screaming nothingness in the middle of a deep, dark wood. The hook here to carry the story forward is that Weller (Roy Kinnear), a tubby man of ill repute, stumbles upon the vampire's dramatic death scene after getting tossed from a moving coach, and he makes off with Dracula's cape, amulet, ring, and a vial of dusty blood.

Later, a thrill-seeking trio of wealthy locals (including James Bond regular Geoffrey Keen) team up with boisterous occultist Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates) to purchase the artifacts, and the group brings the Fanged One back to life in a ritualistic ceremony that goes horribly wrong. Bates, who later came to prominence in Roy Ward Baker's stylish Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, really throws subtlety to the wind with his ridiculously overacted performance as Courtley, though in hindsight his character is certainly one of the only memorable things to be found here.

Despite being drenched in a typically rich Hammer gothic visual style, complete with the appropriate period costumes, the big resurrection-from-the-dead sequence takes forever to get to, and imagine the letdown when it is revealed that Drac's whole trip seems to be one of revenge on the men who brought him back to life. The filler before Lee shows up is made up primarily of an unrequited romance between virginal young Alice (Linda Hayden), the daughter of Keen's character, and accidental good guy Paul (Anthony Corlan). There is a brief glimmer of hope that the story will suddenly perk up when shy, demure Alice falls under the spell of Dracula, becoming his murderous servant. This little spark never fully develops enough to save this slow-moving project, but Hayden does go from doe-eyed to crazy-eyed nicely, and she knows how to swing a sharp-edged shovel like a pro.

Lee, however, is left with little to do but stare menacingly during his few scenes, as young Alice does most of the dirty work, along with the heaving bosoms of the Hammer-required female vampire Lucy (Isla Blair). While Lee's legacy remains as one of the most iconic portrayals of Dracula in all of horror, this time around it almost seemed that Sasdy could have been borrowing footage from another film entirely.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Warner has revived and released Sasdy's film in a beautiful 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors are deep and rich, with things like the red satin of Drac's cape looking particularly resplendent. Image detail is sharp, so much so that one is able to see that the makeup on Linda Hayden appears to have been applied with a trowel, and droplets of spittle erupting from Ralph Bates' mouth during the resurrection sequence are clearly visible.

The print itself is free of any major blemishes, which in and of itself merits a good grade.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Dolby Digital English mono is the sole audio option, and while not remarkable in any way, is completely serviceable and presentable. No hiss or crackle was evident.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 27 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extra is a theatrical trailer for the feature, which somehow manages to make it look like a better film than it is. The disc is cut into 27 chapters, and features optional subtitles in English, Spanish, or French.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

This hapless chapter in the Hammer Films catalog is notable for Linda Hayden's good-girl-gone-really-bad performance, while Christopher Lee almost gets forgotten about altogether.

Taste the Blood of Dracula looks and sounds like a Hammer film, but it is wrapped in a story that ultimately does nothing.

 


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