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Roy Ward Baker's "Scars Of Dracula" of 1970 is not only by far the
goriest and most violent of the awesome Dracula movies from Hammer
Studios, it is also one of the best sequels. Count Dracula, played once
again with greatness by Christopher Lee, is more vengeful,
blood-thirsty and sadistic than ever, and the (once again) excellent
eerie Hammer atmosphere makes "Scars Of Dracula" an must-see for Horror
The story is, admittedly, not too elaborate, in some minor parts the script has its flaws, and the film has some cheesy moments, but what the hell, it remains suspenseful and creepy and top-notch horror entertainment anyway! As mentioned above, Count Dracula is crueler than ever. His thirst for blood has not only increased, but he also has a big desire for torturous punishments and brutality in general. His powers include the ability to control animals (predominantly bats). Count Dracula has, of course, always been a scary and evil villain in the Hammer films, but in "Scars Of Dracula" he is the Devil himself!
The movie begins with Dracula's (admittedly slightly cheesy) resurrection when a bat drops blood on his rotting ashes. After some girls fall victim to the vampire, angry villagers try to burn the count's castle, and have to notice that they are not capable of fighting the Prince of Darkness, who immediately takes terrible revenge When a young man has to flee his town after spending the night with the burgomaster's daughter, he comes to the area where Dracula is striking terror into people's hearts, people who are living in constant fear and who are therefore anything but hospitable towards strangers
"Scars Of Dracula" is, in my opinion, one of the greatest Dracula-sequels from the Hammer Studios. The original of 1958 remains unmatched, of course, but out of the sequels, "Scars of Dracula" is certainly one of the creepiest and most atmospheric. The violence is more graphic than in any of the other Dracula movies from Hammer, and although some effects in the movie may look a bit fake, the gory parts are very well made, and the great score by James Bernard makes the whole thing even creepier. The movie may have some minor flaws (which certainly didn't bother me), but it is an extremely creepy and highly atmospheric flick, which I highly recommend to Horror fans. Hammer fans can't afford to miss this one. 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Paul(Christopher Matthews), a consummate ladies' man, has the
misfortune of being caught with the burgomaster's daughter by the
father himself. Trying to evade his guards, Paul winds up at Dracula's
castle when he can not find shelter anywhere else when his horse
carriage was driven way too far from his village.
Simon(Dennis Waterman), Paul's brother, and his gorgeous girlfriend Sarah(Jenny Hanley), seek out of their village to try and find him not knowing what evil lied ahead.
This is continuing right after "Taste the Blood of Dracula" and we watch as a bat swoops over the remaining ash of the Count releasing blood from it's mouth. That very blood will revive Dracula back to his former bodily state where he can again unleash terror on the countryside using servant Klove(Patrick Troughton, "Dr Who" fans might remember him as the second Time Lord)to bring him victims. A specific bat, the one that fed the ashes of Dracula blood, does much for the Count such as killing, spying, and sending messages to it's Master. Can Dracula's reign of terror be quenched? Or, will he now have enough weapons to continue his blood-lust and evil? By far, the most sadistic and violent of the Hammer vampire films to that point, this is by far Christopher Lee's best rendition of Dracula. He's able to really be vicious and nihilistic, almost like a released animal from it's cage at times. His eyes are blood red as he prepares to take a bite out of females who wander into his midst, and his bat tears into the faces of his enemies and foes. The ending is quite a hoot involving fire which starts from a bolt of lightning as Dracula squares off with Simon.
Last classic in the Hammer's Dracula series, because it was the last
film set in the right Victorian/Gothic milieu: 19th century fairytale
Transylvania of castles, peasants, pretty girls and adorable rubber
bats. No cheap Sax Rohmer pastiches or boring martial arts films! Scars
is sometimes criticized for it's violence - I felt it very odd, that
Kim Newman, who never abhorred gore or fought for cleaner films, was so
negative for this film's (unnecessary, but sporadic and unrealistic)
violence and "immorality" (?)! Come on, in the world of
the sick crap like horror and exploitation , Hammer's richly romantic fruitcakes are breath of fresh air! James Bernard's score is lovely, perfect icing of the cake.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When Paul Carlson (Christopher Matthews) goes missing, his brother
Simon (Dennis Waterman) and friend Sarah Framsen (Jenny Hanley) trace
his footsteps to try to find him. Their journey leads them to a small
village full of inhospitable locals who will only tell the pair that
Paul was last seen heading toward a nearby castle. Simon and Sarah set
off for the castle unaware of the danger that awaits them. This is no
ordinary castle. It's the home of Dracula. Simon and Sarah find
themselves in a fight for their lives against the King of the Vampires.
