Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1965)

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‘The world’s most evil vampire lives again!’

Dracula: Prince of Darkness is a 1965 British supernatural horror film directed by Terence Fisher from a screenplay by Jimmy Sangster. The film was photographed in Techniscope by Michael Reed, designed by Bernard Robinson and scored by James Bernard. It stars Christopher Lee, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, and Barbara Shelley.

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Dracula does not speak in the film, save for a few hisses. According to Christopher Lee: “I didn’t speak in that picture. The reason was very simple. I read the script and saw the dialogue! I said to Hammer, if you think I’m going to say any of these lines, you’re very much mistaken.”

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Screenwriter Jimmy Sangster disputed that account in his memoir Inside Hammer, writing that “Vampires don’t chat. So I didn’t write him any dialogue. Christopher Lee has claimed that he refused to speak the lines he was given … So you can take your pick as to why Christopher Lee didn’t have any dialogue in the picture. Or you can take my word for it. I didn’t write any.”

The film was made back-to-back with Rasputin – the Mad Monk, using many of the same sets and cast, including Lee, Shelley, Matthews and Farmer.

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Opening plot:

A prologue replays the final scenes from Dracula, in which Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) destroys Dracula (Christopher Lee) by driving him into the sunlight.

The main story begins as Father Sandor (Andrew Kier) prevents local authorities from disposing of a woman’s corpse as if it were a vampire. Sandor chastises the presiding priest for perpetuating the fear of vampirism, and reminds him that Dracula was destroyed 10 years previously. The Father visits an inn and warns four English tourists – the Kents – not to visit Karlsbad; they ignore his advice.

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As night approaches, the Kents find themselves abandoned by their fear-stricken coach driver, in view of a castle. A driverless carriage takes them to the castle, where they find a dining table set for four people. A servant named Klove explains that his master, the late Count Dracula, ordered that the castle should always be ready to welcome strangers. After dinner the Kents settle in their rooms.

Later that night, Alan investigates a noise and follows Klove to the crypt, where Klove ritualistically kills him and mixes his blood with Dracula’s ashes, reviving the Count…

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Reviews:

“The gruesome sequence where the infamous bloodsucker is resurrected in a perverse religious ritual still retains its shock value, with scream queen Barbara Shelley’s demise just as memorable. Andrew Keir is no real substitute for Peter Cushing … but in every other respect this is a textbook example of top-grade ghoulish horror from Hammer’s golden era.” Alan Jones, Radio Times

“Lee, sans dialogue plays the part with demonic fury but it is Barbara Shelley who steals the show. As Helen, she is the very picture of prim, Victorian repression, but after she is bitten by Dracula, she turns into one of filmdom’s most rapacious female vampires. Her death scene is a highpoint of Hammer horror.” Gary A. Smith, Uneasy Dreams: The Golden Age of British Horror Films

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“The film’s only weak point is the dispatch of Dracula himself which seems a bit unimaginative when compared to Meinster’s inventive dispatch in Brides of Dracula. However this is a mere blip in an otherwise brilliant film in the Dracula series and is without doubt the strongest and most dramatic entry. Absolute quintessential Hammer.” Adam Scovell, The Spooky Isles

“The build up is tense and kinetic, let down a bit by obviously limited budgetary restraints. Dracula, Prince of Darkness is the last Dracula Hammer with genuine style via Fisher’s red-blooded type of poetic horror. The sequels became increasingly clumsy, repetitive and pale in comparison…” Alfred Eaker’s The Blue Mahler

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” …Dracula is deprived not only of dialogue but also of any worthwhile motivation, not even the paltry revenge motif which was to crop up in subsequent sequels.” Jonathan Rigby, English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema

” …Fisher opted for an unsettling combination of graphically gruesome violence and lusciously poetic atmosphere, which gives the movie a sense of stylish formalism and invites an appreciation of the way the story is told, rather than taking the more direct, ‘innocent’ approach of Dracula.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

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“The best moments are the reconstitution and the imaginative ending. A grandly melodramatic score dates the film and the pace is slow by current standards, but it still stands up well to another viewing. The small cast is excellent. The women are classy and about as sexy as the 1965 screen would allow.” Mike Mayo, The Horror Show Guide

” …the main snag is that the thrills do not arise sufficiently smooth out of atmosphere. After a slowish start some climate of eeriness is evoked but more shadows, suspense and suggestion would have helped. Christopher Lee, an old hand at the horror business, makes a latish appearance but dominates the film enough without dialog.” Variety, December 31, 1965

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Cast and characters:

  • Christopher Lee as Count Dracula
  • Barbara Shelley as Helen Kent
  • Andrew Keir as Father Sandor
  • Francis Matthews as Charles Kent
  • Suzan Farmer as Diana Kent
  • Charles Tingwell as Alan Kent
  • Thorley Walters as Ludwig
  • Philip Latham as Klove
  • Walter Brown as Brother Mark
  • Jack Lambert as Brother Peter
  • George Woodbridge as Landlord
  • Philip Ray as Priest
  • Joyce Hemson as Mother
  • John Maxim as Coach Driver
  • Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing [archive footage only]

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The film was written into a novel by John Burke as part of his 1967 book The Second Hammer Horror Film Omnibus.

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Filming locations:

Black Park, Buckinghamshire, England
Bray Studios, Bray, Berkshire, England

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Wikipedia | IMDb | Image thanks: Wrong Side of the Art!

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Categories: 1960s, British, Dracula, Hammer, supernatural, vampire

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 reply

  1. This, and Has Risen From The Grave, are my 2 favorite of the Hammer Draculas.

    Like

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