Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1973) Film Review
The Satanic Rites Of Dracula
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
The final showdown between Christopher Lee's Count Dracula and Peter Cushing's Doctor Van Helsing, this film brings the action closer to home. Gone are the mountaintop castles, the suspicious peasants and the hapless tourists stumbling into trouble. Instead the Count has his base of operations in a stately home just outside London, the Satanic cult visiting it is under investigation by the secret service, and no character is new to dealing with it.
Given this refined template, the film is able to get straight down to business and pack in a bit more plot than the average vampire film. In fact, the V-word is used remarkably little and Lee doesn't do much biting, but between the familiarity of the Count and his famous hypnotic stare, he doesn't have to. His master plan involves a much more tangible kind of evil than we've seen here before, with much wider potential consequences, and this adds an urgency to events as well as touching on existential aspects of character. The relationship between the Count and the Doctor takes centre stage after the appearance of the latter's granddaughter provides the opportunity for revenge to get personal.
As the granddaughter, Joanna Lumley never really gets the opportunity to show what she can do, but this was an early role for her and she acquits herself well enough. A scene in the crypt with some rather ineffective vampiresses briefly makes her the subject of lesbian lust as she seemed to be in most roles she played at the time, but her later work adds an unfortunate comic aspect to it - one is left wondering if her wincing is occasioned less by the fangs than by the nylon négligées. It's a shame she spends the latter part of the film swooning, becoming less a character and more a prop. Still, there are plenty of other things to hold our attention.
Despite being famous for the castles and gore, Hammer was often at its best when telling modern stories, dealing with different kinds of brutality. Here those elements are interwoven very effectively with the supernatural aspects of the tale. The resulting film is bleaker than its predecessors. Cushing, increasingly cadaverous with age, presents us with a character who may well be beginning to wonder about his own mortality. Lee, meanwhile, retains is vigour but gives the Count a curious sense of melancholy.
Within this framework there is still a fair amount of action: shoot-outs, motorbike chases, punch-ups, things going on fire. The Satanic trappings work effectively, recalling the studio's Dennis Wheatley adaptations. Though it never quite achieves the creepiness of those films, this is a fine swansong.Reviewed on: 11 Aug 2013