The Evil Dead vs Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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Recently I’ve noticed some strong similarities between two of my favourite horror franchises, The Evil Dead and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I’d go as far as to say that they are more comparable to each other than to any other franchise in terms of style, tone and premise. In this article I am going to run through the vast similarities and the key differences between both franchises.

Overview of Both Series

The Evil Dead franchise began with a low budget independent horror movie, called Within the Woods, directed by Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss.

The film revolved around a group of twenty somethings stumbling upon an old cabin in the woods, built next to an Indian grave yard. The spirits from the grave however soon possess one of the group, Bruce (played by Campbell), who goes on to pick off the others one by one. Though Ellen (played by Sandweiss), Bruce’s girlfriend is able to slay Bruce, the ending of the film shows that the spirits have survived and leaves her fate open as one of her possessed friends advances on her from behind.

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The film proved to an unexpected success, after being shown as a b-movie before a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

A few years later in 1982, Raimi would produce a remake, titled The Evil Dead. The Evil Dead followed the same premise, but rather than being spirits from an Indian graveyard, the monsters were Demons from hell, summoned by a book called the Necronomicon.

Bruce Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss also played brother and sister rather than lovers, and switched roles, with Ellen’s character now being possessed by the Demons, and Bruce’s character, renamed Ash, being the final survivor.

The ending of Evil Dead similarly saw the last survivor, Ash, being attacked by the Demons after he believed he had banished them, leaving his fate open.

The film was a huge success, though it also proved to be extremely controversial due to its excessive gore, and was even banned in the United Kingdom.

A sequel would be produced in the late 80s, Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn.

The film has often been mistaken for a remake as it opens with Ash and his girlfriend Linda arriving at the cabin and reading from the book, with Linda being played by a new actress. However it is still intended to be a sequel. Raimi and Campbell had intended to open Evil Dead 2 with a recap of the first film, however they couldn’t get the rights as it was owned by a different company, so they were forced to reshoot a recap of the first film.

5 minutes into the second film, the Demons are shown to grab Ash just like the ending of the first Evil Dead. Everything from there on can be considered a sequel to the first film, (and would later be by the series Ash Vs Evil Dead.)

Evil Dead 2 sees the owner of the cabin Raymond Knowby’s daughter, Annie arrive at the house. Though initially believing Ash killed her parents, she later discovers the truth when her demon possessed mother Henrietta returns. Ash and Annie are able to send the Demons back to hell using the Necronomicon, though sadly Annie is killed before she can close the portal and Ash is also sucked through.

The ending reveals that the portal actually sent both the Demons and Ash to the medevil era.

Several years later another sequel would be released titled Army of Darkness which would see Ash battle the forces of the Necronomicon in the 12th century. At the end of the film Ash, after defeating the Demons is given a magic potion that will send him back to his home era.

From here there are two endings, the original intended ending from Sam Raimi, and the more family friendly ending for the theatrical cut.

Original ending.

Theatrical ending.

Over the course of the next two decades Ash would return in various comic books and video games, including several crossover series which would see Ash encounter such characters as Xena the Warrior Princess,  Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krueger and even several Marvel superheroes.

There was also a remake of Evil Dead in 2013, featuring a new female hero. The remake though successful, was more of a serious horror movie like the original, than the later entries which tended to blend humour and horror.

Two years later in 2015, Bruce Campbell finally made a full return to the role in the series Ash vs Evil Dead. This series saw Ash come out of retirement (after accidentally unleashing the Deadites again) and be forced to work with two new Demon slayers, Kelly Maxwell (played by Dana Delorenzo), and Pablo (played by Ray Santiago). The series also expanded on the Demon lore, revealing who created the Necronimcon and introduced the character of Ruby, played by Lucy Lawless (best known for her role as Xena the Warrior Princess.)

Running for 3 series, Ash vs Evil Dead proved to be a huge critical success and brought even greater attention to the franchise. Sadly however after its conclusion in 2018, Bruce Campbell announced that he intended to retire the character of Ash, seemingly bringing an end to the franchise for good.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer originally began as a film in 1992, starring Kristy Swanson as Buffy. It’s premise revolved around one girl in every generation, known as the Slayer being granted the strength and power to hunt Vampires. The latest Slayer, Buffy Summers, is approached by Merrick, a member of an organisation known as the Watchers, to combat the ancient Vampire king Lothos (played by Rutger Hauer.)

Merrick is killed by Lothos, who later launches an attack on Buffy’s school. Ultimately however unlike all of the Slayers before her, Buffy is able to slay Lothos by going against the rules of the Watchers and doing things her own way.

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The Buffy movie was a moderate success, though Joss Whedon was reportedly unhappy with it, feeling that they toned down the horror aspects, and theme of female empowerment from his original script too much.

5 years later Whedon would revive the project as a series. The series, which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy, was a loose sequel to the original film. It takes place several months later and shows Buffy moving to Sunnydale, desperate to move on with her life, only to be approached by another Watcher, Rupert Giles (played by Anthony Stewart Head.)

Buffy at first refuses to continue on as the slayer after the events of the first film, only to be forced into action when her new friends Willow (played by Alyson Hannigan) and Xander (played by Nicholas Brendon) are attacked by Vampires. Buffy later discovers that Sunnydale is built over a portal to a hell dimension which makes it a magnet for not only Vampires, but Demons, Werewolves, Witches and other supernatural creatures.

Buffy’s main adversary was initially The Master, an ancient Vampire king, buried below Sunnydale who sought to open the Hellmouth and allow the Demons trapped within to emerge back into our world and conquer humanity.

Over the course of the series Buffy would go on to battle various other monsters, such as Demons, Ghosts, Werewolves, Zombies, Witches, Gods, Robots and even Aliens from outer space! The core cast would also expand over the course of the series too.

Arguably the two most significant supporting character in the series, outside of Buffy’s original three friends, were Buffy’s two love interests, the Vampires, Angel and Spike (played by David Boreanaz and James Marsters.)

Angel was introduced in the shows first series initially as a mystery man who gave Buffy cryptic advice on Vampires. Part way through season 1 however Angel was revealed to be a Vampire, cursed with a human soul, and therefore capable of feeling remorse. Angel and Buffy would fall in love in season 2, though later that year Angel would lose his soul, reverting to the evil Angelus he had been before. Angelus would serve as the main antagonist for the shows second season. After gaining his soul back at the end of season 2, Angel would later gain his own spin off series, simply titled Angel that would run for 5 seasons and become a major and influential cult hit in its own right.

Spike meanwhile initially began as an enemy of Buffy’s in season two and would continue to recur as a villain until season 4 when he was kidnapped by The Initiative, an organisation devoted to tracking down and experimenting on supernatural creatures. The Initiative implanted a chip in Spike’s brain that caused him pain every time he attempted to hurt someone, but not Demons, resulting in him becoming an unlikely ally of Buffy’s.

In season 5 Spike falls in love with Buffy, which leads to a destructive and abusive relationship between the Vampire and the Slayer, culminating in Spike’s attempt to rape her in season 6. Following this Spike would later win himself a soul and find redemption by sacrificing himself in the season finale of Buffy, before being resurrected as a regular for the final season of Angel.

The series was initially conceived as a “High School is hell” metaphor, but later series would depict Buffy in college and as a young adulthood. Outside of her battles with the undead, the series also saw Buffy cope with everyday personal problems such as her mother dying and subsequently being forced to raise her little sister Dawn.

At the end of the series, Buffy, much like in the original film, goes against the Slayer rules, and has Willow (who over the course of the series becomes a powerful Witch) cast a massive spell which turns every potential Slayer into a Slayer.

Buffy finished in 2003 after 7 season, whilst Angel finished the following year in 2004. 3 years later however, both Buffy and Angel’s stories were continued via two comic book series which are still going as of the writing of this article.

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The official comic book continuation of Buffy and Angel which is said to be canon according to Buffy creator Joss Whedon. 

In 2018, Joss Whedon announced that he would be remaking Buffy, 15 years after the original finished its run. No details are known about the casting or plot at present.

Both Buffy and Evil Dead would go onto be very influential on subsequent horror films and television series, with the characters of Ash and Buffy being among the most iconic horror characters. Edgar Wright, the director of Shaun of the Dead has cited Evil Dead 2 as one of his biggest influences, as has Eric Kripke, the creator of Supernatural, whilst the makers of both Charmed and the 21st century version of Doctor Who have both credited Buffy with inspiring and paving the way for them.

The stars of both franchises such as James Marsters, Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi and Eliza Dushku have also gone on to land major and leading roles in various other cult series and films as a result of both franchises popularity.

Evil Dead’s Influence on Buffy

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Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy and Angel is a fan of the Evil Dead franchise, having cited it as a big influence.

There have even been a few direct references to Evil Dead in Buffy, such as the First Evil shouting “DEAD BY SUNRISE!” in an homage to “DEAD BY DAWN” the tagline of Evil Dead 2, and a phrase that is frequently shouted by the Demons of the series. In the episode Crush, Xander also refers to Spike as “The Evil Dead.”

Whedon’s later horror movie, Cabin in the Woods followed the same basic premise as Evil Dead, a group of twenty somethings become lost in a cabin in the woods, and after reading from a book, end up unleashing ancient Lovecraftian Demons into the world. There is even a reference to the Deadites, the main villains from the Evil Dead franchise too.

With this in mind it is likely that at least some of the similarities between both franchises were intentional. There’s nothing wrong with this. All works of fiction take from others (including Evil Dead which borrowed from everything from The Three Stooges to HP Lovecraft.) Nothing is truly original, but still I think its fair to say that the Evil Dead in many ways was a predecessor to Buffy.

Interestingly enough however Bruce Campbell is a huge Buffy fan and has included a few references to it in his work too. In My Name is Bruce, Campbell’s fictionalized version of himself, who is called in to fight a Demon by one of his fans, says after the Demon is seemingly slain,  “next time there is a Demon, call that Buffy chick.”

Finally the season 2 episode of Ash vs Evil Dead called Delusion, where a Demon attempts to trick Ash into believing that the supernatural are all figments of his imagination, was inspired by the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, Normal Again, which featured a similar plot.

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Similarities

Both Revolve Around A Reluctant Chosen One

Both Evil Dead and Buffy revolve around a hero who is chosen by the forces of good to fight Demons and monsters. Both are even regularly referred to as the chosen one.

Ironically however in both cases the chosen one is, on the surface at least; not anybody’s ideal idea of a hero and is extremely reluctant to be a hero too.

Ash is shallow, lazy, unmotivated, arrogant, egocentric, and at times, somewhat lecherous.

Buffy meanwhile though not nearly as unsympathetic or unlikable as Ash, is still, in the original movie at least, initially shown to be quite shallow, spoiled and vapid.

Both Buffy and Ash regularly quit being the chosen one for long periods at a time, such as at the end of season 1 of Ash vs Evil Dead, and the end of season 2 of Buffy. It would be unthinkable for another Vampire hunter character like Blade or Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing to quit.

Both Buffy and Ash also regularly screw things up, such as when Ash says the wrong words to release the Necronomicon in Army of Darkness, or when Buffy leads dozens of young girls to their deaths at the hands of Caleb.

Both are even responsible for unleashing a lot of the monsters they face. Ash unleashes the Demons in season 1 of Ash vs Evil Dead when he reads from the book to try and impress a girl, (whilst he’s stoned.) Buffy meanwhile is responsible for letting the Master go free in Prophecy Girl when she blunders head first into his base, whilst in season 2, Buffy also inadvertently causes Angel to lose his soul. To be fair to Buffy in regards to Angelus, unlike Ash’s many screw ups, she had absolutely no idea that Angel would lose his soul. Still to have the hero be responsible for letting the villain be free in anyway is again not something that you could imagine with most other heroes.

