Sunday, 16 October 2016

THE LEIGH SPENCE MOMENT: DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS

"There'll be no morning for us."

16/10/2016


Once up on a time, I wrote here about how Christopher Lee's original film appearance as Count Dracula, in the Hammer film made in 1958, was reclassified from a "X" certificate to "12A" when re-released in 2007, recognising how, when a shot of Technicolor bloodiness is seen, the film moves quickly on. I can only guess that, seven years after the film's release, as tastes and demands of audiences change, Lee's second outing as Dracula remains at a "Psycho"-level "15" certificate, containing "moderate, bloody horror," instead of just being gory enough to make its point. Both films were originally banned by Australian film censors, but that is neither here or there.


The Kensington Gore flows most freely when one of a party, taking refuge at the Dracula castle, is ritually murdered, and strung up to be drained into a casket, by the servant instructed by Dracula to keep the castle open to visitors, seemingly on the off-chance that their blood can be used to resurrect him. Once that chance is taken, it is up to the two in the party of four that our left - the other one becoming a vampire themselves - to bring Dracula down. The way in which the head monk of the nearby monastery rattles off the way to kill a vampire makes you think, as said in the film, that it is too easy to kill a vampire, but the trick is getting there but, when it does happen, it is clear the undead cannot be destroyed so easily.

Once it is clear that Dracula is not going to speak, with little point for the undead to do so, the story really became a simple case of how quickly can he be vanquished. Having introduced the idea that running water would be one answer, the shooting up of a drawbridge to send Dracula to his death was a neat, quick climax. When I say quick, I didn't expect a solitary view of Christopher Lee's face under the water to be followed exactly one second later with the closing credits rising over it. I was left feeling, perhaps more than should have been the case, that Dracula was only gone for the moment, but would be back - perhaps just a few seconds more would make me think he was actually destroyed. Then again, I knew this wasn't the last Dracula film anyway, so that hardly helped either.

"Dracula, Prince of Darkness" is a good introduction to that particular brand of Victorian horror that characterises Hammer Films productions but, while it is a good Dracula film, Christopher Lee's first appearance as Dracula is the better film, while its sequel will point out why the first film was so good.


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