The Satanic Rites of Dracula – UK, 1973

The Satanic Rites of Dracula is a 1973 British Hammer film directed by Alan Gibson. It is the eighth film in the Hammer Dracula series, and the seventh and final to feature Christopher Lee as Dracula. It was belatedly released in the USA in October 1978 as Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride.

Work began on what was tentatively titled Dracula is Dead and Well and Living in London in November 1972. The title was a parody of the stage and film musical revue Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, but Christopher Lee was not amused. Speaking at a press conference in 1973, he said:

I’m doing it under protest… […] I think it is fatuous. I can think of twenty adjectives – fatuous, pointless, absurd. It’s not a comedy, but it’s got a comic title. I don’t see the point.

The film was eventually titled and is a mixture of horror, science fiction and a spy thriller, with a screenplay by Don Houghton, a veteran of BBC’s Doctor Who.

A Secret Service agent (Maurice O’Connell) barely escapes from an English country house, in which Satanic rituals are celebrated. Before he dies of his wounds, he reveals to his superiors that four prominent members of society – a government minister, a peer, a general and a famous scientist – are involved in the cult, led by Chin Yang (Barbara Yu Ling).

In order to avoid any reprisals by the minister, the secret service call in Scotland Yard’s Inspector Murray (Michael Coles) to work on the case independently. Murray (who had appeared in the preceding Dracula film) suggests consulting noted occult expert Professor Lorrimar Van Helsing (Cushing)…

Reviews:

“Dracula’s second romp through modern London may be a rather desultory affair, but it certainly marks a great improvement on its disastrous predecessor, Dracula A.D. 1972. There are even one or two audacious touches which suggest how effective a modern transposition of the Dracula myth could be if it were handled with sufficiently subversive zeal…” David Pirie, BFI Monthly Film Bulletin, March 1974

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“Though top-billed Lee only has about 15 minutes of screen time in the movie (the bane of the Hammer Draculas, it seems), at least he has some dialog this time out, including a classic line lifted from Bram Stoker’s original novel. (“My revenge has spread over centuries, and has just begun!”) Cushing, of course, is his usual masterful self, injecting gravitas into every scene he’s in.” Eccentric Cinema

“Despite the action scenes and the attempts to perhaps make this more like a James Bond film, there’s actually a bleak, gloomy despondency to the entire proceedings and you really do get the feeling that this is the end of the Hammer series and possibly the end of the world as well. Having Dracula as the leader of a corrupt band of British politicians and businessmen is a masterstroke and could successfully be redone today…” House of Mortal Cinema

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“Like the final Hammer horror film, Peter Sykes’ To the Devil a Daughter (1976), Satanic Rites attempts, with a certain amount of ambition, to more effectively fuse the traditional genre motifs with a realistic, contemporary setting and a style more redolent of spy and action movies.” This Island Rod

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