Of Hammer's long list of Dracula films, Scars of Dracula is about average. It's nowhere near as good as Horror of Dracula, but it's a long way from being as bad as The Satanic Rites of Dracula. It's impossible to begin discussing any of Hammer's Dracula films without first mentioning Christopher Lee. In Scars of Dracula, Lee plays a more sadistic and evil version of the Count. In addition to the normal blood-sucking, this Dracula is not above the routine tortures of beating his servant with a whip, hanging a body from a wall, or sending his legions of bats to all but wipe out a town. It's these scenes that really make the film standout. But as much as I enjoyed the character of Dracula, as blasphemous as this will sound, it's one of Lee's weaker performances. Maybe I was reading something into his performance that wasn't there, but he came across as incredibly uninterested (which in reality he was). There's none of the menace in the eyes that I associate with Lee's Dracula. It's acting by-the-numbers as far as I could tell. It's unfortunately because Lee was always so good in the role.
Other highlights for me include Jenny Hanley as Sarah and the wall climbing scene. Hanley seemed like such a natural as the innocent, fragile Sarah. And she has some of the most expressive eyes I've noticed in a Hammer heroine. It's too bad she didn't make more films for Hammer. As for the wall climbing scenes, I believe it's the only one of its kind in any of the Hammer Dracula films. I realize that it's all done with camera tricks, but seeing Lee's Dracula climbing the side of the castle was a real treat.
Unfortunately, I found just as many negatives as I did positives in Scars of Dracula. First, the screenplay has a number of holes in it. All of the characters make it incredibly convenient for Dracula. Not once is Dracula forced to leave his castle to find a victim they all conveniently come to him. And just how did Sarah get to the castle so fast? The same journey that took Simon and a local priest almost an entire day is covered by the distraught Sarah in a matter of what seems to be a couple of hours. Next, Simon and Paul felt too modern given the time period in which the film is set. Their mannerisms, speech, and look simply scream 1970. Finally, in the beginning of the film, Dracula is resurrected by a rubber bat drooling blood over his remains. If it's that easy for Dracula to come back to life, why didn't he use this method more often? Why go through all the hassle of a séance as in Dracula A.D. 1972 or the elaborate ceremony in Taste the Blood of Dracula? I seems like a lot of wasted effort to me.
The problem with Hammer's ever-popular Dracula series is that the
sequels to the original classic all follow a set formula and are all
therefore rather monotonous. However, luckily for this instalment
Hammer have assigned one of their top directors; Roy Ward Baker, and
you can always count on him for an entertaining horror ride. The
Quatermass and the Pit director has achieved something that didn't seem
likely after seeing all the other films in the series; he's actually
got Christopher Lee to appear for more than five minutes! Yes, that's
right the star of the show is actually the star of the show this time;
and while he doesn't actually lead the film, you do get the impression
that you're watching a Christopher Lee film. His performance is the
usual mix of malevolence and over the top camp; and as usual, it's very
effective. Lee epitomises his character to such a degree that, Bela
Lugosi aside, you can't imagine anyone else in the role. And this is
all the better when you consider that he's in the movie for a while
The plot is the same "Dracula gets resurrected, wreaks some havoc and then gets defeated until next time" that all the Dracula sequels follow; but this time the surrounding story is much more interesting than usual. We follow a young upstart who flees after being accused of rape and finds himself in a place that you really don't want to find yourself; Count Dracula's castle. Then, after he's been missing for a while, his brother sets out to find him. An excellent atmosphere that is full of tension gives the film a very foreboding aura, which helps it massively in capturing a horror feel. The way that Dracula's castle is shown is fantastic, and the smoke effects and long shots of the castle itself are absolutely delicious. Adding to this is a very powerful musical score, which shows why Hammer are famous for their over the top music. Scars of Dracula is also notable for featuring most of the common vampire clichés such as the wooden stake and the cross. One the whole, I rate this as Hammer's second best Dracula film, second only to the original. Highly recommended!
This is simply an underrated film, and is unfairly placed at a
disadvantage merely for coming along too late in the Hammer Dracula
Sweepstakes. I'd place "Scars of Dracula" very high atop my personal
favorites in this haphazard franchise, even above the good but yet
still overrated "Horror of Dracula," even though I gave both of these
the same basic surface rating. Had "Scars" been the very first offering
for Hammer studios, it would be much better accepted than it is now.
For openers, "Scars of Dracula" correctly focuses more on the actions of Dracula himself and affords Christopher Lee more screen time than in any other Hammer Dracula film. The story itself is standard stuff, as another young man stumbles upon the Count's castle and tangles with the vampire. But in addition to seeing more of Drac, we also get to see more traditional staples of good vampire films - like squealing vampire bats and a Renfield-like assistant, for example. Dracula's vintage castle looks much more Gothic and authentic here than it ever did in "Horror of Dracula," and director Roy Ward Baker even includes a shot from straight out of Bram Stoker's novel where the Count is witnessed scaling the sides of the castle's exterior like some kind of lizard. And the lustful Anouska Hempel makes for a gorgeous and sexy vampiress. When she commands: "love me!" all I can do is ask her how hard.
