Dracula: Prince of Darkness

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Dracula: Prince of Darkness
Draculaprinceofdarkness.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTerence Fisher
Produced byAnthony Nelson Keys
Screenplay byJimmy Sangster
Story byAnthony Hinds
StarringChristopher Lee
Barbara Shelley
Andrew Keir
Music byJames Bernard
CinematographyMichael Reed
Edited byChris Barnes
Production
company
Distributed byWarner-Pathé Distributors (UK)
20th Century Fox (US)
Release date
9 January 1966 (UK)
12 January 1966 (US)
Running time
90 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
Budget₤100,000 (approx)[1]
Box office$364,937 (North American)[1]
854,197 admissions (France)[2]

Dracula: Prince of Darkness is a 1966 British horror film directed by Terence Fisher. The film was photographed in Techniscope by Michael Reed, designed by Bernard Robinson and scored by James Bernard. It stars Christopher Lee, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, and Barbara Shelley.

This was the third entry in Hammer's Dracula series, and the second to feature Christopher Lee as the titular vampire.

Plot[edit]

A prologue replays the final scenes from Dracula, in which Doctor Van Helsing destroys Count Dracula by living and destroy his cult; only the memory of Dracula's evil remains.

The main story begins as Father Sandor prevents local authorities from disposing of a woman's corpse as if it were a vampire. Sandor chastises the presiding priest for perpetuating the fear of vampirism, and reminds him that Dracula was destroyed ten years previously. Sandor visits an inn and warns four English tourists, the Kents, not to visit Karlsbad; they ignore his advice.

As night approaches, the Kents find themselves abandoned by their fear-stricken coachdriver two kilometres from Karlsbad, in view of a castle. A driverless carriage takes them to the castle, where they find a dining table set for four people and their bags unpacked in the bedrooms. A servant named Klove explains that his master, the late Count Dracula, ordered that the castle should always be ready to welcome strangers. After dinner the Kents settle in their rooms.

Later that night Alan investigates a noise and follows Klove to the crypt, where Klove kills him and mixes his blood with Dracula's ashes, reviving the Count. Klove entices Helen to the crypt, where she becomes Dracula's first victim.

The next morning Charles and Diana can find no trace of Alan, Helen or Klove. Charles takes Diana to a woodsman’s hut, and then returns to the castle to search for Alan and Helen. Klove tricks Diana into returning to the castle. Charles finds Alan’s dismembered body in a trunk in the crypt. It is now dark and Dracula rises. Diana meets Helen, but Helen, who has become one of the undead, attacks her. Dracula enters and warns Helen away from Diana. Charles struggles with Dracula until Diana realises that her crucifix is an effective weapon against vampires. Charles improvises a larger cross and drives Dracula away. They escape from the castle in a carriage, but lose control on the steep roads. The carriage crashes and Diana is knocked unconscious. Charles carries her for several hours through the woods until they are rescued by Father Sandor, who takes them to his abbey.

Klove arrives at the monastery in a wagon carrying two coffins containing Dracula and Helen, but is denied admission by the monks. Ludwig, a patient at the abbey, is in thrall to Dracula and invites the Count inside. Helen convinces Diana to open the window and let her in, claiming to have escaped from Dracula. Diana does so and Helen bites her arm. Dracula drags Helen off, as he wants Diana for himself. Charles bursts into the room and drives the vampires out. Sandor sterilises the bite with the heat from an oil lamp.

Sandor puts silver crucifixes in the two coffins to prevent the vampires from coming back. He then captures Helen and drives a stake through her heart, killing her. Ludwig lures Diana into Dracula’s presence, where the Count hypnotises her into removing her crucifix. Dracula coerces her to drink his blood from his bare chest, but Charles returns in time to prevent it, forcing Dracula to flee with the unconscious Diana.

Charles and Sandor arm themselves, and follow on horseback. A shortcut allows them to get in front of Dracula's wagon and stop it. Charles shoots Klove. who has apparently removed Sandor's crucifixes from the coffins, but the horses gallop off to the castle. Diana is rescued while Dracula's coffin is thrown onto the ice that covers the moat. Charles attempts to kill the vampire, but Dracula springs out of his coffin and attacks him. Diana and Sandor shoot and break the ice, and Dracula sinks into the freezing waters.