Buffy and Ash’s flaws do sometimes make them come over as unsympathetic and selfish, but at other times they can make both characters seem more human, which is why both have such an enduring popularity.

Who wouldn’t react the way Buffy and Ash do a lot of the time? Imagine being told that you will have to spend the rest of your life fighting the most hideous, evil, bloodthirsty monsters, that you’ll never be able to have a family, or any kind of normal life again, and that the rest of your life will probably be very short. You’d have a right to be pissed off and ask why does all of this have to fall on your shoulders.

Unlike Blade or Peter Cushing who make it a mission to hunt the forces of darkness, Ash and Buffy are thrown into it unprepared.

Buffy and Ash in both cases later gather together a group of misfits, and unconventional heroes to help them battle the paranormal, the Ghost Beaters in Ash’s case, and the Scooby Gang in Buffy’s.

Buffy and Ash’s unconventional status as heroes is regularly used as a source of comedy and tragedy in both series, which leads to my next point.

They Both Mix Horror and Comedy

Evil Dead and Buffy are not the only examples of the horror and comedy genres being merged together.

However I think its fair to say that they represent arguably the most extreme examples. Most other horror comedies tend to settle on being largely one over the other.

Scary Movie for instance is totally a comedy with a horror movie setting, whilst An American Werewolf in London might have humorous, and witty moments, but is still largely a horror movie.

With Buffy and Evil Dead however the comedy is so severe that it is more or less a complete parody, whilst the horror in both franchises represent some of the most extreme and gruesome in the history of the genre in either film or television.

The jump from comedy to horror is so large as you can see from the two clips above, that if you were to watch both clips in isolation you probably wouldn’t believe they were from the same show!

Both Buffy and Evil Dead are able to merge both genres together so well because they make everything so extreme. The monsters are so over the top, even just in terms of appearance that the viewers are able to accept the horror and comedy being so over the top as a result.

Buffy Vampires vs The Deadites

The main villains of both franchises possess many strong similarities with one another in the following ways.

Origins

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The gigantic, Lovecraftian, tentacled creators of the Vampires and the Deadites.

In both the Buffy and Evil Dead mythology, gigantic god like Demons were said to have ruled the earth many thousands of years before recorded history began. They made the earth a hell dimension before being banished to another dimension, allowing the age of man to begin.

In Evil Dead’s case these Demons were referred to as the Dark Ones, whilst in Buffy they were referred to as the Old Ones. Both are based on the Old Ones from HP Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos.

The Dark Ones were banished by one of their own, Ruby, through a book called the Necronomicon, which she hoped to use to control them. Ruby however was later stripped of her powers. In Buffy it is not known who banished the Old Ones, but the Demons were cast through a portal to hell, located beneath Sunnydale (which is referred to as the Hellmouth.)

The Vampires and the Deadites meanwhile are lesser creatures created by the Dark Ones/Old Ones to help them escape. The Deadites are released through the Necronomicon, and their goal in all three films, and the tv series, is to use the book to release the Dark Ones to overthrow humanity and bring hell on earth.

In Buffy meanwhile the Vampires were created when one of the Old Ones fed on a human and infected him, turning him into a Demon/human hybrid. He then went on to infect another and another, creating the Vampire race. Thus Vampires main aim in Buffy is similar to the Deadites, as they hope to open the Hellmouth and release the Old Ones to overthrow humanity and bring about hell on earth.

They’re Both Demon/Human Hybrids

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The Deadites and the Vampires are not people at all. They are Demons who inhabit the corpses of humans. They absorb the memories of the human bodies they take over, and even some negative personality traits, but they are not the people whose bodies they take over in the slightest. In some cases they even refer to their predecessors in the third person.

In both franchises we see a few instances of the Demon inside of Deadites and Vampires outside of a human body and it is depicted as nothing more than a savage animal. Therefore the entire Vampire or Deadites personality comes from the memories of the host it takes over. The Demon that possesses Deadites is referred to as a Kandarian Demon, whilst the Demon that possesses Vampires is referred to as a Van-Tal.

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The Van-Tal Demon left, and the Kandarian Demon right, without human bodies to inhabit. Vampires and Deadites only refer to the combination of these Demons in a human body.

Both Demons will often use their hosts memories to trick and torment their loved ones.

Examples of this include in Evil Dead 2 where the Demonic version of Henrietta attempts to trick her daughter Annie into releasing her by singing a lullaby the real Henrietta used to sing to Annie when she was a littler girl, or in Ash Vs Evil Dead when Kelly’s mom is possessed and the Demon uses her memories to repeatedly torment Kelly.

First the Demon lets Kelly think her mother is alive, (after she was killed in a freak accident 6 months earlier.) It lies to Kelly and claims that she was injured and suffered amnesia for 6 months, before it murders her father. Even after killing her father however, the Demon manages to trick Kelly again, making Kelly believe that her mother is merely possessed and that she can fight it with Kelly’s help. Worst of all the Demon later lies to Kelly that her mother wasn’t killed in an accident, but that she in fact killed herself to escape her failure of a daughter!

Spike’s mother similarly after she is turned into a Vampire enjoys tormenting her son, by claiming that she never loved him, always regarded him as a failure, and worse that she had a sexual attraction to him!

In both cases we know that neither Spike nor Kelly’s mother viewed their children that way, but from Spike and Kelly’s point of view, there would always be a tiny grain of doubt, as ultimately the Demon has access to their memories and inner thoughts. This tiny grain of doubt is shown to torment Spike and Kelly for practically the rest of their lives.

At the same time however whilst the Demons are able to use their hosts memories to torment or trick people, ironically there are some instances where their hosts memories can affect them to some extent too. The Demons can even end up having a fleeting affection for their hosts loved ones.

Examples of this include the Demonic version of Henrietta who is shown to become visibly moved when the real Henrietta’s daughter Annie sings, (ironically the lullaby the Demon had attempted to trick Annie with earlier) purely due to Henrietta’s memories, which ultimately allows Ash enough time to slay the beast.

Similarly in Buffy both Spike and Drusilla, even as Vampires still love their parents. Spike even goes as far as to turn his mother into a Vampire, whilst Drusilla later takes a pleasure in torturing Angel as revenge for killing her loved ones, despite the fact that they weren’t actually her loved ones. She is a Demon, merely inhabiting the corpse of the young woman, whose actual loved ones Angelus killed, but once again the hosts memories are enough to trick Drusilla into caring about their deaths, just like Henrietta and Annie.

Whilst not humans, the Deadites and the Vampires do draw a fine line between Demon and human, and explore the idea of our memories really defining who we are more than anything  else, to the point where an evil Demon from hell, can still feel affection and love, simply due to inheriting our memories.

They Are Both Completely Evil

The Buffy Vampires and Deadites are both evil, sadistic monsters who enjoy not only killing, but torturing their victims. Despite the very rare, fleeting moments of affection from some Demons and Vampires. There are virtually no shades of grey to either.

They are all colossal perverts who frequently sexually abuse their victims too, or are at least shown to derive a perverse pleasure from torture.

Examples of this include Angelus who was shown to frequently rape his female victims, Marcus a Vampire who enjoyed torturing, raping and killing children, and even Spike who mentioned doing horrible things to girls Dawn’s age.

In the Evil Dead meanwhile Ruby’s Demon children similarly mention a desire to gang rape Kelly, whilst another female Deadite tears a man’s penis off whilst giving him a blow job. Then there is the notorious tree rape scene from the first Evil Dead.

With this in mind, coupled with the fact that they aren’t people at all, just Demons inhabiting, and therefore really desecrating human corpses. There is absolutely no moral ambiguity in killing Deadites or Vampires at all. The main heroes, Buffy and Ash can kill them in the most gruesome and over the top ways, and not once does any other character, or the viewers question if they are doing the right thing. If anything its extremely satisfying watching the Vampires and the Deadites suffer the most gruesome deaths.

In both cases however they’re both such perverts that they often enjoy being beaten up and tortured to an extent.

The Vampires and the Deadites ridiculous cruelty is often what allows both Buffy and Evil Dead to frequently switch between such overt comedy and such visceral horror. Sometimes their cruelty can be used in a more petty, comical way, with the Vampires and the Deadites being portrayed as homicidal trolls, or just jerks, whilst in other instances they can be portrayed as horrifying, sexual predators.

They Both Look Similar

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Vampires and Deadites can appear human, but when they attack they revert to their true Demon form. Their Demon forms look somewhat similar. They both have large, bumpy foreheads, yellow eyes (in some cases) slightly paler skin, and sharp teeth.

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Joss Whedon himself even said that he preferred the more overt Vampire make up for the creatures in the earlier seasons, because it reminded him of the creatures in old horror films like Evil Dead.

Finally as if those similarities weren’t enough, both the Deadites and the Buffy Vampires main enemies are a reluctant hero, who is picked by the forces of good to do battle against them, and is referred to as The Chosen One.

They Both Span Multiple Mediums

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Buffy and Evil Dead have had a greater success across several different mediums than most other horror franchises.

Big tv hits like Supernatural, Charmed, Being Human, Hex etc, have not crossed over into film or comic books or video games as frequently as Evil Dead and Buffy. Charmed did produce a sequel comic book series, but only one very basic mobile video game and never (to date) a film. Similarly many horror film franchises like Alien, Halloween, and Friday the 13th have not crossed over into television, whilst those who have such as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream have not crossed over into the video game medium with as much success.

Meanwhile I think its safe to say that not many horror franchises have spawned musicals!

Its even more incredible when you consider that Buffy and Evil Dead have largely been produced by the same people over the decades. The 92 movie may have deviated from Joss’ original idea, but it was still his script.

There are many reasons as to why these two franchises have been able to cross over across so many different mediums more than others.

The fact that they lend themselves to parody more than other franchises is what allowed both to have musical instalments.

At the same time the fact that they do treat their horror seriously, and are even willing to go the extra mile in terms of gore and visceral content (up to and including showing people be skinned alive on screen!) Means that both can just as easily be adapted into terrifying, shocking horror movies too.

Finally the fact that both have such wide universes and mythology, allows them to be adapted as television series, comic books and video games. The fact that they both star such dynamic and over the top action heroes also makes them both a natural fit for video games and comic books too. Even Supernatural and Charmed though having a wide enough universe, both of their leading heroes are more toned down compared to Buffy and Ash. Sam and Dean are ordinary humans (most of the time) who have to rely on spells, and weapons and don’t tend to do as much over the top physical fighting as Buffy, whilst similarly, the Charmed Ones tend to rely on spells and potions to destroy Demons.

Buffy meanwhile has super strength, stabs her enemies, cuts their heads off,  and burns and beats them to death. Ash similarly has a chainsaw hand, hacks his enemies to pieces and gets involved in the most over the top surreal fights scenes.

You can see how both characters could easily translate into the comic books and video game mediums.

Conclusion

As you can see there are a number of similarities between Buffy and Evil Dead. Both feature more human, flawed, reluctant heroes, both merge extreme horror and comedy together, and both feature main antagonists who are the lesser minions of Lovecraftian Demon Gods, whose main goal is to free their masters and cause as much havoc as possible.

Finally due to their larger than life nature and dynamic, action leads, both have been able to conquer just about every medium.

The key difference between the two franchises is that The Evil Dead is aimed more at guys, whilst Buffy the Vampire Slayer is aimed more at women.

Both franchises are hugely popular among both genders, and there are plenty of strong, heroic and villainous roles for both genders in both franchises.

