31 Nights of Halloween Horror part 26: Countess Dracula
31 Nights of Halloween Horror: Part 26 in a 31 part series.
A horror film reviewed, every night for the month of October. Tonight let’s talk about:
Countess Dracula | Dir. Peter Sasdy | 1971/UK | 93 mins
Because it’s the law.
I am pretty sure it is a requirement that every Halloween you must watch at least one Hammer movie. I think I read it in the Horror bylaws somewhere. Tonight we are going to fulfill that requirement with Countess Dracula.
Countess Dracula is Hammer’s take on that Elizabeth Bathory legend of that crazy bitch from Hungary that murdered virgins and bathed in their blood to restore her youth. Only in Hammer’s version, she is not called Bathory but Countess Elisabeth Nadasdy played by the lovely Ingrid Pitt and this really has nothing to do so much with Dracula. I think they just wanted to ride the success of their previous Dracula films.
More blood please!
Countess Nadasdy is a mean old hag. One day after bitching at a servant that her bath water is too hot, she inadvertently slaps her when she has a knife in hand and the servant cuts her face and her blood flies onto Elisabeth’s face. When The Countess wipes it off her wrinkles disappear and her skin gets smooth. Ding ding ding, a light bulb goes off in her head. She has another peasant girl killed, bathes in her blood and presto, old ugly Countess Nadasdy turns into lovely young Elisabeth. She falls for a soldier Lt. Toth and pretends she is actually the Countess’ daughter. However, her youth does not last and she reverts back to her old ugly ways.
More virgin blood coming right up! Eventually Lt. Toth learns of the truth and meets Countess Nadasdy’s actual daughter but not until after the Countess blackmails Toth into marrying her. But it is Hammer and good must triumph over evil, so the Countess gets caught in the act of murder as she changes from beautiful to hag and is locked in the dungeon until the end of her days.
In a movie where the main character bathes in virgin red stickiness to restore her youth, I was expecting a little more blood. I was picturing lovely Ingrid Pitt in a pool of the red stuff washing her wrinkles away, but all we really get is a quick scene where Elisabeth gets caught in the bath with a sponge and a little blood on her. I get the British sensors in the 70s were a bunch of tight wads, but even for Hammer standards, which really introduced horror in shocking color, could have done a little better than this.
The Hammer falls.
The movie plays more as a drama, instead of real horror, despite the old age make-up and a wee bit of blood. It is mostly the double crossing and role playing that wins out over any real scenes of shock and suspense. Director Peter Sasdy had previously only done Taste the Blood of Dracula and Hands of the Ripper after this one, so maybe he wasn’t really the right choice to helm what could have been a better movie. Ingrid Pitt shines in the role, but for whatever reason, her voice was dubbed over, in this film. It is a little odd at her first if you are familiar with how she sounds and something different comes out of her mouth when she speaks. Especially since she has a European accent and this does take place in Hungary. But again, the British, what are you going to do. They want everyone to speak in the Queen’s tongue I guess.
So yeah, a little let down on this one, especially the way it is portrayed and coming from Hammer. Could have been a whole lot better, with more tension and suspense and definitely more blood bathing.
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