Cast[edit]

Production notes[edit]

Dracula does not speak in the film, save for a few hisses. According to Christopher Lee: "I didn’t speak in that picture. The reason was very simple. I read the script and saw the dialogue! I said to Hammer, if you think I’m going to say any of these lines, you’re very much mistaken."[3] Screenwriter Jimmy Sangster disputed that account in his memoir Inside Hammer, writing that "Vampires don't chat. So I didn't write him any dialogue. Christopher Lee has claimed that he refused to speak the lines he was given ... So you can take your pick as to why Christopher Lee didn't have any dialogue in the picture. Or you can take my word for it. I didn't write any."[4]

The film was written into a novel by John Burke as part of his 1967 book The Second Hammer Horror Film Omnibus.

The film was made back to back with Rasputin, the Mad Monk, using many of the same sets and cast, including Lee, Shelley, Matthews and Farmer. Shelley later remembered accidentally swallowing one of her fangs in one scene, and having to drink salt water to bring it back up again because of the tight shooting schedule, as well as there being no spare set of fangs.

The film was released in some markets on a double feature with The Plague of the Zombies. Plastic vampire fangs and cardboard "zombie eyes" glasses were distributed to audience members as a gimmick.

Release[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Variety wrote that the picture "should please the following of this type of film and do all right at the wickets. Terence Fisher has directed it with his usual knowhow and the screenplay by John Samson is a workmanlike job which provides a useful number of mild thrills and little enough of the misplaced yocks that sometimes creep into this sort of pic."[5] The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "Apart from one or two welcome innovations—notably the sort of Instant Vampire recipe by which Dracula is resuscitated, and his final destruction by drowning rather than by the usual procedures—this is the same old hash as before ... The interiors are quite tastefully decorated, but script, direction and acting (except for Philip Latham's sinister butler, and Andrew Keir's forthright Father Sandor) leave much to be desired."[6]

Dracula: Prince of Darkness has been well received by critics in more recent years, and currently holds a 79% approval rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on nineteen reviews.[7]

The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films called it "perhaps the quintessential Hammer horror", but "contains little that audiences hadn't seen before."[8]

Home media[edit]

The film was one of the very first Hammer horrors to be released to UK DVD. More recently, on 19 January 2012, Hammer Films announced on their restoration blog that StudioCanal UK would release a Region B Blu-ray Disc version of the film on 5 March of that year. The announcement stated it would be "the chilling DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, restored at Pinewood from 2-perf cut negative, scanned and restored in 2k. DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS will be presented in all its Techniscope glory, in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1."[9] The Flicker Club in London screened the restored film on 24 February 2012 at a venue in the Old Vic Tunnels. The screening was preceded by a guest introduction by Marcus Hearn and a guest reading from Bram Stoker's original novel Dracula by actor Stephen Tompkinson.

In the US, Millennium Entertainment (now Alchemy) released the film as part of their Region 1 DVD "Hammer Horror Collection" in a two-disc, three-film set, along with The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires and Frankenstein Created Woman. It is also available on a double feature Region 1 release along with The Satanic Rites of Dracula.

Scream Factory announced a Collector's Edition Blu-ray release of the film for December 18, 2018.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Hearn, Marcus; Barnes, Alan (September 25, 2007). The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films [The Hammer Story] (Limited ed.). Titan Books. p. 96-97. ISBN 978-1845761851. OCLC 493684031.
  2. ^ Box office information for Terence Fisher films in France at Box office Story
  3. ^ Supernal Dreams: Christopher Lee on "Horror of Dracula" & "Curse of Frankenstein" – showing at the "Shock it to Me!" festival | Cinefantastique Online
  4. ^ Dixon, Wheeler W. (13 August 2016). Hollywood in Crisis or: The Collapse of the Real. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 36. ISBN 978-3319404806.
  5. ^ "Dracula—Prince of Darkness". Variety: 6. January 19, 1966.
  6. ^ "Dracula — Prince of Darkness". The Monthly Film Bulletin (385): 22-23. February 1966.
  7. ^ "Dracula – Prince of Darkness – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  8. ^ Hearn & Barnes 2007, p. 97.
  9. ^ Hammer Films restoration blog

External links[edit]