Title: Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969)
Director: Peter Sasdy
Cast: Christopher Lee, Ralph Bates, Linda Hayden, Geoffrey Keen
I have started a lot of these Hammer film reviews with the words “this is one of the best” and I just realized while re-watching a lot of these old Hammer Dracula classics that they truly were a very well produced batch of films. It was in their last days that they started to go down in quality. But these earlier Dracula films, were awesome. Taste the Blood of Dracula was the fourth Hammer Dracula film to star Christopher Lee as Dracula, and if you ask me, it truly was one of the best of the series!
The film concerns these three rich entrepreneurs who are bored with life. They have seen it all and done it all. Now they want something new to spark some life into their redundant and dull lives. So in there search for new amusements, they stumble upon one Lord Courtley, a young guy who’s very much into black masses and selling his soul to the devil. Not in the poetic sense, but in its literal sense. Lord Courtley offers the three rich dudes the opportunity to sell their souls to Satan by resurrecting Count Dracula himself! Will these three gents go through with it and literally taste the blood of Dracula?
What I loved most about this movie was the way the script was unfolding. It was written in such a way that there is never a dull moment. And this is saying a lot since the film managed to retain my interest with no Dracula in sight for more then 45 minutes! I mean, I was literally interested in everything that was happening before Dracula even shows up, so that’s a bonus in my book! The thing about this movie is that the three rich gentlemen prove to be such interesting characters. On the one hand, they put up this façade where they go to church, and they are respectable members of society, while on the other they go away to some hidden whore house and entertain themselves with alcohol, drugs and whores dancing with snakes. But even with all the lewd entertainment they can afford, they are still frustrated and bored with their lives. In comes Lord Courtley one day (played with evil relish by the great Ralph Bates) to offer these gentlemen the opportunity to resurrect the lord of darkness.
Ralph Bates was being considered to play the role of the main vampire in this movie because Christopher Lee was refusing to appear on this film. Hammer was basically going to do the same thing they did with Brides of Dracula. If Christopher Lee doesn’t want to be on our movie fine, will do the movie without him! But unfortunately for Hammer, American distributors were not going to market this movie unless Lee was in it, so after a lot of begging from Hammers part, Christopher Lee agreed to appear on Taste the Blood of Dracula. What this meant for Ralph Bates was that he was denied the chance to play the lead vampire. This is probably the reason why Dracula does not appear until we are already way into the movie. But like I said, that’s not a major problem because the film itself is interesting on its own without Dracula. We get Ralph Bates being the evil one for one half of the film, the one that instigates the three rich guys, and the one who offers them the doors to hell. Then Dracula takes over on the second half of the film.
Honestly, I would not have minded if Ralph Bates had played the main vampire on this movie, to me he was always such a great asset whenever he appeared on any Hammer film. He always did a great job. Specially when playing villains. On this one, he is the young guy unafraid to resurrect Dracula, but not entirely comprehending what he is truthfully getting himself into.
What I enjoyed the most about this picture though were the three rich dudes. They are these two faced heartless individuals. They go to church, they have these beautiful families, but in their personal lives they are idiots. One in particular, Geoffrey Keen who pretty much plays the leader of the trio did an outstanding job of playing the evil over protective father. He is a Christian, yet goes to whore houses, does drugs and gets drunk, yet he expects complete chastity from his daughter Alice, who is only looking for true love in her life. Keen played the type of father who doesn’t want to let his daughter ouf of his home, he wants to keep her in her room locked tight! No flirting with young men, though its completely normal behavior at her age. Geoffrey Keen's performance is outstanding, in one scene he feels real remorse for having dealt with the forces of Darkness, and I swear real pain could be felt in his performance!
Speaking of performances, Christopher Lee doesn’t do much on this movie besides do what he does best. Play the silent evil Dracula! There are some memorable Dracula images on this one! Like the scene where Dracula has completely red eyes! Not bloodshot, but entirely red! Dracula appears 50 minutes into the picture, when his resurrection is finally complete and he begins to take revenge upon the three fathers who weren’t willing to go through with the resurrection ritual in its entirety. In this movie, Dracula goes for the sons and daughters of those who wronged him, so he goes about turning them into vampires. This movie does a good job of getting us to like and fall in love with certain characters, like the beautiful Alice (played by the incredibly angelic Linda Hayden) and then transforming them into tools of evil! Awesome, this movie was one of the ones where I was yelling at the screen “No! That is NOT happening!” So it moved me that way, I got into it.
The true message of the movie is towards parents. The message being, if you are an evil father, you are going to eventually pay for it. There is one truly shocking scene in which Alice is going to commit patricide! I thought that was kind of shocking for this kind of film, but there it was in all its shocking glory. I like that idea of kids running away when they realize that their parents aren’t good for them in the least. It’s the rational thing to do when you have the unfortunate fate of getting unreliable or just plain evil parents, run for the hills! Make it own your own in this damn life! So that’s more or less what this movie is trying to put forth. Be a good loving parent to your kids…or else it will come back and bite you in the ass! Or in your neck.
Rating: 5 out of 5