However that said I do think that Evil Dead is aimed primarily more at men simply because it is more of an action series. It focuses solely on the horror, the gore, the monsters. There is some romance in it, but its usually very fleeting. Most of Ash’s love interests are either killed such as Linda and Amanda, or forgotten about. Similarly Kelly and Pablo’s will they, won’t they romance, is largely in the background throughout most of the series.

Buffy meanwhile, whilst having a healthy dose of action and horror too, tends to focus a lot more on the soap opera elements than Evil Dead. We see more of her home life, and later seasons, such as most notably season 6 focus almost entirely on Buffy’s love life, as well as the love lives of her friends like Xander and Willow, with the monsters being pushed into the background.

I’m not saying that you don’t get plenty of women who love horror and gore and action, and plenty of men who enjoy romance stories, but overall I think its fair to say that women tend to enjoy romance more, whilst men tend to enjoy action more.

Buffy and Evil Dead are similar to this respect in Supernatural and Charmed, in that Supernatural and Charmed also represent a similar idea told from a different genders perspective.

With this in mind, and considering the good will there is between the makers of both franchises, I’m amazed that there has never been a crossover between Buffy and The Evil Dead.

Ash has crossed over with Xena, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, but none of them in my opinion are as good a fit as Buffy would be.

I’d love to see a story where the Deadites posses Willow and make her start skinning people at random, like she did to Warren.

Deadite Willow would be the most horrifying villain in either franchise!

The Deadites could easily exist in Buffy’s universe, and the Buffy Demons could easily exist in Evil Dead’s. We know that there are hundreds of species of Demons in both franchises.

Furthermore as the lore is so similar, then they could easily fit together, unlike say Buffy and Supernatural, which has a totally different origin for Demons and Vampires.

If anything Evil Dead could explain who banished the Old Ones in Buffy. We never found out who did banish the Old Ones in Buffy? Maybe it was Ruby, who banished the Demons she couldn’t control through the hellmouth, and the ones she did hope to control into the Necronomicon. The Dark Ones and the Old Ones could easily be the same creatures. They more or less are. All you’d have to explain would be that some people call them the Old Ones, and others call them the Dark Ones.

Maybe with this in mind the Vampires and the Deadites are cousin races. Both created by the Dark/Old Ones, to free them from hell?

Whilst it will never happen in live action, I’d love to see a comic series that brings Evil Dead and Buffy together, and sees the Ghost Beaters and the Scoobies team up to take on some ancient Vampires and Deadites who plan to free the Old/Dark Ones from hell.

Thanks for reading.

 

Scars of Dracula Review

Christopher Lee’s fifth performance as Stokers famous Vampire in the Hammer series (but sixth overall). This is often regarded as one of the weakest, if not the weakest entry in the series.

Personally though I actually find this to be one of the better films in the series. Its by far and away the goriest and most explicit, and it also gives Lee far more to do than any entry in the series after the first film. Finally it also features a very memorable performance from a former Doctor Who Patrick Troughton as well.

Plot

In an old abandoned church in London, Dracula’s spirit from beyond the grave is able to summon a bat that spills blood on his remains. Dracula is restored to life and he returns to his castle in Klausenberg. There the Vampire resumes his reign of terror for many years over the people. He is aided by his servant Klove, who is revealed to have survived his previous encounter with Father Sandor.

Eventually the villagers finally fight back. Not wanting to lose any more of their daughters and wives to this bloodthirsty monster, the men of the village go to castle Dracula to burn it down whilst their wives and children wait behind in the church.

They break down the doors of the castle, overpower Klove and set fire to the building.

Klove taunts them that the flames will never reach his master and sure enough as Dracula sleeps in the highest tower of the castle he is perfectly safe.

Still the villagers believe they have finally destroyed the Vampire and return to the church to be reunited with their wives and daughters. However when they open the two doors several bats fly out.

They discover to their horror that Dracula in revenge dispatched a horde of bats to the church who tore all of the women and children inside apart. As the men weep over the mutilated remains of their families the priest declares that this is now a place of evil.

Several years later in a neighbouring village a man named Paul is forced to go on the run when he has an affair with the burgomeisters daughter who falsely accuses him of rape after he cheats on her. Fleeing through the countryside he stumbles upon Klausenberg.

He finds a local pub where he and the landlady Julie take a liking to each other and even kiss. Unfortunately the landlord forces him out.

The landlord many years ago was the man who led the attack on castle Dracula. With his wife having been torn apart by the bats in the church, the landlord is a completely broken man and terrified of crossing Dracula again. He is worried that Paul a strangers presence will make Dracula think they are planning against him and thus forces him to leave. The landlord is also very protective of Julie whom he views like a daughter.

With nowhere else to go Paul ends up in Castle Dracula. There he is greeted by the Count and his latest victim, a young woman named Tania that Dracula has been feeding on.

Dracula allows him to spend the night. He then finishes feeding on Tania and turns her into a Vampire. As a Vampire Tania sneaks into Paul’s room and seduces him. Just as she is about to bite him however Dracula bursts in. Having grown tired of Tania as he has finished feeding on her, and he does not want to have to share his kills with another Vampire. Dracula brutally stabs her to death with a silver blade, with silver being a weakness of Vampires. After killing Tania, Dracula drinks some blood from her corpse. He then tries to kill Paul, but as the sun comes up he is forced to retreat to his coffin.

Paul manages to find the Vampires coffin and climbs down to it, but Klove cuts the rope leaving him trapped in the same room as Dracula. Dracula even from his sleep manages to take control of Paul’s mind and enslaves him. Klove meanwhile dismembers Tania’s corpse and burns the remains in acid. Whilst he is doing this he goes through Paul’s possessions and finds a picture of Paul’s fiance Sarah. Klove falls in love with her.

Paul’s brother Simon and Sarah soon arrive in Klausenberg looking for him. The landlord lies and says he hasn’t seen him, though Julie tells them the truth and they head for Castle Dracula. There they are greeted by the count who sets his sights on Sarah as his next victim.

In the night as Dracula prepares to prey on her a crucifix she wears scares him off. Dracula demands Klove remove it and he obliges until he sees that Sarah is the same woman from a portrait he found among Paul’s possessions earlier. Klove refuses to remove the cross and Dracula as a punishment whips Klove.

Klove defies his master yet again however and tells Simon that he and Sarah must flee or else Dracula will do horrible things to her.

The two manage to escape the castle and Dracula furious with his servant tortures him by placing a piece of searing hot metal on the whip wounds he made on Klove’s back.

Back in the village Simon begs the villagers for help but none of them oblige. Julie is disgusted at their cowardice and prepares to leave. The landlord however begs her not go on alone through the dark. He warns her that Dracula is not an ordinary man and the has command over the animals such as bats. Julie doesn’t believe him and against his pleas goes on alone.

This proves to be a fatal mistake as Klove soon ambushes her and pushes her into his horse and carriage. He then takes her back to Castle Dracula. Happy that he has pleased his master after his disobedience earlier, Klove leaves and Dracula savagely kills Julie by tearing her throat out with his teeth and draining her dry. Klove then dismembers her corpse just like Tania and burns it in acid.

Simon goes on ahead to Castle Dracula having left Sarah with a priest, who was the only member of the village who agreed to help them apart from Julie. Unfortunately Dracula sends a bat attack the priest. The bat kills him by tearing his face off after which it pursues Jenny straight to the castle.

In the castle Simon asks Klove for help, and though he complies he later betrays him by cutting the rope he uses to climb down to Dracula’s coffin leaving him trapped there.

Simon discovers the awful truth about what happened to his brother. Dracula tortured and killed him by impaling him on a massive spike in his lair. Simon attempts to stake the monster as he sleeps, but unfortunately much like he did to his brother, Dracula manages to subdue Simon with his mind even in his sleep. When Dracula comes too he taunts Simon.

He tells him that his minions (the bats) have brought Sarah here and that soon he will feast on her. Dracula then scales the wall of his castle like a spider and pursues Sarah.

Klove finally decides to help Sarah and throws a rope down to Simon to help him.

Dracula meanwhile uses a bat to tear the cross from Jenny’s neck. Cornering her, as he moves in for the kill, Klove confronts him. Wielding the same silver knife Dracula used to kill Tania, Klove tries to strike it through the Vampires heart, but Dracula effortlessly overpowers him and hurls Klove over the top of the castle to his death.

Simon soon arrives afterwards and faces the Vampire. He too is no match for him and is easily overpowered. In the fight he rips off a railing from the side of the castle and hurls it into Dracula’s stomach.

This obviously can not kill a Vampire and Dracula merely pulls it out. However as he lifts it to throw it into Simon, lightening strikes it. Dracula’s whole body goes up in flames. He thrashes around in agony before tumbling over the side of the building in a flaming mass to his death, bringing his reign of terror to an end.

Review

Scars of Dracula suffers from many budgetary problems that make certain scenes sadly seem somewhat laughable.

There’s the famous knife wobbling as Dracula stabs Tania, the awful fake looking bats, and the obvious stunt double wearing a mask when Dracula is on fire. Sadly in comparison to the movies both before and after it in the series, it really looks shoddy and badly put together.

Still in spite of these faults I think this truly is a fantastic Vampire film that actually helps to rectify some of the problems of the last two entries in the series.

To start with Christopher Lee is given far more to do than in any other sequel save possibly Dracula Has Risen From The Grave. Added to that he is able to inject more elements from Stokes novel into the character too. We see the Count act as an icy, charming, suave host who lures his victims into a false sense of security. There is also a scene where he climbs the walls of his castle like a spider that is taken straight from the novel as well.

I think this film also perhaps borrows elements from the Universal Dracula films. In terms of appearance Dracula has a more pale look like the Lugosi Dracula, also again the somewhat unnerving, cold demeanour Dracula has is more akin to Lugosi, though that’s not to say that Lee apes Lugosi or is derivative of him at all.

Also the idea of villagers wielding pitchforks trying to burn down the monsters lair is a staple of the old Universal films rather than the Hammer movies. A few other Hammer movies did feature villagers wielding pitchforks and torches such as Curse of the Werewolf, but generally speaking however the villagers in the Hammer movies are often the reverse and are too scared to do anything against Dracula such as in Dracula has Risen From the Grave. Dracula’s more mystical powers such as commanding the animals are also features that we generally see in the Universal movies and Stokers novel rather than earlier Hammer films.

Still at its core its very much a Hammer film. Dracula is still a tremendous physical presence, and the sexual aspect of Vampirism if anything is played up to a greater extent than ever before, with Tania actually sleeping with Paul before trying to kill him.

In many ways this film can be seen as a weird mixture of Stoker, the Universal and Hammer movies.

The best thing I think this film does is finally restore the Vampire to being a legitimate menace again.

To start with after he is resurrected Dracula doesn’t get killed in a matter of days like in the previous three films. He lives on for years which makes him look a bit less clumsy and accident prone.

Also this film shows him resume his reign of terror over Klausenberg which I feel was an interesting angle for this movie to explore, rather than just have him pursue a couple of people in revenge or for food.

In the previous movies we saw how the villagers were scared of Dracula, but we never actually saw him interact with the townsfolk or what life was like under the rule of a Vampire. This coupled with the fact that he kept getting killed by ordinary guys named Paul meant that Dracula didn’t really seem like all he was cracked up to be.

In Scars of Dracula we see how the full extent of how he manages to terrorise the villagers to the point where they would never lift a finger against him.

The opening scene has got to be one of the most effective in the entire series. We are shown what was only ever stated before. Like how does Dracula hide from his enemies during the day? Van Helsing would often say “we wouldn’t be able to find him during the day time” but how?

