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Dracula: Prince of Darkness(1966)
Dracula is resurrected, preying on four unsuspecting visitors to his castle.
For more about Dracula: Prince of Darkness and the Dracula: Prince of Darkness Blu-ray release, see Dracula: Prince of Darkness Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on February 21, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer, Charles 'Bud' Tingwell
Director: Terence Fisher
» See full cast & crew
Dracula: Prince of Darkness Blu-ray Review
The wait sucks.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, February 21, 2014
Count Dracula is often mentioned as Christopher Lee's most iconic character, with the actor playing the famous bloodsucker in nine different movies over the course of his career. With such immediate popularity, triggered by the 1958 release of "Dracula" (co-starring Peter Cushing), it seems odd that Hammer Films waited eight years to mount a follow-up with the actor, finally arriving at a point of cinematic resurrection with 1966's "Dracula: Prince of Darkness," only to rob the monster of all his lines and delay his introduction to comedic degree. Despite its routine dramatic interests and habitual need to postpone the inevitable, "Prince of Darkness" has enough proper Hammer Horror elements to engage, gifting the viewer the titular ghoul, a creepy castle located in the middle of nowhere, and a cast of innocents who boldly step into the line of fire, completely ignoring repeated pleas for vigilance. It's almost enough to fuel an effort that practically refuses access to its most interesting screen element.
On a vacation through Eastern Europe, Englishman Alan (Charles Tingwell), his wife Helen (Barbara Shelley), brother Charles (Francis Matthews), and his wife Diana (Suzan Farmer) stop off near the Carpathian Mountains during their journey. Delighting in the local culture, the foursome is warned by militant monk Sandor (Andrew Keir) to remain in town for the night, avoiding a nearby castle that's tempting for outsiders. Trying to heed the advice, the group finds themselves drawn to the fortress, welcomed by servant Klove (Phillip Latham), who arranges for dinner and accommodations, looking to comfort the visitors. While Helen communicates clear hesitation with the entire offer, Alan and Charles carry on, planning to spend the night. Once the sun goes down, trouble arises when Klove carries out a master plan of resurrection, reviving Count Dracula (Christopher Lee), who targets his guests for feeding purposes and bride duties, forcing Sandor back into battle when his services are requested to destroy the vampire once again.
To help audiences out with history, a brief prologue is provided in "Prince of Darkness," displaying the climax of the 1958 feature, where the titular menace was hit with daylight and fried into ashes, making a return to his undead form seemingly impossible. Well, never doubt the power of profit, with the production cooking up a way to turn dust into dollars, concocting a gruesome resurrection sequence that employs globs of innocent blood as the catalyst for Dracula's return. It's a fantastic moment in a movie that could use a few more of them, with director Terence Fisher employing smart special effects and crafty dissolves to sell the creation of the monster's human form. While "Prince of Darkness" lacks a great deal of tension, this moment is sensational, generating a gross-out factor to compete with the mystery, bringing Dracula back to life in a most imaginative way.
The rest of "Prince of Darkness" lacks spark, but it has enormous atmosphere. The castle setting is utilized well by Fisher, who works with cinematographer Michael Reed to generate a troubled mood of gothic curiosity, with the four tourists inching around the interiors, trying to decode why they're being so readily welcomed by Klove and his dutiful creepiness. Lighting plays an important role in the picture, making Dracula's lair a funhouse of color and shadow, creating discomfort when the script fails to find a riveting pulse of confusion. It's a visual push that brings "Prince of Darkness" personality and menace, a fact emphasized by Dracula's lack of dialogue, with Lee handed zero lines to articulate the vampire's wrath, permitted only close-ups and body language to communicate intent. It's a bizarre creative choice, but one that's lucky to have Lee around, who supplies satisfactory hisses and fang-baring looks as he torments his victims. Of course, to praise Lee means hanging around "Prince of Darkness" for nearly 50 minutes before he shows up -- an eternity in horror, especially when the whole production is built on the Count's presence. Another curious choice, the delay of Dracula is perhaps imagined as a means to summon dread, but it mostly comes across as stalling, reducing the antagonist to a cameo in his own movie.
Additional padding is viewed in the final act of the picture, where the survivors of Dracula's wrath turn to Sandor for aid, entering his monastery, meeting Ludwig (Thorley Walters), an unstable laborer with a weak mind (the Renfield figure of the work). The aside is pointless outside of allowing Dracula access to the building, stopping the film dead with an undefined character before it's back up and running with a suitably energized conclusion. Although "Prince of Darkness" is entertaining, it's also strangely throttled, finding Fisher almost fearful of building excitement or suspense, refusing to allow it play all the way to the end.
Dracula: Prince of Darkness Blu-ray, Video Quality
Brought to Blu-ray after an advertised restoration, the AVC encoded image (2.36:1 aspect ratio) does showcase a distinct reawakening for the decades-old picture. Colors are the most predominant visual element, delivering bright, deep hues that emerge from intricate lighting and considerable bloodshed, which flows with a pleasing redness -- a ghoulish mood that extends to Dracula's demonic eyes. Costuming also looks true, while skintones register naturally. There is noticeable filtering employed to control the heavy presence of grain, making the image look a tad artificial. Thankfully, fine detail isn't completely diluted, with a textured look at fabrics and make-up, allowing viewers to study Lee's vampiric transformation and gore zone visits. Blacks are largely consistent, enduring a few instances of crush that solidify evening activity.
Dracula: Prince of Darkness Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix carries itself with a decent amount of stability, creating the intended mood of suspense without distortion. Scoring takes the lead here, offering adequate instrumentation and sharp swells of intensity, providing a welcome backdrop for the visual elements while taking charge of the moment when called on to do so. Dialogue is crisp and clean, and while verbal interactions aren't a priority for the production, expositional moments engage as intended, with dramatic purpose defined. Castle and exterior atmospherics aren't powerful, but there's enough energy and definition to articulate disparate environments.
Dracula: Prince of Darkness Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Dracula: Prince of Darkness Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The macabre tone of "Dracula: Prince of Darkness" is enticing, and while the consistency of the movie is lacking, Lee's movement as the vampire, along with capable performances from the rest of the cast, manage to support the film through plenty of dry stretches and odd storytelling directions. The insidious hallmarks of Hammer Horror are pronounced throughout the feature, allowing for appreciation instead of boredom, arranging a reliable ride for fans of the genre and the studio.
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Dracula: Prince of Darkness Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Dracula: Prince of Darkness Blu-ray (Updated) - July 4, 2013
Millennium Entertainment will release a Collector's Edition of director Terence Fisher's classic horror film Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), starring Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, and Andrew Keir. The release will be available for purchase on September ...
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