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Taste the Blood of Dracula

By the time Taste the Blood of Dracula was to be made in 1969, Christopher Lee had long since tired of portraying the fang-toothed vampire, vowing with each iteration that the performance was his last. It had gone so far that after 1968's Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, Hammer Films began grooming Lee's successor, Ralph Bates, to take over the role. However, after filming had already begun, Lee decided to join the cast, and the rush-job taken to rewrite the screenplay is evident in the final product. In the opening scene, a fat obnoxious salesman is thrown from his carriage. While wandering lost, he hears screaming, and — following the sound — he comes across Dracula. The Count is howling due to the large crucifix protruding from his chest, and he soon vanishes, leaving only a pool of his blood. The blood turns to powder, and the salesman collects the bounty. Before long we are introduced to three men of stature in Victorian society, who have joined together in a secret brotherhood dedicated to drinking and debauchery. When Lord Courtley (Bates, in the role adapted for him from the original screenplay) arrives at their favorite brothel, the men are intrigued by his power. Courtley is a servant of an evil lord, and he convinces the men to help him raise Dracula from the dead, ensuring their immortality. When faced with drinking the blood of Dracula, made from the powder they bought from the salesman, only Courtley drinks, and in a moment of fear the men decide to kill him. However, the damage has been done — the act of drinking the blood has brought Dracula back, and in return for killing Courtley, the dark Count will take revenge on the three men and their children. Dracula himself spends very little time on screen in Taste the Blood of Dracula — with the exception of the final 10 minutes, he merely shows up to gloat over the most recent corpse, soon disappearing back into the shadows. With the titular villain missing for most of the movie, it hardly seems like horror at all, instead playing like a period drama with a cast that isn't terribly interesting. Script issues aside, the production values associated with the Hammer Dracula films show a certain care and skill for creating the Victorian setting in which the film takes place. Rich colors abound in both the costumes and sets, with the city streets and gothic temple in particular being well done. Taste the Blood of Dracula is a low point in the series, and even though Lee would reprise the role several more times, perhaps he should have listened to the voice in his head that told him when it was time to hang up the black cape for good. Warner presents the title on DVD in a clean widescreen transfer and monaural DD audio. Theatrical trailer, snap-case.
—Scott Anderson

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