It is revealed that Dracula is able to hide from his enemies effectively during the day by sleeping in the tallest tower that is completely cut off and that only he can reach by climbing.

Dracula’s retaliation against the villagers is possibly his most heinous act in the series up to this point.

It completely breaks Michael Rippers character the landlord. Its interesting seeing Rippers character go from being someone who leads the attack on Dracula’s castle, that is determined to never let another young girl fall victim to the monster, to a completely broken, bitter man who is so terrified of Dracula that he refuses to help the main characters.  I think the landlord could be Ripper, who was a regular of the Hammer films best performance. When he finds his wives mutilated body in the church, the look on his face is heartbreaking.

You still manage to have sympathy for him throughout the rest of the film, even though he refuses to help the main characters as clearly he doesn’t want to risk the same thing happening again to Julie whom he clearly cares for. Sadly of course Julie ends up being brutally murdered anyway, showing that there is no way to deal with Dracula. The landlord did bravely try to destroy him years ago but it cost him his wife who died in agony. Now he tries to avoid angering the count to protect Julie whom he loves like a daughter, but sadly she too ends up dying alone, scared and in agony thanks to the Vampire. Dracula is an all consuming evil that can never truly be destroyed, but can’t be appeased either.

Julie’s death always scared me as a child. She was such a likable character. In fact she is the only one from the village who agrees to help the main characters and its shocking when we see her die so suddenly and brutally at Dracula’s hands.

The priest similarly is portrayed as a likable, sympathetic character yet meets a really nasty end. He doesn’t just get hit over the head like the Monsignor, the bat rips off his entire face! I think this film was perhaps bolder than the previous entries in the series in terms of what it was willing to show, like Dracula’s torture of Klove.

Dracula in this film is dangerous to everything and everyone around him. No one is safe from his evil, even his brides and servants. Really for me at least the Vampire has never seemed more terrifying or powerful, not just in any previous Hammer film, but really in any adaptation of Dracula before Scars.

Also in contrast to the previous films where Dracula just trips and falls and dies, here we also see many attempts on the counts life all of which fail. Not only are the villagers not able to kill him, but Paul and Simon are unable to stake him due to his hypnotic powers even in his sleep, and when Klove tries to attack him with a silver knife he effortlessly overpowers him.

Sadly however in spite of all of this Dracula still suffers from not having a strong Father Sandor or Van Helsing like figure to face against. Once again we have just an ordinary guy face the Vampire and whilst he thankfully doesn’t kill Dracula, instead they have lightening strike him. A lot of people I’ve spoken to say they like the ending of this film as it looks spectacular seeing Dracula on fire. Personally however I think this is arguably the stupidest ending in the series.

Just as Dracula is about to kill the main hero lightening happens to strike him. That’s very fucking lucky isn’t it. What are the odds of that like a 1000 to 1 or something? It almost feels like a comedy to be honest. They might as well have had a tiger just spring out of nowhere and attack Dracula.

I think this film would have been much better if Peter Cushing had returned as Van Helsing. I think it would have been interesting to have seen Van Helsing’s reaction to Dracula being back. Did he know he could return to life? Probably not. Remember he didn’t have all the facts in the first Hammer Dracula. He was still very much learning about Vampires as he fought them, hence why he didn’t know that certain species could change into bats in the first film.

It would be interesting to see Van Helsing, now much older return and discover that all his work in the first film had been for nothing. Dracula was back and the people of Klausenberg were still living in fear from the demon. Van Helsing would know that even if he killed Dracula again the monster would return eventually. It might be ten years, it might 100 years, but he would be back and all Van Helsing could do would be to delay him. It would change the dynamic of their feud with Van Helsing perhaps adopting a more pessimistic, cynical attitude as a result. Still the finale would then see Dracula and Van Helsing die fighting each other which would lead into Dracula AD.

Other than Dracula’s death however I still say this the counts finest hour in any of the 19th century sequels at least. Not only is he more menacing but Christopher Lee is also given a chance to play off another actor properly for the first time really since the first film with Peter Cushing. In this case its Patrick Troughton as Klove. In the previous films Dracula just kind of smacks the young hero named Paul around before being killed, but here they can actually develop a relationship of sorts between Dracula and his manservant.

Troughton is brilliant as Klove. Your feelings change towards him throughout the film. At times he is quite amusing, at others he is genuinely frightening such as when he ambushes Julie. His feelings for Sarah at first seem quite creepy, but ultimately help redeem Klove in a small way as he ends up sacrificing himself to save her.

Roy Ward Baker directed this and despite some sloppy moments like the knife I think he manages to create a darker, and gloomier atmosphere than the previous films in the series. Even more so than Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, this film feels bleak, and pessimistic, with its more sympathetic characters dying gruesome deaths and a much darker, more flamboyantly sadistic Dracula.

Overall I’d rank this as one of my favourite entries in the series. 4 and a half stars. Half a star off for some of the shoddy production values like the bats, but still an above average Dracula flick.

Notes and Trivia

  • Roy Ward Baker felt that Dennis Waterman was hopelessly miscast as the main hero and it was actually the studio’s insistence that he appear in the film.
  • Patrick Troughton and Christopher Lee worked together on a previous Hammer film called the Gorgon.
  • This was Christopher Lee’s 5th performances as Dracula in a Hammer film, but it was his 6th overall as he appeared in Jess Franco’s adaptation of Dracula opposite Herbert Lom as Van Helsing in between Taste the Blood of Dracula and Scars of Dracula.
  • This is Michael Ripper’s final Hammer Horror film.
  • Patrick Troughton who plays Klove in this film and Philip Latham who played Klove in Dracula Prince of Darkness both appeared in Doctor Who. Troughton as the Second Doctor and Latham as the 4th Borusa. They both appeared together in the later story The Five Doctors.
  • The last entry in the series not to feature Peter Cushing.
  • Patrick Troughton used to jokingly refer to his character in this film as kinky Klove.
  • Patrick Troughton always said that Klove was one of his favorite characters as he felt it helped him break free from the shadow of Doctor Who. Troughton had been reluctant to play the role of the Doctor in the first place as he feared it would typecast him, when he had spent two decades establishing himself as a reliable character actor. This was one of his first roles after his stint on Doctor Who and it was as different a character as one can imagine from the Second Doctor.

 

 

Taste The Blood Of Dracula Review

The final Hammer Vampire film of the 60s this was also the 4th to star Christopher Lee as the Count.

Originally the movie was not going to feature the character of Dracula at all and was intended as a vehicle to launch the career of Ralph Bates, who was being touted as a major new star for Hammer.

Ultimately however the distributors refused to make the film without Lee. Unfortunately Lee had grown tired of the character and also feared being typecast by this point.

He later mentioned how he was often emotionally blackmailed into reprising the role by the heads of Hammer studios who told him how he would be putting the other people who worked on these films out of a job if he didn’t star in them.

Plot

A man named Weller is thrown from a moving horse and carriage by a lunatic. He is knocked out for hours and when he comes too its night. As Weller wanders through the dark forest alone he hears screams of pain and sees that they are from Dracula himself.

Weller witnesses from a distance Dracula’s death at the end of the previous film when he was impaled on the cross. After the Vampire perishes and melts into a puddle of dried blood, Weller wanders near his remains in both fear and curiosity.

Some time later in London we follow the lives of three English gentleman Hargood, Paxton and Secker. All three of them to the general public are charitable, decent, and kind, but in reality they regularly cheat on their wives and indulge themselves at brothels.

Hargood is the worst. He is verbally and at times physically abusive to his daughter Alice (its even implied that he was sexually abusive to her in the past) and chastises her for being a “Harlet” due to her romantic interest in Paul who is Paxton’s son. Hargood is shown to look down on and even bully Paxton whom he clearly holds in contempt.

Late one night whilst the three men are at a brothel they are approached by a man named Courtley. Courtley is known and loathed among the aristocracy for dabbling in the black arts. Having lost all of his fortune he promises the three of them thrills and excitement beyond anything that they can conceive provided that they are willing to pay for some essentials.

Intrigued the three men agree and Courtley takes them to the Cafe Royal. There he purchases Dracula’s remains from Weller including his blood, which Weller took from the scene of the Vampires death. Out of the three men only Secker has heard of Dracula, and he is somewhat wary of having anything to do with him. Still on Hargood’s urging they accept and later the four venture to an old abandoned church, where Courtley now wearing Dracula’s cape and ring pours his dried blood into four goblets. 

He then cuts himself and allows his blood to pour onto the dried remains. This causes it to flow again.

Courtley demands that they all drink Dracula, whom Courtley refers to as his Master’s blood, but the three men are too scared.

Decrying them as spineless fools Courtley consumes the blood himself but it soon begins to cause him incredible agony. As he struggles along the floor in pain begging the three men for help they grow frustrated with his antics and begin to beat him. Unfortunately they go too far and end up killing Courtley.

Even they are horrified by what they have done and flee, leaving Courtley’s body in the church.

As the weeks pass the three men believe they have gotten away with it, though they are still haunted by the guilt. Hargood in particular becomes even more cruel towards both his wife and his daughter and begins to drink heavily.

Little do they know in the Church, Courtley not only rises from the dead but actually transforms into Dracula himself.

Dracula states that the three men will pay for murdering his servant and decides to use their own children to destroy them.

One night Hargood after having forbidden Alice from seeing Paul starts attacking her when she gets home. Completely drunk he states that he is going to whip her (something he disturbingly says he hasn’t done since she was a child!) Alice flees in terror as Hargood stumbles after her.

She soon runs straight into Dracula who takes control of her. Under the counts command she smashes Hargood’s skull in with a shovel. Hargood has one glimpse of Dracula just before he dies.

After Hargoods death, Alice goes missing. She later however at her fathers funeral manages to lure Lucy, Pauls’s sister and Paxton’s daughter away to Dracula who then turns her into a Vampire.

After Lucy goes missing Secker and Paxton begin to suspect that Courtley may have returned and they venture up to the church. Finding his body missing, the two soon discover Lucy sleeping in a coffin.

Secker realises that she is a Vampire and prepares to stake her. Telling Paxton to wait outside and in a few moments she will be at peace, Paxton unable to take it all in shoots at Secker wounding him and chasing him out of the church.

Paxton weeps over what has happened to Lucy before finally deciding to stake her himself. Unfortunately just as he lifts the stake the sun goes down and she wakes up.

Terrified he is soon cornered by his own Vampiric daughter who tries to ram a stake into his heart. He runs away from her but is cornered by Dracula. On Dracula’s orders Alice overpowers him and pins him down whilst Lucy prepares to hammer a stake into his heart.

Paxton pleads with his daughter but she doesn’t listen and even smiles as she hammers a stake right through her fathers chest.

In the morning Secker compiles a note warning Paul of what has happened but unfortunately his own son having been taken control of by the Vampires stabs him to death.

With his revenge complete Dracula murders Lucy having no further use for her. He then prepares to bite Alice, but just as he does the sun rises and he is forced to flee back to his coffin.

Paul finds Seckers note and believes it to be true, due to the fact that Seckers son (who is sentenced to death) did not hate his father. Following Seckers advice on how to destroy Dracula he heads to the church. Unfortunately along the way he discovers his sisters corpse which Dracula merely dumped in the local river.

Heading to the church he places various holy items around it and lights the candles.

Unable to find Dracula or Alice during the day, when the Vampire rises at night with Alice in tow he corners Paul. Fortunately Paul comes prepared with a cross and wards Dracula off.

Unfortunately Alice completely under his thrall hits Paul and disposes of the cross. Dracula however shows no gratitude to her. As he prepares to leave she begs to go with him, but he hits her and snarls “I have no further use for you!”. This proves to be a mistake however as he sees that Paul has placed a cross over the door. Unable to leave Alice in rage throws a cross at him which traps him.

