Taste The Blood of Dracula (1970) [31 Days of Hammer Horror Review]

Jules picks up where he left off in October by running through some of the choice horror offerings from the fantastic Hammer back catalogue.

You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of Hammer” by CLICKING HERE.

Released: 1970
Starring: Christopher Lee, Linda Hayden, Anthony Corlan
Director: Peter Sasdy

By all accounts Christopher Lee wasn’t all that keen on returning to the role that made him a household name, but despite a tangible reticence in his performance and his character becoming more of a supporting role, Taste The Blood Of Dracula still works on almost every level.

A travelling businessman by the name of Weller (Roy Kinnear) is thrown out of his carriage and knocked unconscious, waking to the grim sound of screaming nearby. The screaming turns out to be Dracula (Christopher Lee) dying once again on the giant gold cross he was impaled on at the end of Dracula Has Risen From The Grave – essentially a flashback from a new perspective. Examining the remains, Weller finds a cape, a ring and a brooch engraved with one word – Dracula.

Meanwhile, Alice Hargood (Linda Hayden) is living with her downtrodden mother and abusive father, the foul William Hargood (Geoffrey Keen), a strict, God-fearing man prone to calling her a harlot for even talking to her would-be paramour Paul Paxton (Anthony Corlan).

Secretly though, Hargood is part of a three-man secret society – alongside Jonathan Secker (John Carson) and Samuel Paxton (Peter Sallis) – who revel in drugs, alcohol and the frequenting of brothels. Eager to find new levels of debauchery, the trio fall in with Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates), a young nobleman disinherited by his father for his interest in black magic.

He encourages them to buy Dracula’s relics from Weller and involves them in a rite at a deconsecrated church to bring his undead master back from the grave. The three men are repulsed at the idea of drinking blood though and after Courtley himself chokes on it, they beat him to death and abscond.

Unknown to them, Dracula rises anyway and swears revenge on the trio for daring to kill his servant, though he won’t sully his own hands with them, he’ll use their own children instead…

Well, considering how easily this could have been a misfire, it’s a positive triumph against the odds.

Okay, Christopher Lee isn’t in it much, doesn’t look massively interested and is less of a demonic predator and more an agent of karmic justice, but for some reason, all of that just…works.

Lee’s dispassion actually adds to his character’s cold, manipulative detachment. He’s not remotely concerned about the life of his servant (it’s his body that he’s been reborn in after all), but it’s his pride at work here. These mortals who are barely beneath his notice have dared to kill HIS servant. They’re irrelevant to him really, but they have to pay. Having a clearly disinterested Lee just enhances all of that.

His campaign of terror against “the circle” as they call themselves is brilliantly done, using each of their children against them to strike the killing blows. Hargood is an odious creature, harbouring an undercurrent of lust for his own daughter, but the other two for all their faults clearly love their offspring, so their responses to their betrayal hit hard. Paxton’ death by staking at the hands of his vampirism daughter Lucy is particularly effective, playing his absolute anguish and terror against her cruel smile.

The effects throughout the film are almost entirely successful, with plenty of graphic staking and violence, with the only failure being the dreadful cutaway of dust cracking away during the Count’s revival, though it does reveal a lovely shot of Lee with blood red eyes.

The only downside to Taste The Blood Of Dracula is the eventual denouement. Trapped in the now reconsecrated church, the power of God overwhelms him and he simply…crumbles. It’s vague and lacks dynamics, even if it’s just came after a lovely reminder of his more animalistic side as he realises he’s got no escape.

It’s nowhere near enough to take the shine off what is a surprisingly enjoyable entry in the Dracula series. Sure, it could be improved in certain ways, but it’s bloody great fun all the same.

Rating: 4/5.

JULESAV The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

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