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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Vampire > Scars Of Dracula

Scars of Dracula – Special Edition


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Film: B-



Christopher Lee’s run as Count Dracula has not been matched by any actor since.  Despite the many, many Dracula films that have been made since, none have since developed into the series Lee’s did.  This is by no means because Dracula has become boring or old hat, but that no group of filmmakers have been able to stick with it once they had begun.  Lee was also not happy that he was not as prominent as he should have been in the films to begin with.


In the case of this film, you know you are in for something a bit dated when the film opens with an obviously fake vampire bat, dripping blood form its mouth on to an open coffin to bring the evil Count back to life.  At least the blood is unashamedly deep red.  So begins Roy Ward Baker’s Scars of Dracula (1970), one of the most mixed of all the Dracula films, Hammer or not.


There is a good story here, as Dracula is assisted by (instead of just having the ability to become) a vampire bat, though it is far from a one-creature version of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963).  Because Baker is a smart director, this never becomes the gimmick film it would now, and there is also some well-placed humor.  It takes a good attention span for this installment, plus patience to wait for Lee to show up, but it pays off with more impact at the latter half of the film.


A young couple we get to know in advance makes a mistaken transgression upon the Count’s castle, just in time for his latest reawakening.  As well as this tends to be done, it cannot help but show its age, but works enough once you get past that.  Hammer knew the writing was on the wall, with John Elder’s screenplay being the last Hammer Dracula film set in the past.  It is bloodier and more graphic than you might expect, something Hammer should have kept up, since that is where the genre was going and these scenes have context to the script.  Either way, though Hammer made a few more Dracula films after this one, this was the appropriate wind-up to their Classical Draculas.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image is a bit soft and does not demonstrate the kind of color nuances a real Technicolor dye-transfer print would have upon its original theatrical release.  Cinematographer Moray Grant does a tight, efficient shooting job, and the blood is still red enough.  Video Black is a little off, though.  The film was shot at the Elstree Studios.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is what you can expect from an optical mono theatrical film of the time and the same kind of sound is on the newly recorded commentary track with Lee, Baker, and Hammer scholar Marcus Hearn.  It is very informative and entertaining.  Other extras include the U.K. trailer, a U.S. trailer that offers this film as a double feature with Horror of Frankenstein (from writer/director James Sangster the same year, one of Hammer’s best in that series), bio/filmographies on Lee & Baker, and a section showing posters and stills tied to this film’s promotion.  The Special Edition offers a second DVD entitled The Many Faces of Christopher Lee (1995) that is a great primer on Lee’s Hammer and Horror genre work, which he hosts very effectively.  See his work hosting 100 Years of Horror and Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes, both sold on their own, both reviewed elsewhere on this site.


To show you how graphic this film was, it actually has an R rating and I doubt even today (give or take the phony bat), it would get a PG-13.  It also might make an interesting argument in how to use such freedom to forward a narrative.  Even with all the serious advancements in make-up effects and “horror” of excessive (and excessively bad) digital effects, when this film works, it is in fine form.  Scars of Dracula is the kind of success that helped Hammer build their reputation, even in waning years.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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