Dracula being overwhelmed by the holy power of the church begins to literally rip it apart and starts throwing massive pieces of concrete and slab at Alice and Paul, very nearly killing them both. Ultimately however with Paul having resanctified the old abandoned church, the holy power from the building overwhelms Dracula and he ultimately perishes once again.

As he crumbles to dust once more Alice and Paul flee through the woods, with Alice free from both Dracula and her cruel father’s influence.

Review

Taste the Blood of Dracula is a film I have mixed feelings for. On the one hand overall its an excellent film, well acted, well written, with both a strong plot and engaging, 3 dimensional characters. Its also beautifully directed and it has a fantastic score too.

However much like its predecessor the film suffers from making Dracula seem somewhat ineffective as a villain.

In fact I’d say that sadly this is Dracula’s worst appearance in the series. His plan is quite interesting. I love the way that he wants revenge on the three men not because he cares about his servant that died but simply because of his own pride. “How dare you kill MY servant!” Also his method of revenge is particularly gruesome the way he uses his enemies children to kill and even torture them. Its disturbing watching Lucy grin as she hammers a stake through her screaming father’s heart.

I don’t mind that his plan is a bit more low key here or that he skulks about in an old abandoned church as he is away from his home, with his remains having been brought to London.

His character is also once again pure evil to his core, with his murder of Lucy being arguably his most heinous act in the film.

Sadly however in spite of all this he is still somewhat underwhelming. To start with I don’t think this is Christopher Lee’s best performance.

He is given very little screen time. Indeed throughout most of the film his dialogue just consists of literally counting! “The first!” “The second!” Added to that Lee clearly looks bored shitless with the role by this point.

I certainly don’t think his performance is bad, but at the same time I don’t think its quite as effective as his earlier performances as the character either.

I think Lee was almost resentful at being in this film as he really wanted to quit playing the character out of fear of being typecast and was only doing this movie to stop the other people who worked on it from being put out of a job, as the distributors refused to promote it unless Lee was in it.

At times however I think that Lee’s disdain for the role actually benefits his performance as it gives Dracula a certain sneering contempt for everyone around him, even his own Vampire brides whom he ultimately disregards.

Also I think Lee does a good job blending the different aspects of Dracula’s persona for this film. In his first two performances he portrayed Dracula as a savage animalistic monster, roaring and hissing at people, strangling them and relishing in violence.

In his third film meanwhile Dracula Has Risen From the Grave he portrays the count in a more calm, manipulative, cold way. He’s still every bit as evil and sadistic but he is a more restrained villain.

In this movie we see an interesting blend of the two styles. Throughout most of the film he is a manipulator. Working from behind the scenes commanding his minions to destroy his enemies, yet at the end when he is cornered in the church he resorts to his more savage characterisation like the first two films roaring and blindly attacking Paul and Alice. Its an interesting insight into the character of Dracula that he can be charming and sly when he needs to, but at his core he is just a savage hissing monster.

Sadly in spite of these interesting aspects of his performance, there can still be no denying that this movie pushes Lee to the back ground more than any other Hammer Dracula.

His lack of screen time is made all the worse by the terrible way the count is dispatched. This is probably his least effective death scene. I’m not even sure what it is that kills him? I think its the power of the church but really its not clear. He literally just falls over and dies. Its like they couldn’t be bothered to try and think of a way to kill him.

Once again we can see how much like the previous movie Dracula suffers from not having a strong enemy to face against like Van Helsing and Father Sandor.

I also think they make him too vulnerable to the cross. In the previous movies the sight of it caused him pain but here he is screaming and rolling about on the floor in agony, though I do like the way the cross glows when its held at a Vampire.

I think this movie would have been immeasurably better if it had ended with Dracula killing both Alice and Paul and escaping into London. Imagine how scary that would have been. Dracula would have destroyed three entire families and escaped, and would now be free to inflict similar pain and misery on the people of London. Sadly however they opted for the happy ending instead and so Dracula was once again undermined.

Other faults with this film include the fact that it reuses certain elements from the previous Dracula movies. Once again we have Dracula kill a gorgeous red head and then try and kill a gorgeous blonde and get killed by her boyfriend named Paul, who is given knowledge on how to slay a Vampire by an older character just before he dies.

Still even with these minor faults and its misuse of Christopher Lee the film has so many strong elements that I can’t rate it as anything but a classic.

To start with it has an excellent cast. Ralph Bates is brilliant as Lord Courtley. He seems like a lovable cad at first, cheeky, cocky, but strangely likable, however in the resurrection scene we see what a truly twisted individual he is the way he worships Dracula so much he considers it an insult not to drink his blood.

Originally this film was to have had Lord Courtley rise as a Vampire and kill the three Gentleman and I really wish to be honest that they had kept it that way. Sticking Dracula himself in just wasted Lee who as a result only had very limited screen time. Also its a shame that Bates was only given a small amount of time to show us how twisted Courtley was. It would have been great to see him as a crazy Vampire killing people.

Ralph Bates would later find his greatest success outside of the horror genre in the original version of Poldark. Sadly he died relatively young at the age of just 51 from cancer. Its a real shame that he didn’t get more meatier genre roles. Other than this he was only in three more Hammer films, and two of those films Lust for a Vampire and the Horror of Frankenstein were sadly terrible. I really wish Courtley, his best role, in his best film had been much larger.

Other than Bates the other stand out performance in this film is Geoffrey Keen who plays Hargood. Hargood is actually the most vile character in the film more so than Courtley or even Dracula himself.

His treatment of his daughter is far more frightening than any Vampire could be. He is shown to be jealous of her boyfriend Paul (the young prostitute that he visits even somewhat resembles his daughter.)

Later when he is drunk he is shown to leer over her, staring at her cleavage and even begins pulling her clothes off and telling her lustfully that he is going to whip her. Then there are her remarks “If you touch me father I will never forgive you.” They don’t leave it open to interpretation.

What’s even more disturbing is the way that Hargood mentions that he hasn’t whipped her since she was a child, showing that he sexually abused his own daughter as a child!

When Alice flees from him and runs into Dracula, Dracula actually seems heroic for the first and only time in the series.

Keen is best known for playing Frederick Gray in the James Bond film series. Gray couldn’t be more different to Hargood. Gray is the definition of the stiff upper lip British gentleman who memorably provokes Bond’s most notorious innuendo when he asks him what he is doing with Major Omasova in The Spy Who Loved Me. “Keeping the British end up sir”.

Keen really captures the depravity of Hargood. He’s someone who just enjoys picking on people who are more vulnerable than him and we see this not only with his daughter but also with Paxton the weakest member of his group of friends who he regularly demeans and bullies.

Its also a great twist to have a man of God which Hargood is be portrayed so unsympathetically after the previous two films. We had Father Sandor the hero who dispatched Dracula and the overall sympathetic Monsignor, and their faith was shown to be a sign of strength, with the atheist Paul eventually regaining it. In this movie however Hargood’s faith leads to his sexist abuse of his daughter, calling her a harlot in the house of God and making her cry for holding hands with a man, whilst hypocritically going to brothels and sleeping around.

This is a trend I’ve noticed in the Hammer movies to have twisted aristocrats end up creating the monster. In The Curse of the Werewolf its the twisted Marquese who created the werewolf, whilst in Frankenstein Created Women its the three vile rich kids who cause the deaths of two innocent people that end up together becoming the Frankenstein monster. Indeed in many ways this film actually bares some similarities to Frankenstein Created Women as we have three people kill someone who later returns as a famous literary monster, Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster to enact its revenge on them.

Unlike Frankenstein Created Women however the other two gentleman who kill Courtley are presented in a more sympathetic way.

Secker and Paxton do genuinely love their children and and also do care each for other as friends and though they obviously still perform many deplorable acts throughout the film, in contrast to Hargood you actually do have some sympathy for them when they die. Secker unlike Hargood is able able to achieve a partial redemption by helping Paul slay Dracula.

I find it interesting the way that Paxton and Secker’s children are converted into Vampires instantly in order to turn on their parents, whilst with Alice she remains herself throughout. Its left open as to whether or not Dracula does actually take control of her when she kills Hargood or instead merely gives her the strength to do what she has always wanted to do and club the perverted bastards skull in.

The characters in this film are definitely more complex and interesting than in the previous entries and this coupled with the films strong story really make it a stand out entry in the series overall.

I’d give it 4 and a half stars. It only loses half a star for the way it mistreats the count. Other than that this is one of the better Hammer flicks.

Notes and Trivia

  • Peter Sallis who played Paxton would later find fame playing Grommit in the Wallace and Grommit cartoons.
  • The final Hammer Dracula film of the 60s.
  • Originally this was to have been the final entry in the Hammer Dracula series. The next film Scars of Dracula was planned as a reboot with a new actor in the role of the count, John Forbes Robertson, who did go on to play the role in The Legend of The Seven Golden Vampires. Once again however at the last minute Hammer were able to persuade Christopher Lee to reprise his role as Dracula. Even then however it was still intended to be a stand alone, but the distributors insisted on a resurrection scene which linked it to the end of this film at the last minute.

 

 

 

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave Review

The fourth entry in Hammers Dracula series was the first not to be directed by Terrance Fisher. It was instead directed by Freddie Francis.

As a result it had a somewhat darker, gloomier tone to it than the earlier films in the series. It was also the third to star Christopher Lee as Dracula.

Plot

During the events of Dracula Prince of Darkness when he was chasing the Kents, Dracula returned to Klausenberg. In order to let the people of the town know he had returned he butchered a young woman and strung her corpse up inside the bell of a church. The next day her body is found by a young Altar boy. This traumatises him so much that he loses the power of speech. Fortunately before Dracula can begin his reign of terror again he is slain by Father Sandor.

One year later the towns folk are still so horrified by what happened that they dare not go inside the church.  When Monsignor Ernest Mueller arrives in the town on a routine visit he is angry to learn that no one is attending the church.

The locals tell him that its more the fact that Dracula’s castle casts its shadow over the church that prevents them from going into it. Thus the Monsignor not scared of Dracula as he is dead (this time all of the locals know for sure he is dead) decides to head up there and purify Dracula’s house of evil.

A local priest goes with him to help, but along the way he becomes too scared and abandons the Monsignor who goes on ahead and manages to say a prayer as well as place a massive cross outside of the front door of the castle. 

Unfortunately the priest on the way back falls into the lake where Dracula’s corpse is still preserved. He cracks his head on the ice and the blood trickles down into Dracula’s mouth reviving him. Dracula quickly breaks free from the ice and effortlessly enslaves the weak willed, cowardly priest’s mind and makes him his new servant.

As soon as Dracula sees what has happened outside of his house he gets furious and demands to know who has desecrated his house of evil. The priest gives him the name of Monsignor Ernest Mueller and Dracula decides to hunt him down and make him pay.

The Monsignor lives in a nearby village of Kleinenberg with his sister in law Anna.

Dracula takes control of the local barmaid  Zena who falls in love with him, though Dracula regularly beats her. Dracula plans to punish the Monsignor by turning his niece, Maria into a Vampire.

Dracula orders Zena to bring Maria to him and though she succeeds, before he can bite her Maria manages to escape. Dracula tells Zena she must be punished for her failure. She tries to convince Dracula that he doesn’t need Maria as he has her, but Dracula responds by killing her savagely and then ordering the priest to burn her body to a crisp before she can rise as a Vampire.

Dracula later manages to sneak into Maria’s room where he bites her. Mueller enters the room just after the Vampire has finished and wards him off with holy items. He then pursues the fleeing monster across the rooftops but is attacked and bludgeoned by the priest.

