Scream Factory continues their descent into the Hammer vaults
The legendary Christopher Lee (Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones, The Lord of the Rings) is back as Dracula, bringing unspeakable horrors upon a local village that defies his evil reign. But when a young man and his luscious girlfriend unwittingly visit the Count’s castle, they find themselves trapped in a face-to-face frenzy of bloodthirsty vixens, religious blasphemy and sadistic henchmen. The prince of darkness has returned like never before, but will his horrific mark remain forever?
Scream Factory are back with another entry for their continued dive into the Hammer Horror vaults, the British studio famed for its Gothic ventures. This installment brings 1970 Scars of Dracula, which was one of only a few R-rated Hammer films. Events kick off with the resurrection of the remains of Dracula, thanks to a blood-spewing bat. Unleashed, the vampire sets upon a group of women, feeding to regain his strength, the aftermath inflames the local village, causing them to try and find the evil and stamp it out. This goes against something of a love triangle, as two youngster from the village Simon (Dennis Waterman) and his romantic interest Sarah (Jenny Hanley) set out to find a friend of theirs that has gone missing. Misfortune takes them to Dracula’s door, where unbeknownst to them, they spend the night under the roof of the very creature that has terrorized their community, as well as Klove (Patrick Troughton), a servant of the dark lord who becomes obsessed with the young beauty.
Scars of Dracula is a lush take on the vampire legend, delivering exactly what you’ve come to expect from Hammer. The young actors do well, and offer much in terms of shaking up the status quo, adding new components to a very familiar tale. The most notable aspect of the film is the presence of Christopher Lee, playing the role for the fifth time in his career. Rather than the fleeting glimpses in some of his other outings, he is thrust into a more central role, showcasing his ability to balance smooth charm with a chilling presence. Patrick Troughton, best known as the second incarnation of Doctor Who, also commits himself well. While aspects of the production are clearly done on the cheap, the film retains a splendid Gothic atmosphere, with some unnerving effects and lashings of gore. While the opening feels imbued with pace and action, the film soon settles into more talky, atmospheric work that treads familiar territory, mining other Hammer titles and other horror ventures into Vampiric lore. You’ll probably crave for something a little different to set shake things up, but what unfolds is still largely satisfying.
Shout! Factory deliver another great looking transfer for a Hammer feature, detail is good, texture is notable, colors are strongly represented, and a healthy grain remains intact. Overall it’s an image that preserves much of the character of the film. Versions are also included in two aspect ratios , 1.66:1 and 1.85:1. As they have done with previous related releases, Scream Factory support the film with an impressive amount of extra features:
- NEW Audio Commentary with filmmaker/film historian Constantine Nasr and film historian Randall Larson: A very critical commentary that pulls apart various aspects of the production, building insight into how Hammer started to falter
- Blood Rites: Inside SCARS OF DRACULA: Just under 20 minutes, it’s again a rather critical piece, but one that nicely explains some of the limitations suffered by the production, as well as the attitudes on set, and various aspects of US/UK cinema. Packs a lot into a short time
- Audio Commentary with star Christopher Lee and director Roy Ward Baker, moderated by Hammer Film historian Marcus Hearn: If you’ve ever seen an interview with Lee, you’ll know what a fascinating and captivating character he is. A wonderful addition to the release and a must listen, as Lee touches on this project, as well as his overall lengthy career
- Theatrical Trailers:
- Still Gallery: A lengthy series of stills, ads, and other production materials
The Bottom Line
Scars of Dracula serves as a pretty solid representation of the Hammer take on the bloodsucker, for those looking for something a little more distinct or innovative, might be a little underwhelmed. Still, it remains a great opportunity to see Christopher Lee fully fanged, and Shout! Factory continue their splendid efforts delivering a release that not only looks great, but is supported by a truly impressive set of extra features.
Scars of Dracula is available via Shout! Factory from September 10th