Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1969)
Cast: Christopher Lee, Geoffrey Keen, Gwen Watford, Linda Hayden, Ralph Bates
Director: Peter Sasdy
Nutshell: Hammer’s Dracula series beginning to lose its teeth
“genuinely imaginative…a tooth bite above most Hammer Dracula films of the period” Creature Features
“not bad” Maltin’s
“imaginatively realised and shot with flamboyant style” Time Out
The depraved Lord Courtley manages to persuade three rich, decadent Victorian nobles to assist him in undertaking the biggest thrill of their lives – the resurrection of the Prince of Darkness – Dracula. While poor Courtley dies while the resurrection ceremony is taking place, the three nobles manage to escape only to be hunted down and killed by the once again risen Dracula. Its left to the son of one of the nobles to destroy the vampire while also saving his lady love from the clutches of Dracula.
Hammer’s Dracula series to this point had been full of atmosphere and menace – Dracula, Dracula Prince Of Darkness and Dracula Has Risen From The Grave had all been top rate efforts. Taste the Blood of Dracula is disappointingly poor. Hammer had had several problems in the build up to the film and these obviously translated onto screen. Lee had not wanted to don the robe again and was only persuaded when Warner Brothers – Hammer’s distributors in America threatened to pull out without Lee being on board.
Initially Hammer had decided to replace Lee with a younger Dracula – to be played by Bates. With Lee coming on board at the last minute, Bates’ role was reduced and he served only as the depraved servant of Dracula – Lord Courtley. However, Lee’s late appearance in the film limited his scope and kept the most magnetic character of the film out of the picture for too long. It also meant that Dracula had little to do except pick off his three victims one after the other. There is no building up of the menace and atmosphere that was associated with Dracula films of the past. While director Sasdy does a fair job of infusing some life into the earlier portions of the film, especially in the resurrection ceremony, the film soon becomes routine.
While Lee does as well as can be expected in a short role – he still makes a wonderfully magnetic Count, the same cannot be said about the remaining cast. The set of young lovers are particularly grating and the debauched nobles are also disappointing. Dracula also requires that along with the supreme force of evil a force of good is also present. The brilliant Peter Cushing as Van Helsing was the perfect antithesis but the Monsignor in Dracula Has Risen From the Grave was also a solid opponent. In Taste The Blood Of Dracula young Paul is a far from worthy opponent and his triumph belittles the great vampire.
A poor, shoddy and unworthy follow up to Hammer’s trio of excellent Dracula films and the start of a quite rapid decline in the fortunes of the Prince of Darkness and the studio itself.