As he slowly dies from his wounds the Mueller tells Paul, his nieces fiance that he must find and destroy Dracula and lets Paul know about the weaknesses of the Vampire, as well as the fact that the priest is working with Dracula. The Monsignor and Paul did not like each other before hand due to the fact that Paul was an atheist. Still he trusts Paul to destroy the evil he blames himself for releasing before dying.

Paul later manages to find the priest and forces him to take him to Dracula. Paul drives a stake through Dracula’s heart just before he wakes up. Unfortunately as Paul is an atheist he does not perform the last rites and Dracula does not die. He then proceeds to rip the stake from his chest and throws it at Paul and chases him, with Paul barely managing to escape. 

Dracula realising that his hideout during the day has been exposed, decides to flee with Maria. He captures her and returns to Klausenberg.

Planning to have her remove the cross from his door and then make her into a Vampire to complete his revenge Dracula successfully makes his way back to Klausenberg, but unfortunately for him Paul follows him back there.

Paul asks the villagers for help against Dracula, but all of them are too scared and foolishly think that if they leave the Vampire alone, then he will leave them alone, but Paul tells them that no one in the village will be safe while Dracula lives.

Still Paul is forced to go on alone. He faces Dracula after he has forced Maria to remove the cross which she throws down the cliff. Paul is no match for the Vampire, but in the struggle both end up stumbling over the edge of the cliff. Whilst Paul lands on a tree, Dracula falls on the cross and is impaled. As he screams in pain, the priest is finally able to break free from the Vampires mental hold and performs the last rites which finally kill Dracula, though the strain of fighting his influence also kills the priest.

Paul (whose faith is restored) and Maria who is also freed from his control embrace as Dracula’s body dissolves into nothing but a pool of blood.

 Review

Sadly Dracula Has Risen from the Grave is my least favourite entry in the Hammer Dracula catalogue.

Controversial opinion I know, as this is often one of the most highly regarded entries in the series. Christopher Lee himself often referred to this film as the best sequel. In fact it might have been the only one he was satisfied with (though he disliked the staking scene)

Still I have never been that keen on it for a variety of reasons.

First of all I think Dracula suffers from not having a strong adversary like Father Sandor or Van Helsing. Its such a shame that after having built the Vampire hunter up into being as big a character as the Vampire himself in the first three movies, Hammer goes for the Universal approach of having a fairly bland, bog standard leading man be the person Dracula fights in this film.

I think this undermines Dracula’s menace somewhat. Really an ordinary bloke should not be able to take on the king of Vampires . I don’t like it in Buffy when people like Xander kill stunt Vampire three easily as it undermines Vampires. Paul is just some young guy that likes getting drunk and shagging about yet he is able to kill the KING of Vampires. To be fair Dracula does kind of just trip, but again that still makes the count look lame.

He’s just a clumsy bastard that he happens to fall onto a conveniently place cross. Sadly this becomes a pattern in the following Dracula movies that he dies more by sheer bad luck like in Scars when lightening happens to strike him just as he is about to throw a spear into the main hero.

All of this sadly despite the undeniable menace and charisma of Christopher Lee makes the Hammer Dracula seem really ineffective as a villain.

In the first movie he was said to have ruled over the town of Klausenberg for 100 years. There had been dozens of attempts on his life and all had failed and the point was only Van Helsing a guy who had devoted his entire life to hunting Vampires and knew more about them than anyone else could take down Dracula, and even then it was a struggle for Van Helsing.

Van Helsing even with his experience against Vampires fails to save Lucy, is outwitted by Dracula who manages to stash his coffin in the Holmwoods house and the final battle between the Count and Van Helsing is also a brutal, prolonged fight with Van Helsing having to draw on all his knowledge of the weakness of the Vampire to slay Dracula.

Sadly in this film Dracula just trips and falls after a scuffle with a twenty something guy. Also the fact that Dracula is only around in this and the next few films for a short while before he dies each time again makes him seem underwhelming as it seems he can only last for about 5 days tops before having a clumsy accident and dying again.

Furthermore another big problem with Dracula’s portrayal in this film is as Kim Newman pointed out, that his plan is too low key for a Vampire King.

A Vampire king is a monster that has lived for centuries and should be pretty powerful. Think The Master in Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Herrick in Being Human or Frost in Blade, or hey best of all think Stokers original Dracula.

All of these creatures have lackeys, minions, resources, big lairs and more importantly big plans. They want to reshape the entire world in their image. In Stokers novel Dracula travels to London in order to use the British Empire to spread the cult of Vampirism around the world like never before and thus gain influence as the king of Vampires beyond his little village in Transylvania.

Compare that to the Dracula in this film who skulks around a pub cellar spending all this time trying to get a pissy little Monsignor just for basically graffitying his house. Really a Vampire king like the Master or the Stoker Dracula would just send a minion to kill the Monsignor and that’s that. He wouldn’t spend days skulking in a pub cellar and flee from Paul.

In the first and third movies in the series Dracula actually seems like a proper ancient beast with power. He rules over an entire town, he has servants like Klove and whilst he does target only a few people at least they are notorious Vampire Hunters like Harker and Van Helsing.

In this film however again the way he acts just doesn’t seem fitting for an ancient Vampire.

Finally Dracula’s plan also is really just a retread of the first few entries in the series. He plans to make an enemy pay by making their loved one into a Vampire which is similar to Horror of Dracula where he plans to make Harker pay by turning Lucy into a Vampire. He also kills a beautiful woman with red hair, who after making into his bride he treats appallingly and he then tries to kill a gorgeous blonde before being killed himself like in Dracula Prince of Darkness. This is repeated in the following film Taste the Blood of Dracula too.

Its funny most critics think that it was during the modern day Dracula’s that the series began to lose steam. Personally I think it was actually this movie and the few after them that are the most tired and repetitive and actually if anything it was the modern day Dracula’s that breathed new life into the series.

Finally another problem I have with Dracula’s plan in this film is that it seems a bit weird the way he devotes all of this time to getting back at the Monsignor just for putting a cross on his castle door that he could have easily ordered his priest minion to remove, yet he doesn’t try and get revenge on Van Helsing or Father Sandor. Maybe its hard to track down Van Helsing, but Sandor is just down the road? Okay I can see why he would still want to kill the Monsignor, but surely the Father is first on his hit list considering he you know killed him!

I think that this film would have been better if it had just been a random Vampire that the Monsignor underestimated rather than Dracula himself.

As it stands however in spite of its faults, Dracula Has Risen From The Grave is not a terrible film by any means and there is still a lot to enjoy in this flick. Whilst Dracula might seem a tad underwhelming he is still at least a vicious monster like the previous films.

Thankfully there is no attempt to make him sympathetic. His brutal treatment of Zena such as when he backhands her across the face and his later murder of her are among the darkest and most genuinely disturbing scenes in the series. Lee is able to bring a more subdued menace to the Vampire such as when he calmly tells Zena that he will have to punish her for not bringing Maria to her and then lures her into a false embrace when she pleads with him before turning on her.

Lee is definitely given more to do in this film than most other entries in the series and in all fairness this is possibly his best performance as Dracula after Horror of Dracula. Its a toss up between this and Scars for his second best performance as the Vampire I’d say.

The film also has some nice and unusual twists too such as the Monsignor’s death. I genuinely was not expecting that the first time I saw it. I thought he was the films replacement for Father Sandor and Van Helsing. Also its a further unusual take to have an atheist as the main hero of a Dracula film and helps to give this movie a different dynamic. This movie is more about a man rediscovering his faith, rather than the righteous man of god battling the evil Demon like the previous movies.

I also like Dracula’s priest servant who is a also a nice change of pace from Klove. Klove was evil and willingly served Dracula. However the priest though still committing murder is just a weak man who is enslaved by the Vampire. Throughout the film he is shown to be in a constant state of pain and anguish and in the end its nice that he is finally able to redeem himself for his past sins.

Freddie Francis’s direction creates a much darker world than the Fisher movies, one which suits the tone of the film which has a more unsure hero and more morally grey characters such as the cowardly priest who is not completely evil and even dispatches Dracula at the end, or even the Monsignor himself who is shown to be somewhat prejudiced against people who don’t share his belief.

Overall this is still despite my misgivings a very strong, solid film and I can understand why its so popular, but still for me at least sadly I’d rank it as the weakest entry in the Dracula series. I’d give it three stars. No Hammer Dracula could be called a bad film in my opinion, but one has to be my least favourite and all things considered despite some strong points, such as making a better use of Christopher Lee than most other entries in the series, this is still my least favourite Hammer Dracula.

Notes and Trivia

  • This film was released 10 years after the original Hammer Dracula.
  • This was Christopher Lee’s favourite of the sequels.

 

 

Dracula Prince of Darkness Review

The third entry in the Hammer Dracula cycle saw Christopher Lee finally return to the role that made him an international superstar after almost 10 years.

Though he only intended to reprise the role for this one movie, he ended up doing so in another 5 films for Hammer studios.

Sypnosis

Ten years on from Dracula’s death at the hands of Van Helsing the village of Klausenberg is still living in fear of the Vampire king. So much so that whenever anyone dies their bodies are staked, and burned to ash to stop them from coming back as Vampires.

Father Sandor a local monk and expert on the paranormal puts a stop to this. He knows that Dracula is dead and that there is no danger any more. Though many people thank him for stopping their loved ones corpses from being desecrated, others who are still scared of Dracula’s influence despise Sandor, who in turn makes no effort to hid his disdain for them either.

Two brothers Charles and Alan Kent and their wives Diana and Helen stop off in Klausenberg on their way to Karlsbad. There they meet Father Sandor who warns them not to go to Klausenberg as there is danger along the way there. Though he does not share the villagers beliefs that Dracula is still alive, he does warn the Kents that there is very real danger near the castle that lies between Klausenberg and Karlsbad, and that they are to stay away from the castle above all else.

Unfortunately when passing by it their scared coach driver abandons the Kents. With no other choice the foursome decide to spend the night in the castle though Helen feels uneasy. When they arrive at the Castle they meet Klove who tells them that his master Count Dracula died ten years ago and that it was always his wish that any guests be entertained.

After a meal the Kents spend the night there. Alan soon however becomes distracted by a noise in the night and goes to investigate. Whilst he is searching the castle he is attacked by Klove from behind who kills him. Klove then hangs his corpse upside down over Dracula’s remains that he has gathered together in a coffin. He slices Alan’s guts open and spills his blood on Dracula’s ashes which brings the Vampire back to life.

Following this Klove then lures Helen down to the castle’s crypt where she finds the sliced up remains of her husband stuffed in a box. Before she can flee she is ambushed by Dracula who claims her as his first victim.

The next morning Charles and Diana wake up to find no trace of Alan and Helen. Charles spends the entire day looking for them. After the sun goes down Dracula emerges from his coffin looking for fresh blood.

Helen also now rises as a Vampire and very nearly kills Diana. Dracula however chases Helen off wanting Diana for himself, Charles attempts to intervene but his no match for the Vampire who ruthlessly beats him. Just as Dracula is about to kill Charles; Helen burns herself on Diana’s cross whilst trying to bite her. Realising that this is their weakness Charles quickly grabs two pieces of a broken sword (which Dracula snapped in half when Charles tried to stab him with it) to make a cross that he uses to ward the two Vampires off. He and Diana then escape into the forest with Dracula in hot pursuit.

The two are later found by Father Sandor who takes them to his monastry. There he tells Charles who Dracula really is and warns him that once a Vampire sets its sights on a victim it will never rest until it has claimed them.

