Dracula: Prince of Darkness

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Dracula: Prince of Darkness
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Terence Fisher
Produced by Anthony Nelson Keys
Written by Story:
Anthony Hinds
Jimmy Sangster
Starring Christopher Lee
Barbara Shelley
Music by James Bernard
Cinematography Michael Reed
Edited by Chris Barnes
Distributed by Warner-Pathé Distributors (UK)
20th Century Fox (US)
Release dates
9 January 1966 (UK)
12 January 1966 (US)
Running time
90 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English
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, Francis Matthews, and Barbara Shelley.


A prologue replays the final scenes from Dracula, in which Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) destroys Dracula (Christopher Lee) by driving him into the sunlight. These scenes are accompanied by voice-over narration that describes how Van Helsing, a scholar of vampirism, was able to end Dracula's century-long reign of terror 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 coach driver 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 he 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 has become one of the undead and she attacks her. Dracula enters and warns Helen away from Diana. Charles struggles with Dracula until Diana realises 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. While waiting for Diana to awaken, Sandor tells Charles about Dracula.

Klove arrives at the monastery in a wagon carrying two coffins bearing Dracula and Helen. Klove is denied admission by the monks. Ludwig, a patient at the abbey, is in thrall to Dracula and invites the vampire inside. Helen convinces Diana to open the window for her, claiming that Dracula is controlling her. Diana does, 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 returning to them. Helen is captured and staked. Sandor tells Charles that the Helen he knew is dead and that her current form is nothing but a monster now. Ludwig then lures Diana into Dracula’s presence, where she is hypnotised 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 but the horses gallop off to the castle. Diana is rescued, while Dracula's coffin is thrown onto the icy moat and Charles attempts to stake the vampire but is beaten back. Shots fired by both Diana and Sandor break the ice and the vampire sinks into the freezing waters.


Production notes[edit]

Barbara Shelley in trailer for "Dracula: Prince of Darkness" (1966)

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] But screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, in his memoir Inside Hammer (Reynolds & Hearn, 2001), stated that "Vampires don't chat. So I didn't write him any dialogue. Chris 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."

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. Barbara 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 patrons as a gimmick.


Critical reception[edit]

Dracula: Prince of Darkness has been well received by critics, and currently holds an 83% approval rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on twelve reviews.[4]

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."[5]

Home media[edit]

On 19 Jan 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 2012. 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."[6] 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 Dracula by actor Stephen Tompkinson.

See also[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. ^ "Dracula – Prince of Darkness – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 18 August 2012. 
  5. ^ Hearn & Barnes 2007, p. 97.
  6. ^ Hammer Films restoration blog

External links[edit]