Detractors like to pick on the fake look of the bats in the movie (as if movie prop bats have ever looked authentic in any old vampire films!) and they also cite the low budget sets as a detriment (and I'll maintain that "Horror of Dracula"'s sets looked far cheaper). I'll begrudgingly concede one commonly held flaw with the film, though - it involves the demise of Dracula. While it was a good idea in theory, the execution utilizes an obvious dummy and some hopelessly looped screaming that's repeated over and over again. Nothing's perfect when it comes to Hammer Dracula films, but this one's still a good time. Even Christopher Lee was pleasantly surprised when he did a recent audio commentary for the Anchor Bay DVD. *** out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Amazingly, Hammer got two Dracula movies out in 1970. "Taste the Blood
of Dracula" was released in May. "Scars of Dracula" was released by
November. "Taste" had the series moving into more explicit area. "Scars
of Dracula" jumps in full-force, being the goriest Dracula film the
studio ever produced.
The last few entries took their time resurrecting Dracula. This one gets right to it. A bat drips blood on his ashes, bringing the Prince of Darkness back. And all before the opening credits. Despite dying in England last time, Dracula apparently took the time between movies to move back to Transylvania. As in "Prince of Darkness," a group of unknowing travelers wander into Dracula's castle, each one crossing his path and incurring his wrath. As has happened before, Dracula also pursues a beautiful woman, determined to make her his latest bride.
"Scars of Dracula" is highly uneven. However, it's got two things going for it. First off, it has a fantastic opening. After being revived, Dracula starts preying on the women of the village. The local Transylvanians decide they'd had it up to here and, taking a page from "Frankenstein," head to Drac's castle with torches and pitchforks. The villagers walk away happy in their victory, watching the castle burn in the distance. They return to the church and swing open the door. Inside, their wives and daughters have been torn apart by giant bats. The camera lingers on the gore, zooming in on each torn apart face. One girl dangles off the huge crucifix, her blood dripping on the candles below. The sequence starts the movie off with a bold, bloody exclamation mark. This doesn't even mention the further gore in the movie, like a brutal stabbing, a chopped up body, a heart dissolve in a pool of acid, torture with a red-hot sword, a man impaled on a hook, a priest having his face slashed off by a giant bat, and a man burnt alive.
The last few films wrote around Christopher Lee, limiting his part as much as possible. "Scars," meanwhile, gives Lee more to do. He has a handful of dialogue, greeting guests to his castle, demanding his servant removes a cross from a girl's neck, and sneers at the same servant. Most pressing to horror fans, Dracula is a badass in "Scars." He brutally bites at least two babes. A startling moment has the Count viciously stabbing his unfaithful bride, perhaps the most visceral the Count ever acted in this series. Lee's Dracula never had much interest in bats before. I honestly don't know if bats ever appeared in one of these movies before. This one changes all that. Giant rubber bats, each under the Count's control, fly through the movie. Lee even wields a sword! Lee's Dracula ranks up his highest body count here, with 14 confirmed kills.
It's a good thing the gore is satisfying and Lee is awesome. The rest of "Scars" is all over the place. The film opens with yet another character named Paul, this one played by Christopher Matthews. Paul appears in the bed of a beautiful woman, who gleefully flashes her breasts and butt at the camera. The girl's father chases the guy out. While stopping by his fiancé's birthday, the cops reappear, prompting Paul to leap into the back of a carriage. The carriage carries him to an inn, where he proceeds to seduce the young maid working there. Near minutes after meeting her, Paul has the girl throwing herself at him. Even after finding his way to Dracula's castle, Paul continues to win with the ladies. Dracula's bride Tania, played by the ravishing Anouska Hempel, spends a lustful night with the young man. These moments remind me of the British sex comedies that were gaining ground at the time. They seem quite out of place with the rest of the film.
The worst thing about Paul is that he disappears midway through the film. From there on his brother Simon and his fiancée Sarah assume the lead. Simon is more then ready to take Sarah's hand after his philandering brother disappears. They follow the trail back to Dracula's castle, find out he's a vampire, and wander out. Simon heads back to the castle and Sarah chases after soon after. Makes you wonder why they left in the first place. Meanwhile, the barmaid Paul almost seduced also ends up becoming Dracula's victim. It's a random sequence, the girl just becoming another beautiful victim of the Count. Also floating around the script is Klove, Dracula's man-servant. After seeing a picture of Sarah, he becomes obsessed with the girl. The creepy guy's infatuation with the maiden barely factors into the plot. "Scars of Dracula" is held down by a crowded, unfocused story.