With Klove’s help Dracula and Helen are able to sneak their way into the monastry. Helen manages to bite Diana, but fortunately Sandor cauterizes the wound before it infects her.

The monks later manage to catch Helen and stake her, however whilst they are slaying her, Dracula captures Diana and flees the Monastry back to the castle. Having no time to feast on her blood as the sun is rising, Sandor and Charles follow Klove back to the castle during the daylight, where he keeps his master and Diana sealed in coffins.

Sandor and Charles manage to catch up to Klove just as they arrive outside the castle. There Klove tries to kill them, but Charles shoots him with Sandors gun. The horses spooked by the gun shot charge on and crash the carriage and Dracula’s coffin subsequently falls out onto a frozen moat by the castle.

Charles goes to stake Dracula, but with there only being a few moments of light left he doesn’t get there in time and Dracula bursts from his coffin and overpowers Charles effortlessly.

As he savagely beats Charles, Diana tells Sandor to shoot Dracula, but he tells her that it would do no good as a gun can’t harm a Vampire. Still she shoots and breaks the ice. As the water flows Sandor remembers Vampire lore that they cannot cross running water and will die if they are completely submerged in it. He then proceeds to fire at the ice around Dracula’s feet which breaks it and causes Dracula to sink into the water below whilst Charles escapes.

Dracula lets out one final scream as he sinks below the water to his death.

Review

Dracula Prince of Darkness is definitely one of the strongest sequels to the original.

Its story is fairly basic. A group of travellers get holed up in an old castle and there’s a creepy host and a monster and the travellers get picked off one by one.

Still it has so many interesting elements and ideas that I feel it rises above its somewhat cliched premise superbly.

To start with Father Sandor is a brilliant character. He’s not quite on the level of Van Helsing, but I feel that he makes a great enemy for Dracula.

Like Van Helsing he is an expert on Vampires, Demons and the occult so its not so unbelievable that he could slay the monster. In later films in the series I didn’t like it the way that Dracula would often be beaten by just ordinary guys. It made it look a bit too easy to stop Dracula and really if he was that easy to kill how the hell did he manage to rule Klausenberg for 100 years? Its different if its Sandor or Van Helsing renowned experts on Vampires who spend all the time slaying Demons, Vampires, Werewolves and other nasty monsters

Sandor also again unlike some of the later blander leading characters has a massive big personality. He is in many respects the polar opposite to Van Helsing. Van Helsing was often very quiet, very gentlemanly, and always kept his cool no matter what the situation.

Sandor in contrast is big, loud, boisterous, rude, and makes no attempt to blend in or conceal his true motives and feelings. He tells people they are superstitious, frightened idiots, and goes out of his way to make them feel uncomfortable, such as telling people that he enjoys warming his buttocks by a fire!

Sandor is also a man of god whilst Van Helsing was a scientist. Even physically Sandor was the opposite to Van Helsing. Cushing was obviously very thin, and wirey and very smartly dressed and neat and clean shaven, whilst Sandor had a much larger build and a thick beard.

Underneath his gruff exterior however Sandor is still every bit as compassionate, caring and dedicated to destroying the supernatural as Van Helsing himself is.

I would have loved to have seen a film that had brought both Cushing’s Van Helsing and Father Sandor together. In fact after Dracula Prince of Darkness I wish Hammer had done another Van Helsing sequel that saw him and Father Sandor work together to take on a bigger supernatural threat than Dracula.

They would have worked quite well together as Van Helsing is so straight laced whilst Father Sandor is obviously quite a maverick. I can imagine them clashing over quite a few things.

Andrew Kier who plays Sandor does a terrific job with the character and its a shame that his performance is so overlooked by fans as really in many ways I think he carries the film at certain points.

Aside from Kier another stand out performance in this film is Barbara Shelly who plays Helen. Helen starts out as a scared, but rationale and intelligent young woman. She is the only one who doesn’t want to stay at Castle Dracula and constantly worries that something terrible will happen to them. This just makes it all the more tragic when after having her pleas ignored and even mocked by Charles she and her husband both suffer gruesome deaths. After she becomes a Vampire she is every bit as savage and vicious as Dracula, deliberately seeking out and trying to butcher her two closest friends. Shelley is brilliant at capturing the two such different sides to Helen.

In many ways she actually has the most difficult role in the film but she excels completely at showing Helen go from an innocent, scared young woman to a bloodthirsty, vicious monster.

Christopher Lee meanwhile the films star actually has very little screen time. Added to that he has no lines of dialogue and only hisses and screams throughout the entire film.

Still I think this works within the films story as Dracula is depicted as being literally like an animal stalking his victims relentlessly for no reason other than to tear his victims limb from limb. Having him just snarl and roar I think really help conveys the count’s single mindedness. I think this was actually a very difficult performance for Lee to get right. He could have looked silly just hissing at people, but fortunately he manages instead to make the Count seem like the bloodthirsty Demon he is supposed to.

The way Dracula is brought back is interesting. The idea that he can be brought back by blood being spilled on his remains makes sense in a way as Vampires feed on blood, but it also I feel raises a very interesting question of was Dracula’s death in the first movie the first time Dracula had been destroyed?

For all we know he could have died many times before that, but he always manages to come back.

Dracula’s influence is so great that there will always be servants of his around the world who can bring him back. He is an evil that truly will never die.

Overall Dracula Prince of Darkness is a classic film and definitely one of the strongest entries in the series.

Father Shandor Demon Stalker

The character of Father Sandor later renamed Shandor went on to appear in a spin off comic book series in the 70s. Titled Father Shandor Demon Stalker, the series was set after Dracula Prince of Darkness. It saw one of Shandors friends perform an exorcism which caused him to be sucked into a Demon dimension.

Shandor in order to rescue him later performed a ritual to open a portal to the dimension. He ventured into it and managed to save his friend, but unfortunately whilst there he became cursed by a Demon and after he returned he found that he would kill anyone he touched.

Shandor then proceeded to travel the world using his new found Demonic powers to battle, Demons, Vampires, Zombies, Werewolves, Ghosts and various other creatures. His archenemy was the succubus Jaramsheela. Dracula never appeared in the series, though he was mentioned many times.

Notes and Trivia

  • It was Christopher Lee’s decision to play Dracula silently. He was given lines in the script but he found them so poor he refused to say them.
  • The final Dracula film to be directed by Terrance Fisher.
  • Much of the cast and crew from this film would be reunited for Rasputin the Mad Monk which was released back to back with Dracula Prince of Darkness.
  • It is revealed in the next entry of the series that whilst he was pursuing Diana and Charles through the woods, Dracula returned to Klausenberg. There he brutally murdered a young woman and strung her corpse up in the bell of church tower to let the locals know he was back.
  • The idea of a Vampire being brought back from the dead by spilling blood on their remains has appeared in other works. In Being Human Herrick is brought back to life when his Vampire followers bring him back by spilling their blood on his remains, whilst in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season two the Master’s minions attempt to bring him back by spilling the blood of those who were nearest to him on his bones.

 

 

 

Horror of Dracula Review

The first in the Hammer Dracula series. Its no exaggeration to say that this movie along with The Curse of Frankenstein released the previous year helped to revive and reshape the entire horror genre itself on the silver screen.

Almost 60 years on whilst it may no longer seem quite as shocking and terrifying as it once was, it still does hold up as a well made, imaginative and engaging horror flick, and it features what are definitely among the greatest versions of Dracula and Van Helsing played by Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

Synopsis

Towards the end of the 19th Century the town of Klausenberg is ruled by Dracula, king of all Vampires with an iron fist. Dracula has ruled over the town for close to 100 years. Though there were many attempts to slay the Demon, all failed and now the people are so terrified of the monster they dare not strike back at him. Every couple of nights Dracula ventures into the town and murders a young woman. Some of them he turns into Vampires, but even then they are still poorly treated by him and often discarded after a short period of time.

Jonathan Harker soon arrives at Castle Dracula. Harker is a student of Van Helsing, one of the worlds leading experts on Vampires. The study of Vampires is obscure and poorly researched and thus most people though having heard stories of the monsters are unsure of which myths are true. Van Helsing meanwhile has devoted his life to studying them and has discovered many things in his research that has eluded others throughout the years.  He plans to murder Dracula and finally free Klausenberg from his rule.

Unfortunately however the young and eager Harker decides to go ahead. Greatly under estimating Dracula, Harker poses as a hapless Librarian in order to trick the Count. The Count sees through his disguise and locks him in his room. Harker manages to escape, but is soon tricked by Dracula’s latest Vampire bride who bites him. Before she can finish him off however Dracula emerges. Fresh from the kill, Dracula knocks Harker out effortlessly and drags his bride away forcefully as the sun is about to emerge and they must retreat to their coffins soon.

When Harker comes too hours later he realises he has been bitten and frantically searches for Dracula. He has one day to stake Dracula’s bride, the Vampire who bit him or else he shall become a Vampire himself. Harker searches through the dark, maze like catacomb’s of Dracula’s castle for hours until he finds the two sleeping Vampires.

With mere minutes to go before the sun goes down he stakes the Vampire that bit him and is freed from the curse. Unfortunately as he moves to stake Dracula, he sees to his horror that he is too late. Its now night and the Vampire has awoken, and corners a terrified Harker in his crypt.

Some time later Van Helsing finally arrives in Klausenberg. Once he makes his way into Dracula’s now deserted castle, he finds his old friend Harker who is now a Vampire. Van Helsing stakes his friend and decides to visit his fiance Lucy to let her know what happened to him.

Unfortunately Lucy is ill. Van Helsing soon discovers that Lucy is in fact being visited by Dracula. Dracula is planning to make Lucy into his new Vampire bride to replace the one that Harker killed. He is doing this to make an example of Harker in order to make sure that no one will ever dare cross him again. Not only has he made Harker the very thing he hates the most, but he also intends to do the same to all of his loved ones.

Despite Van Helsing’s best efforts to find him, Dracula manages to kill Lucy who returns as a Vampire. Lucy then tries to murder both her brother Arthur and her niece but Van Helsing stops her using a cross. He then later manages to stake her.

Dracula decides to make Nina, Arthur’s wife his next victim. Unfortunately despite Van Helsing and Arthur remaining outside the house on guard, Dracula manages to sneak his way in and bites Mina.

As Mina begins to turn into a Vampire Van Helsing discovers how Dracula was able to sneak his way in. Apparently Dracula kept his coffin in the cellar of Arthur and Nina’s house. With Dracula realising that Van Helsing is on to him, he slips away taking Nina with him.

Van Helsing and Arthur follow the Vampire who retreats to his castle. There Dracula attempts to torture Mina by burying her alive. Before he can finish, Van Helsing intervenes. With the sun about to rise Dracula decides to flee and retreats back to his coffin. Unfortunately for him Van Helsing follows him to it.

Dracula decides to fight Van Helsing, even with the sun rising. He grabs the Vampire hunter by the throat and effortlessly over powers him. Pinning him to the ground, Dracula knocks him out, but as he prepares to bite his throat, Van Helsing comes to and catches Dracula off guard. Dracula corners Van Helsing. Smiling with sadistic delight as he believes that Van Helsing is defenceless. 

Fortunately however Van Helsing noticing the sun has now risen outside darts across the table and pulls the curtains down, causing sunlight to flood the room. Caught in the suns rays Dracula begins to literally crumble into nothing but a pile of ash. As the Vampire king frantically crawls along the floor, Van Helsing quickly grabs two candle sticks and uses them to create a make shift cross forcing Dracula back into the sunlight.

The Vampire expires and crumbles into nothing but a pile of dust.

