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To prolong her youth, medieval countess Elisabeth Bathory sends out her lover to find likely young female donors of blood for her to bathe in.
For more about Countess Dracula and the Countess Dracula Blu-ray release, see Countess Dracula Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on May 16, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ingrid Pitt, Nigel Green, Lesley-Anne Down, Peter Jeffrey, Patience Collier
Director: Peter Sasdy
» See full cast & crew
Countess Dracula Blu-ray Review
Red sponge of doom.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, May 16, 2014
"Countess Dracula" is a confusing title for this 1971 feature, as traditional images of fangs, bloodsucking, and undead majesty aren't included in the story. A Hammer Film production, the picture eschews gothic severity to portray a unique panic tied to the aging process, with the titular character not interested in drinking blood, only out to bathe in the stuff. Details, people. While "Countess Dracula" runs out of drama after the hour mark, this is an engaging effort from director Peter Sasdy ("Hands of the Ripper"), who wisely plays up the exploitation aspects of the production to avoid answering questions, keeping the film more invested in a dark hunt for virgin flesh as it teases strange fairy tale elements, though, overall, it's executed with enough exposed flesh and growling jealousies to keep it engaging in a B-movie manner.
In Hungary during the 17th century, Countess Elisabeth Nadasdy (Ingrid Pitt) awaits the reading of her late husband's will, sorting out an estate that brings Lt. Imre Toth (Sandor Eles) into view, sharing the property with the older woman. After berating and injuring a chambermaid, Elisabeth discovers that her blood is able to reverse the aging process, with wipes of the red wet removing wrinkles and restoring her beauty. In a panic, Elisabeth persuades lover Captain Dobi (Nigel Green) to arrange the kidnapping and imprisonment of her visiting daughter, Ilona (Lesley-Anne Down), electing to take her place in public to explain her youthful looks. Falling in love with Imre, Elisabeth is horrified to uncover the short-term effects of her blood baths, ordering Dobi to acquire more helpless girls, draining victims to preserve her sham. As Imre grows more confused with the situation and Dobi more jealous, Elisabeth panics as her murder spree soon fails to preserve the strange magic, with castle historian Fabio (Maurice Denham) the only man who can decode her bloodlust.
The screenplay for "Countess Dracula" isn't entirely interested in explaining the details of the story, with the opening basically pushing the viewer off a pier in terms of character backstory and professional obligation, while the magic blood scrub situation just exists for the purposes of drama, not handed the type of extensive explanation genre efforts typically like to bestow on demonic events. It takes a few moments to adjust to the movie's atmosphere, matching faces and places with ease due to the professional performances, all seizing assigned personalities with crisp definition, allowing the suspense a chance to blossom.
Once acclimated to the motivations, "Countess Dracula" evolves into an enjoyably evil picture, focusing on Elisabeth's frantic need to slice and dice subordinates and locals to preserve her youthful return. Not only controlled by vanity, Elisabeth is driven by her passions, counting on Imre's physical interest to restore her life to its previous vitality, doing whatever she can to keep the victims coming, preying on the help, a gypsy fortune teller, and a local prostitute named Ziza (Andrea Lawrence), a brassy woman with enormous cleavage who tries to tempt Imre into bed, following Captain Dobi's instructions. Deadly jealousies do play an important part in the story, watching Elisabeth play the men in her life to disarm her insecurities, with Dobi especially comfortable with the collection of innocent women, blinded by a sense of obligation to his longtime mistress.
This is not an especially scary picture, but it certainly retains an oogie-boogie ambiance for at least an hour, studying Elisabeth's increasingly manic efforts to pull off the switcheroo, which requires imprisoning her own child, following a subplot that finds Illona struggling with an escape plan as brutish thugs prevent her from leaving a rural cottage. "Countess Dracula" is more consistent as a world-gone-mad movie, chasing youth-hunting hysteria to its natural conclusion of sacrifice. It's a turn of events the script teases, but unfortunately doesn't follow through on. Still, Pitt's rampaging work and the boomerang effect of elderly erasure creates a few terrific scenes of panic, while the ghoulishness of the premise is just perverse enough to work, even when it isn't as explicitly detailed as it could be.
Countess Dracula Blu-ray, Video Quality
The AVC encoded image (1.66:1 aspect ratio) presentation brings a healthy amount of detail to this gauzily-shot movie. Make-up effects on Pitt alone are worth a view, offering a full appreciation of the aging particulars, with HD bringing out the gruesome textures of the senior nightmare. Set interiors are also defined, along with costumes, which retain their fibrous appeal. The film's nudity and violence is handled with care as well, allowing for an appreciation of gore and other exploitative elements. Colors are strong and balanced, carrying strength with dresses and exterior greenery, while red blood pops accordingly. Print displays some damage, including mild flicker, scratches, and speckling, but there's little to disturb the viewing experience, while grain is managed with care, only exploding in intensity during one forest excursion. Blacks are largely communicative, but crush is visible on occasion. Overall, it's a handsome presentation that makes "Countess Dracula" look fresh again.
Countess Dracula Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix carries some minor inconsistencies, with brief fluctuations in volume tripping up the flow of the track, though it's hardly cause for concern. Dialogue exchanges are quite solid, with a crisp read of accents and dramatic intensity, allowing the genre's preference for hysterics room to breathe as lows and highs are contained. Scoring offers only a limited reach, but the definition of instrumentation and balance of the music with thespian activity is quite good, preserving the morbid mood. Hiss is detected, but never distracting, and atmospherics carry satisfactory weight, preserving castle creeps and the agitation of village condemnation, with adequate group separation.
Countess Dracula Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Countess Dracula Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The trouble with "Countess Dracula" is that there's barely enough incident to fill 93 minutes of screentime. The film tuckers out after an hour, failing to charge up for a grand finale, waiting for the last possible moment to goose the audience with some type of resolution (and an explanation of the title). The feature isn't consistently macabre, losing pace the longer it has to tend to the particulars of the crime. However, the basics are covered well by Sasdy, who delivers an interesting take on this devil's pact plot, wisely emphasizing Pitt's allure, his cinematic weapon that gives "Countess Dracula" the bite it deserves.
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Countess Dracula Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Countess Dracula Blu-ray - March 6, 2014
Synapse Films has dated its upcoming Blu-ray release of director Peter Sasdy's Countess Dracula (1971), starring Ingrid Pitt, Nigel Green, Sandor Elès, Lesley-Anne Down, and Maurice Denham. The release will be available for purchase on May 6th.
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