Countess Dracula

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Countess Dracula
Comtesse des Grauens Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Peter Sasdy
Produced by Alexander Paal
Written by Jeremy Paul
Starring Ingrid Pitt
Nigel Green
Lesley-Anne Down
Music by Harry Robertson
Cinematography Kenneth Talbot
Edited by Henry Richardson
Production
company
Distributed by The Rank Organisation (UK)
20th Century Fox (USA)
Release date
  • 14 February 1971 (1971-02-14)[1]
  • October 1972 (1972-10) (US)[2]
Running time
93 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Countess Dracula is a 1971 British Hammer horror film based on the legends surrounding the "Blood Countess" Elizabeth Báthory.

The film was produced by Alexander Paal and directed by Peter Sasdy, both Hungarian émigrés working in England. The original music score was composed by Harry Robertson. Countess Dracula was also released on a double bill with Vampire Circus.

Plot[edit]

In 17th-century Hungary, recently widowed Countess Elisabeth Nádasdy discovers that her youthful appearance and libido can be temporarily restored if she bathes in the blood of young women. She enlists her steward and lover Captain Dobi and her maid Julie to help with the kidnap and murder of several local girls, whilst having another sexual affair with a young Lieutenant, Imre Toth. As a cover for her crimes while in her rejuvenated state, she takes the identity of her own daughter, Countess Ilona, whom she had Dobi hold captive in the wood. However, castle historian Fabio grows suspicious. Eventually, she kills a prostitute called Ziza. It doesn't help. Dobi finds Fabio, who has a book-chapter about blood sacrifices and tells Elisabeth the truth in return for being allowed to live. He says only a virgin sacrifice will help Elisabeth remain young and beautiful. She then kills more virgins, from peasant girls to the servant girls in the palace. Fabio tries to tell Toth the truth about his lover, but Dobi kills Fabio before he can do so. Dobi then shows Elisabeth to Toth to steer him away from her. Elisabeth forces Toth into marrying her but her daughter Ilona arrives home. Elisabeth grows old again and tries to kill her daughter but kills Toth instead. Elisabeth, Dobi and her maid are sentenced to death for their crimes and are last seen awaiting the hangman in their cell. In the last scene, the peasants curse her as "devil woman" and "Countess Dracula".

Countess Dracula was based on Hungarian Countess Erzsebet Báthory (1560-1614), who was responsible for the deaths of allegedly 600 girls and young women, all of which involved torture and gruesome methods of killing.

Cast[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Allmovie has retrospectively called the film "one of the more underrated films from the latter days of the Hammer Films dynasty."[3] The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films, on the other hand, wrote that the film's "distinctly anemic blood-lettings fail to lift a rather tiresome tale of court intrigue."[4]

New York Times film critic Howard Thompson considered it "better than most [horror movies] in a sea of trashy competition", and called Peter Sasdy's direction "smooth and pointed" with "crisp, cutting edge" dialogue, until the last act of the film where "it runs out of gas, along with the desperate old woman [Countess Elizabeth]."[5] David Pirie of The Monthly Film Bulletin called the acting "extremely poor," but found that the film "frequently takes on a nightmare quality" and that Pitt "brings to the part a very potent aura of physical corruption that is especially effective in the transformation sequences."[6]

Availability[edit]

The film is available on DVD from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the USA as a double-bill with The Vampire Lovers, and from Carlton in the UK in a box set with Twins of Evil and Vampire Circus.

Synapse released a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in the U.S. in 2014, which featured a new high-definition transfer.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Meikle, Dennis (2009). A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer (Revised Edition). Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 255. ISBN 9780810863811. 
  2. ^ Smith, Gary A. (2017). Vampire Films of the 1970s: Dracula to Blacula and Every Fang Between. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. p. 64-65. ISBN 9781476625591. 
  3. ^ Donald Guarisco. "Countess Dracula - Review". Allmovie. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  4. ^ Hearn & Barnes 2007, p. 143.
  5. ^ "Double Bill of Horror Arrives". New York Times. 12 October 1972. Retrieved 2013-05-16. 
  6. ^ Pirie, David (March 1971). "Countess Dracula". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 38 (446): 47. 
Sources
  • Hearn, Marcus; Barnes, Alan (25 September 2007). "Countess Dracula". The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films [The Hammer Story] (Limited ed.). Titan Books. ISBN 978-1845761851. OCLC 493684031. 

External links[edit]