After Dracula dies, Nina is freed from the curse of Vampirism and turns back into a human, whilst Van Helsing stands over the remains of Dracula, nothing but his cloak, his ring and a pile of ash which is blown away by the wind.

Review

Horror of Dracula is not the most faithful adaptation of Stokers novel. So many of the most essential and iconic moments from the novel such as Dracula’s journey to London, are omitted. Indeed the character of Renfield himself is left out of this film entirely.

The character of Dracula in this film could be seen as the polar opposite to the version from the novel in some respects too. The Dracula from the novel was an old man who got younger the more blood he drank, he also had mystical and shape shifting powers, he did not ever seduce his victims and he is also planning to spread the cult of Vampirism across the entire world.

In this film Dracula has no shapeshifting powers, he relies solely on his brute strength, he is young and alluring from the start, he seduces his victims and far from planning to spread the cult of Vampirism around the world, he is desperate to hold on to his power base in a small little remote village.

Thus as a faithful adaptation of Stokers novel it certainly doesn’t succeed, but fortunately not only does it hold up as a film in its own right, but I feel it is able to add a lot to the story of Dracula too.

To start with Lee’s Dracula is a truly memorable villain. Whilst he may not be as otherworldly and unnerving as Lugosi, or as Machiavellian as the Dracula from the novel, Lee’s Dracula is far more savage.

His Dracula is a hissing, animalistic monster that you can imagine literally ripping his victims apart with his bare teeth. Lugosi’s Dracula tried to hypnotize Van Helsing, whilst Stokers Dracula goes into a big verbose speech of having commanded armies before Van Helsing was even born. Lees Dracula in contrast throws a candle stick at Van Helsing’s head, throws him across the room, chokes him, smashes his head off the floor and tries to rip his throat out with his teeth! The image of Lee’s Dracula with his massive long fangs dripping with bright red blood is by far a more striking and terrifying image than that of any other Dracula.

At the same time however there is also a certain sexual element to this version of Dracula who outright seduces his victims. Even the act of being bitten by a Vampire is presented as a twisted, masochistic sensation for the victim.

What’s interesting though is the way that Lee’s Dracula is not presented as an even remotely romantic character. In fact I’d say he is the least romantic version of the character I have ever seen. The Lugosi version and even the novel version are more romantic in the sense that they want to make their victims their brides for all eternity. Whilst Dracula may beat his wives in the novel he does tell them that he loves them dearly.

Lee’s Dracula however does not care about his wives at all. He beats and disregards them as soon as he is bored with them and he never expresses any kind of affection for them. Though he seeks revenge against Harker for murdering his bride its not out of affection for her.  Its more of a kind of “How dare you kill MY bride” and its also to make an example of Harker. Unlike in other versions where Dracula pursues Mina and Lucy because he loves them, he does so in this film only out of revenge.

He doesn’t want to make Mina his beloved forever like Lugosi did. He wants to make her and those who love her suffer by turning her into a Vampire. When that doesn’t work he tries to torture her to death by burying her alive!

Thus whilst Lee may have cemented the image of Dracula and indeed Vampires in general as sex gods his Dracula is anything but a romantic character and the sexual aspect is presented as predatory with Dracula deriving a twisted, sexual pleasure from hurting the women he preys on.

Lee only has a couple of lines of dialogue at the start of the film that are nothing more than simple pleasantries to Harker. For the rest of the movie he simply hisses.

Personally I liked this as I feel far from limiting Lee it gave him a chance to make the role his own. The Stoker Dracula sees himself as above the rest of humanity due to his status as a Vampire, whilst Lugosi relished his immortality. Lee however relishes in causing violence. Its not just a question of he is willing to kill to survive, he loves hurting people. This Dracula has no humanity at all and so when the charming exterior he uses to lure his victims in drops, he is just a complete animal.

I feel that Lee was also able to inject some subtle little moments of villainy into his performance. I always loved the evil little smile he does when he corners Van Helsing and Jonathan Harker. That always gave you an idea of how twisted he was that he was absolutely relishing in his enemies helplessness. One can only imagine what vile thoughts are going through his head in that moment.

Other than Christopher Lee the other big stand out performance in this film is of course Peter Cushing as Van Helsing.

Cushing’s Van Helsing is similar to Lee’s Dracula in a lot of ways. He is a much younger version of the character like Lee’s Dracula, and he is also like Lee a much more vicious and darker character.

Much like Dracula, Van Helsing is someone who thrives on death to an extent, in that he has no life beyond hunting Vampires. He travels from town to town destroying them and is utterly ruthless when he dispatches them in quite gruesome ways, like burning their flesh with a cross, stabbing them through the heart, or burning them in the sunlight.

Much like Dracula, Van Helsing can appear quite charming and gentlemanly on the surface, but at the same time when he is around the Vampires, Cushing adds a real intensity to the character. He is a man with a will made of iron. He is not even remotely fazed by any of the horrors around him, he always keeps his cool, whilst the likes of Holmwood can’t stand to look in horror at what is happening.

To be honest I much prefer the Van Helsing in this to the original novel. In the novel he is just an eccentric professor but in this he is a far more interesting character and a much better match for Dracula too.

The final fight between Dracula and Van Helsing is a spectacular sequence and really sums up the more physical aspect both Lee and Cushing brought to their characters and also of how much more in your face and explicit the Hammer movies were to their Universal counterparts. In the Universal Dracula, Van Helsing stakes him quietly off screen. In this Van Helsing burns him to death in the sun light and we see Dracula’s face slowly crumble into nothing.

Everything about this film is more bright and explicit and though it might seem quite tame by today’s standards, I think the film’s visuals still look quite beautiful.

Terrance Fisher’s direction gives it an almost dream like fairy tale quality. Fisher certainly doesn’t go for a dark gloomy approach. Dracula’s castle for instance isn’t crumbling in the middle of nowhere. Its big shiny and beautiful.

I think this movie holds up better as a fantasy film rather than an outright horror movie and therefore I think Fisher’s direction actually suits the tone of the movie more.

I feel that Fisher successfully makes the world of the Holmwood’s seem quite innocent and peaceful which contrasts wonderfully with the terror of Dracula.

Overall there is very little to fault with this movie. Its sets, direction acting and even the music are all excellent. If there is one thing I that I don’t like about it then perhaps the Holmwood family are a bit dull. I normally quite like Michael Gough, but the character of Arthur is a bit of a wet fish.

Overall though I’d say this film is deserving of its reputation as a classic and I’d give it 5 stars.

Legacy and Influence

This film along with The Curse of Frankenstein released one year earlier helped to completely revive the horror genre which had become dormant during the 50s.

Both films were massive successes around the world and actually it could be argued that not only did they lead to horror movies becoming mainstream again, but also British movies in general coming to dominate the market as well.

The movie also helped to change how Vampires were portrayed in popular culture.

Prior to this Vampires had been more specteral creatures in films. Lugosi’s Dracula was more of a hypnotic, eerie otherworldly character who creeped about in the shadows like a ghost, overpowering his enemies with his hypnotic stare. He didn’t have fangs, he didn’t toss his enemies around with his brute strength and though Lugosi did have an alluring presence and even became something of a sex symbol for his role. His Dracula still did not actively seduce his victims.

Lee’s Dracula had massive fangs, marking the first time a Vampire ever had fangs in a movie, and super strength. Though Dracula did have super strength in the novel, this wasn’t really an aspect of Vampires in movies pre the 1958 Dracula. Nobody thought of Vampires as being super powered really up until the Hammer movies. Of course since then Vampires have just been getting more and more powerful to the point where they can now leap through the air like a super hero.

When you look at the old Lugosi movies where Dracula would put a woman under his thrall and then modern pieces of Vampire fiction like Blade where Vampires knock people hundreds of feet through the air its quite funny to see how much Vampires have changed over the years.

I think that about sums it up.

The Hammer movies can be seen to bridge the gap between the turbo charged Vampires and the old hypnotic Lugosi Vampires.

Of course at the same time Lee’s Dracula was more overtly sexual too which finally cemented the idea of Vampires being seductive in popular culture.

The image of Dracula in modern day popular culture can be seen to be a composite of Lugosi’s equally fantastic portrayal from the 1931 film and Lee’s from this movie.

The image we tend to have of Dracula is of someone with a long black and red flowing cape, a thick Hungarian accent, a black widows peak and also of a somewhat unnerving, yet oddly pleasant and charming individual. This all comes from Lugosi. However at the same time we also tend to think of Dracula having a towering stature, blood shot red eyes, massive fangs dripping with blood and also having a tremendous physical presence and also seducing his victims too. This comes entirely from the Dracula in this movie.

Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing meanwhile had arguably an even bigger impact. Whilst the modern day Dracula can be seen as a composite of Lee and Lugosi, Van Helsing is entirely Peter Cushing.

The Van Helsing in the novels was not really a Vampire hunter. He was someone who had knowledge of them simply due to the fact that he had read about Vampires as they were among his many interests. He did not devote his entire existence to destroying them however and he isn’t even the one to kill Dracula.

Though Van Helsing does destroy Dracula in the 1931 film he is still not the supreme Vampire hunter we would later come to know him as.

This film was the first to establish Van Helsing as someone who devoted his entire existence to hunting Vampires and also as a someone who was a physical match for Dracula.

When you look at the fight between Dracula and Van Helsing at the end of this film you could never imagine Edward Van Sloan and Bela Lugosi having a confrontation like that.

Thanks to Cushing Van Helsing has come to be seen as the ultimate Vampire hunter and Dracula’s eternal nemesis.

In many ways it was Cushing’s Van Helsing that made the Vampire hunter a major character in cinema history.  Again prior to Horror of Dracula the Vampire hunter surprisingly hadn’t really been a character in the horror movie staple like the Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, the Wolfman, the Mummy, or the mad professor.

Edward Van Sloan’s Van Helsing though effective had never really become a major character. Though he did appear in the sequel he wasn’t even second in the cast for ether film and in other Vampire movies the Vampires were killed generally by the same people who killed other monsters, bland leading men or mobs of angry villagers.

Certainly the Vampire killer wasn’t the role the big star would be after.

This movie changed all of that. Cushing was the big star (more so than Lee at this point) and Van Helsing was the character who all the focus was on.

From this point on the Vampire hunter became a classic horror movie character too and whole films, television series and novels would even revolve around the Vampire killer rather than the Vampire.

Cushing’s Van Helsing can be seen to be the daddy of all Vampire hunters. He’s Rupert Giles, the charming, somewhat stuffy old English expert on Vampires who is also a badass with a steely determination to destroy the undead. He’s also in his own way Blade, the Winchester Brothers and Mr Vampire, the person who travels from town to town destroying Vampires and monsters, who never settles down anywhere, who doesn’t have a normal life, who isn’t always trusted or liked by the people he helps. Indeed some might even blame him for the strange goings on in the town.

Not surprisingly due to this films success Cushing and Lee would become more closely associated with the roles of Dracula and Van Helsing than any other character they played.

They would go on to reprise their roles in many sequels though only two more together. Over the years both men’s names have become as associated with Vampires and Vampire hunters almost as much as the characters of Dracula and Van Helsing themselves.

In total 8 sequels would be produced for Horror of Dracula, these are Brides of Dracula, Dracula Prince of Darkness, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Taste the Blood of Dracula, Scars of Dracula, Dracula AD 1972, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, and The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires.

Notes and Trivia

  • Christopher Lee apparently wasn’t happy with his performance in this and other Dracula films, as he being a fan of Stokers novel he wanted to make it more like the original novel.
  • The final scene in this film where only Dracula’s ring remains as the dust is blown away may have inspired a similar scene at the end of Flash Gordon.