Countess Dracula / The Vampire
Sound: C+ Extras: C+
Film: B- / B+
Among their seemingly endless series of Horror
genre double features, MGM has put out a double-sided DVD of two classic Hammer
films for a change, which both happen to star horror queen Ingrid Pitt. Countess
Dracula and The Vampire Lovers (both 1970) are two
fine examples of gothic tales told in the English studio's rich tradition. One was licensed from Canal Plus, while the
other is an MGM through their ownership of American International’s catalog.
Countess Dracula is
based on the Elisabeth Bathory legend. Ingrid Pitt plays an
elderly countess whose husband has passed away. As his assets
are divided at the reading of the will, she becomes attracted to the
young man who is to be given charge of the stables. The possibilities
extend when she accidental cuts a chambermaid only to find that the blood
spilled on her has restored her youthful appearance.
A jealous lover, a returning daughter, and various
other scrupulous characters keep the plot twisting along to its
destination. Ingrid Pitt does a fantastic job of exposing the insanity
that drives the countess. The makeup is sometimes unconvincing but is
relegated to an afterthought due to the strength of the performance.
Director Peter Sasdy gets solid performances
from his supporting cast that includes Nigel Green and Sandor Eles.
Terrific lighting schemes and realistic sets are also invaluable to selling the
Extras include an audio commentary with Pitt,
Sasdy, and screenwriter Jeremy Paul, as well as the original theatrical
trailer. Unfortunately, the trailer
here is the more boring of two issued.
The one NOT included has devilish fun with the idea of the title vamp
stealing youth, and can be found on the awesome Horror of Hammer DVD
reviewed elsewhere on this site.
The Vampire Lovers is a
top-notch film of vampire erotica. It is adapted from Sheridan
Le Fanu's story Carmilla
screenwriter Tudor Gates. Ingrid Pitt
again has the lead, this time as the lusty vampiress Mircalla Karnstein.
Mircalla, known also as Marcilla and Carmilla, befriends young ladies and,
after inserting herself into their homes, proceeds to drain them of their
blood, as well as their lives.
Director Roy Ward Baker does an excellent job of
bringing Vampiric sexuality to this film. The lesbian overtones do not
engulf and cheapen the story. Instead, we are left to ponder whether
Mircalla is a lover who can't help but hurt the one she loves, or merely a predator
using every method to seduce her prey.
The supporting cast includes Peter Cushing in a small role as The
General, as well as George Cole, Kate O'Mara, Pippa Steele and the very sexy
Both prints are clean and in good watchable condition. Vampire Lovers is in an
anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 framing, while Countess Dracula is in an unfortunately non-anamorphic 1.66 X
1. The former has a slight edge over
the latter, but they are on the same level overall, with the anamorphic image
having some more depth and solid look.
The 1.66 image has the advantage in area, though it looks like an analog
recycling from possibly a LaserDisc.
They are also the slightest bit closer to the original Hammer-type color
than many of the Anchor Bay Hammer DVDs, if not as clean. Both exhibit softness.
Extras for the second film include another audio
commentary with Pitt, director Roy Ward Baker, and screenwriter Tudor Gates,
excerpts of "Carmilla" read by Pitt, and the original theatrical
trailer as well. It is the only one
we’ve seen on DVD so far, including on that aforementioned Hammer DVD.
For fans of Hammer and/or Ingrid Pitt, this Countess
Dracula / The Vampire Lovers DVD is topnotch and should be grabbed
before it could possibly go out of print!