Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir
Written by: Jimmy Sangster (screenplay)
Directed by: Terence Fisher
Distributor: Scream Factory
Original year of release: 1966
Runtime: 1hr, 30min
After viewing all the Universal Monster movies as a kid, I longed for more. Thankfully, someone smiled upon me and showed me the likes of The Curse of Frankenstein and The Horror of Dracula, thus kickstarting a new horror craze, Hammer Films. Outside of the monsters being similar to that of Universal crop, one Hammer Films actor stood out above all the rest. That man was Peter Cushing. For me, at the time, Cushing was Gran Moff Tarkin from Star Wars. Yet, there he was as Van Helsing and Dr. Frankenstein, both a hero and a villain. Suddenly, these horror films, in color, with their sequels, installments, and spin-offs became pure nectar to me. I quickly found myself drinking it up like the red colored blood that the studio became synonymous for. So, in my long run with Hammer Films, albeit on VHS, cable TV, DVD, and even 35mm, I am shocked that I never saw Scream Factory’s latest release Dracula: Prince of Darkness.
I have to mention that my gateway actor (Cushing) only appears in a flashback/ recap of the original film, (The Horror of Dracula). However, the title character is still played by Christopher Lee (FYI, Lee would also join the ranks of Star Wars by playing the Count Dooku years later). I sat down with eager anticipation to not only watch a Hammer Film that had long eluded me, but a Blu-ray that would allow me to screen the UK cut of the film. After a long haul of ninety minutes, I realized one thing: Hammer Films and their characters are a lot like comic book companies and their heroes. It’s the label, character, and actor I care about. This time the story might have been “meh”, but damn if I won’t watch the next one to get a re-release and still pop this one on next October. Why? Because I care about the studio, character, and above all the actor more than just one tale. So, when I see a film like Dracula: Princess of Darkness where Lee has no lines, I chalk it up to it being a slow movie, but, on the whole, still classic Hammer. I don’t know if this is common with other fans, but I see Hammer films like I do Spider-Man and Marvel Comics. I may not like everything with Spidey in it, but it’s still Spider-Man, so I am going to come back. This particular film also opened the door for me to Barbara Shelley and Andrew Keir and their bodies of Hammer Film work.
Yes, Dracula: Princess of Darkness is slow-moving. The hint of lesbianism, for 1966, and some fine character actors are just enough to get one through this story where no one listens to anyone spouting warnings. Dracula’s resurrection (seen below) is pretty gruesome for 1966, but when that red blood flows, yum! I also found it refreshing how this band of would-be heroes disposed of the Lord of Darkness. It is best to think of this as another installment/ issue in the ever-evolving Hammer saga for the character.
Scream Factory has lovingly restored the film and it looks lush with its Hammer colors. I particularly liked how they used two different prints to restore the opening titles. What I really sunk my teeth into was the “World of Hammer episode ‘Dracula and the Undead’”. Here was a full break down, hosted by Hammer alumni Oliver Reed, about Dracula and his vampire offspring in Hammer’s canon. I immediately found myself checking for numerous titles and their availability. “Back to Black – The Making of Dracula -Prince of Darkness” is where you will find all the juicy tidbits about the film and its history. Thankfully, Scream Factory is releasing the film that Dracula: Prince of Darkness was double billed with in January 2019 (The Plague of Zombies). With that being said, I also really hope to see The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974) soon from Scream Factory.
Pick it up for your love of the Hammer franchise, Christopher Lee, and hours of special features. The film is slow, but it is just another reminder of what you love about Hammer Films to begin with. There are plenty of Hammer babes, red blood, a fantastic score, and Dracula, played by the one and only Christopher Lee. #AFJ4LIFE
Dracula Prince of Darkness Bonus Features
- Two Versions! The UK version and the U.S. version
- NEW 4K scan of US version of the interpositive from the 20th Century Fox vaults
- NEW audio commentary with author Troy Howarth
- NEW audio commentary with filmmaker Constantine Nasr and writer/producer Steve Haberman
- Audio commentary with cast members Christopher Lee, Suzan Farmer, Francis Matthews, Barbara Shelley
- World of Hammer episode “Dracula and the Undead”
- Back to Black – The Making of Dracula -Prince of Darkness
- Super 8mm Behind-the-Scenes footage
- Theatrical Trailers
- Still Gallery