Scars Of Dracula


These days, people are constantly banging on about franchise fatigue with a particular eye on the content flood of superhero movies we get year after year; but it has to make you wonder: did critics and audiences of times past bring up similar complaints about bursting bubbles back when other genres clogged up the cinemas?
I only wonder because even Marvel’s measured out release dates look positively sparse compared to Hammer Films’ output in 1970, which not only included three vampire movies released within a six month period, but two of them were features that contained Christopher Lee’s Dracula. Say what you will about the yearly slates of modern movies, but at least we’re not getting three Fast & Furious movies within a twelve month period… well, at least not yet.
Anyway, after Lee’s earlier Drac attack with Taste The Blood Of Dracula, he threw on the cape and popped the fangs back in for Scars Of Dracula, yet another instance of popular culture’s most famed bloodsucker once again going through the motions as he struggles to put the bite on the changing times.


Count Dracula’s dusty remains lay on a slab in his secret chamber located in his castle and thanks to a chonky, rubbery bat flapping in the window and randomly dribbling blood on his ashes, the pastey villain rises once again to inflict fear on the neighbouring village.
However, the local peasants aren’t going to take the draining of a local girl sitting down and in a stunning act of dedication, actually start the movie by swarming to Castle Dracula and burning it down. However, their exuberance isn’t matched by their sluggish IQs and a surviving Dracula unleashes his terrible retribution to the wanton damage to his personal property by having the bats in his thrall nibble the families of the mob to death as they take refuge in the church.
We divert from this charming scene to meet Paul and Simon, two brothers who couldn’t be more different when it comes to their personalities, but when the libertine man-whore, Paul, gets falsely accused of raping the burgermeister’s daughter, he goes on the run and eventually ends up at Dracula’s castle where the concoction of a warm bed and a busty companion prove to be too much for the serial seducer. However, after his disappearance, the more sensitive Simon and his financée Sarah decide to trace his footsteps and try to figure out where he went and sure enough, after a run-in with the (understandably) broken townsfolk, the couple also find themselves at Casa Del Drac.
Somehow unaware that anything is wrong despite the fact that their deep-voiced host is as pale as a corpse and his man-servant, Klove, has one, giant, continuous eyebrow and the hygiene of a stray poop-eating mutt, the couplw seem obvious to the mortal danger they find themselves in – can they pull their head out of their respective butts in time to avert damnation and death?


For the sixth go round of their Dracula series, Hammer tried to do something slightly different than merely have Dracula suddenly respawn and target yet another pure, virginal wench at the drop of a hat – well… actually no, they didn’t, but at least they tried to draw more from Bram Stoker’s original source material this time. While the basic story beats largely remain the same (Drac comes back, fixates on woman, lover attempts to save her), the middle section of the movie is chiefly made up by our resident vampire trying to be something the last couple of movies gave neglected to show – a gracious (if intimidating) host. Now, while horror fans needn’t worry about a sitcom-esque side-plot about the titular vampire burning the roast before an important meal, it does have to be said that the debonair side of Lee’s performance had somewhat fallen by the wayside over the last couple of movies, even reducing the villain to being practically mute in some of them, so it’s genuinely nice to see him inviting people to stay even if his intentions are mostly carnal. There’s also a fair bit of time devoted to some of his original powers from Stoker’s story too – watch Lee scuttle up the side of a sheer wall or summon painfully fake looking vampire bats to launch clumsy attacks on unsuspecting do-gooders – and you could even argue that the whole section concerning Paul finding his way to the Count’s residence and spending a chunk of the film wandering around and getting horny in the ample presence of Anouska Hemple’s sultry vamp seductress mirrors Jonathan Harker’s imprisonment too.


Of course, this is Hammer, so despite this obvious lean towards the original story, there’s still the usual amount of lurid (for the time) gore, like Dracula’s stab-happy solution to an unfaithful, vampire moll, or the sight of Patrick Troughton’s epically bedraggled Klove either chopping up a body and dissolving it in acid or being punished by his cruel master by bring branded by a red hot cutlass (he’d best get on to HR about shit like that).
However, despite all this – not to mention the sight of Christopher Lee welding a glowing red sword over thirty years before Attack Of The Clones – Scars Of Dracula is yet another installment where it feels like the franchise is simply spinning its wheels and is noticably becoming more out of date with every entry. It’s a shame, because Roy Ward Baker’s movie isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just somewhat forgettable as the story treads over the same old ground as it dutifully ticks off resurrections, inhospitable townsfolk, gothic castles and all the other staples we’ve seen numerous times before. However, there may have been some interesting points to be made if the plot had decided to go further while comparing the actions of serial womanizer Paul and the Count himself, as both are technically men who prey on young, beautiful women only to discard them before sunrise all used and spent.
However, it’s almost like you can sense the lifeblood slowly draining out of the franchise with every new installment and matters aren’t helped by the series repeated use of painfully vanilla heroes (led distractingly by Dennis Waterman from Minder – which doublely weird when you realise that his co-star George Cole popped up in The Vampire Lovers in the same year), or the fact that Dracula’s ungodly plans are still frustratingly small fry for someone who is supposed to be a big-shot emissary of evil. This is further proven by the way Dracula is eliminated during the climax with his exit with the writers seemingly throwing their hands in the air after discovering that all the standard ways (stake, cross, holy water) have been exhausted and just went “To hell with it. Have him hit by lightning.”.


Still, Scars Of Dracula still perches barely on the right side of cheesy camp and at least Lee has actual lines in this one – but at this point it’s an unavoidable truth that these scars are definately starting to fade.


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