Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Scars of Dracula Review

Next on my list of Hammer films to get through was the 1970 Scars of Dracula, here are some thoughts....

Early on in this re-hash from Hammer we are treated to an attack on Dracula's castle by the villagers of the small town he is terrorising and the result is, for a 1970 production, fairly spectacular. Fire is used to good effect and their is a palpable sense of tension. Sadly, this early set piece proves to be the highlight as what follows never lives up to its beginning. 

After the villagers fail in this early attack, we are introduced to wild child Paul Carlson (Christopher Matthews) as he is being chased down for his promiscuous behaviour. Soon he finds himself lost in the woods and then ends up on Dracula's doorstep. The film's trouble begins with these important moments of exposition because they are hamstrung by the clunky script, which needed far more work from veteran screenwriter Anthony Hinds. And things only get worse when Paul, after meeting Dracula, disappears and the rest of the film is spent with his brother Simon (Dennis Waterman) and his fiance Sarah (Jenny Hanley). The dialogue between these two lovers is just woeful. In fact, the performances throughout range drastically from the sublime (Lee, obviously) to the truly dire (Hanley).

Also, did you only hear the famous count's name in relation to the other characters here? That's because the plot, like so many Dracula adaptions, seems unsure what to do with its titular villain and instead just relies on excessive sex and violence to pull through. Which is surprising because director Roy Ward Baker has previous pedigree with Hammer (Quartermass and the Pitt is on his CV) but sadly, he can't rescue this one. That's not to say there are no merits, Dracula's hand pulling back a red curtain to advance upon the film's primary maiden is extremely effective. While the sets are as beautifully designed as ever.

The school play-like prop bat that revives Dracula at the start rather sums up the fortunes of this poor Hammer Horror film. Cheap, lazy and, unfortunately, nothing new.
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