Roy Ward Baker has the distinction of being Hammer's third best director. He couldn't generate suspense like Terrence Fisher. He wasn't as colorful as Freddie Francis. However, Ward brought his own style. The guy fills the sets with red scenery, always suggesting blood even when none is on-screen. Fisher always made his sets look fantastic. Baker makes them look intentionally artificial. Nearly the whole film is set in Dracula's castle. The stones look like foam and the backdrops look like paintings. There's a certain appeal to this. "Scars of Dracula" has a bold comic-book-y look, colorful and fun. Considering how gory the film is, it gives a EC Comics feeling. Baker brought this same sensibility his other Hammer films, like the similarly outrageous "The Vampire Lovers" and "Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde."
With a more focused screenplay and less bumpy pacing, "Scars of Dracula" could have been the best of the series. The messiness is obvious in the ending, where Dracula is struck by a bolt of lightning. It's not the smoothest of the Hammer Dracula flicks though if you're looking for lots of bright blood, plunging necklines, and Christopher Lee being awesome, it will satisfy.
By now Hammer had taken to inserting the Dracula character and mythology into existing and otherwise unrelated scripts they had in development. This was one of the better amalgamations mostly because the wonderful Christopher Lee was given significantly more screen time in his signature role although some critics have faulted the film for it's more violent tone. Truthfully, by today's standards it's quite tame by comparison. After a bat bleeding onto the remains of the ancient vampire restores him to undead life, a pair of adventurous brothers find themselves captured by Count Dracula while exploring his castle in Transylvania. The Scars of Dracula was released as a double feature with Hammer's The Horror of Frankenstein.
Hard to say whether this is a good movie or not. On the one hand, there
is nothing truly bad about but on the other, it's also being a movie
that doesn't has any truly great or entertaining moments in it. You
could say this movie is being average, in about every regard and I can
do see this movie ending up being a disappointing one for a lot of
people, including the Dracula and Hammer fans out there.
As often is the case with Hammer movies, you could so easily skip the first 30 minutes of it. Hardly anything happens and it attempts to set things and characters up, by showing and doing stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie.
But what follows isn't being anything all too great or entertaining neither. The movie lacks some good interaction between the Dracula character and the 'heroes' of the movie and I did wish there was some more vampire action in this as well. It's not like this is a boring movie but it at the same time also does very little to excite you or get you involved with anything. It's as if the Hammer studios 'demanded' another Dracula movie but the writer Anthony Hinds just had no good ideas at all and instead decided to put in some stuff we had all seen before in previous and far better Hammer studios Dracula productions, making this movie as generic and unremarkable as it could be.
It's a shame, since there were still some ingredients for a great movie present here. One of them is obviously being Christopher Lee, who once more plays the blood sucking count, who once again gets resurrected from the death. The other is being director Roy Ward Baker, who had directed some of the best Hammer movies and simply was being a great director, in general. Both of their talents sort of go to waste in this movie, since they are given very little good to work with.
And I'm still not really sure whether or not Dennis Waterman was a good leading man in this. Don't really think he had the right charisma and star-power and this movie is being one of those cases that really could had used a Peter Cushing, or someone of his caliber, in this.
I know I'm sounding mostly negative but in all truth, I did not hated watching this movie at all. Can't say there is anything truly bad about it but there just isn't being anything in it that makes me truly like this movie, or makes it one that stands out from the tons of other Dracula movies.
The Prince of Darkness is revived by a bat that hovers over his
crumbling remains dripping blood onto it. Shortly after this a girl is
found dead under suspicious circumstances and angry local villagers get
into action and carry out an amazingly inept revenge act. It doesn't
work of course, and soon we are off on another vampire tale
Scars of Dracula is the most bloody of the entries in the Hammer Dracula series. With a particularly gruesome slaughter in a church a standout moment of macabre nastiness. And a sadistic whipping meted out by the count another example of the more sadistic approach of this movie. Christopher Lee is on hand again with another typically reliable performance. Character actor Patrick Troughton plays his grimy sidekick, while Anouska Hempel appears as his slinky fellow female vampire. Anouska is sadly underused here but will be familiar to those of you that have seen the impressive later erotic horror film Vampyres. Unlike that latter film, Scars doesn't feature any actual nudity as it appears in the Hammer cycle before they started incorporating that. Beyond the gore there isn't anything overly different in this entry, it's the usual staple of features you would expect of a Hammer Dracula film. Although if you are a fan of the series then this is not necessarily a bad thing.
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