The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) Poster

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Not the usual Hammer Dracula but I like it anyway
TheEdge-429 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I yield to no one in my liking for the standard Hammer Gothic horror set in the Mittel Europe Carpathian mountains complete with villagers who refuse to go near to Castle Dracula unless armed with flaming torches to burn the place down. But every so often, Hammer tried something different, with varying degrees of success. "The Devil Rides Out" was set in 1930s England and is generally regarded by many (including me) as being one of Hammer's very best films. Others such as "Dracula A.D. 72" (often known unofficially as Dracula meets the hippies) and this one, "The Satanic Rites of Dracula", which drag Dracula into modern seventies London, were less critically regarded.

Any film set in present day will always date quicker than a film set in the past. "Dracula A.D. 72" suffers in this respect more than "The Satanic Rites of Dracula" as the former features a supposedly wild gang of hippies who are in fact nothing of the kind (one of which includes a very young Michael Kitchen, years before "Foyle's War"). "The Satanic Rites" of Dracula", however, largely escapes this fate (apart from the motorcycle hit men with a dodgy preference for fur-lined waist coats and long sideburns). I still enjoy "Dracula A.D. 72" nonetheless even though I would class it as very much a guilty pleasure. The "Satanic Rites of Dracula" is literally another story however.

One of the highpoints of "Dracula A.D. 72" however is the stylish direction of Canadian director Alan Gibson and Hammer brought him back to helm this final Hammer Dracula (unless you count (sorry) Dracula's cameo appearance in "The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires"). Thanks to Gibson, several scenes here work wonderfully (the scene in which Joanna Lumley is menaced in the cellar by the female vampires is particularly well done and the scene in which William Franklyn's character is shot in slow motion was obviously Gibson's idea of an homage to Sam Peckinpah which I promise you you will never see in another Hammer film).

In fact, this film is different from nearly all the other Hammer films in a number of ways. It's probably one of the best photographed of all the Hammer films, thanks to cameraman Brian Probyn who had photographed some of Terence Malick's seminal masterpiece "Badlands". The film has a glossy look the belies the small amount of money that was probably spent on making it. In fact, the whole style of the film is different. One of the previous posters here has likened it to an episode of "The Avengers" (rather appropriate as Joanna Lumley, here playing Peter Cushing's granddaughter, Jessica Van Helsing, would go on to play Purdey in "The New Avengers" just a few years later). I'd agree with that and as a result the story plays more as a thriller rather than the standard Hammer Gothic horror. I always thought that bringing Dracula into the present day is a spectacularly bad idea, but if you are going to do it, then the way it is done here works fine. The idea of presenting Dracula as a present day Howard Hughes, hardly seen by anyone is a good idea (a real bloodsucking businessman, that has to be a first). And John Cacavas' music is effective, even though it is completely different to Hammer regular James Bernard's usual style (then again so was Mike Vickers' music in "Dracula A.D. 72").

Acting wise, Lee and Cushing are the usual class acts (Lee as usual has little to do other than quote a few lines from Stoker's original when given the chance). Michael Coles, William Franklyn, Freddie Jones and Joanna Lumley are good in support (even though Lumley's responsible character of Jessica Van Helsing seems to have changed radically from Stephanie Beacham's rebellious portrayal in "Dracula A.D. 72" - still perhaps nearly falling victim to a vampire does that to a girl). And Valerie Van Ost makes a great vampire (once she takes those glasses off, she's beautiful - who knew?) If you approach this film as a thriller rather than the traditional Hammer fare, I think you will enjoy it. Just as long as you don't expect any villagers with torches to turn up in the third act (although Pelham House does go up in flames anyway - unlike certain vampires, some traditions never die).
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Dracula is going to end the world!!!... Why? I thought he was having so much fun!
Kristine22 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The last sequel of the Hammer Dracula series and it's The Satanic Rites of Dracula. The strangest and perhaps most complicated sequel in the series. By far the weakest as well. I'm sure though that Christopher Lee was happy, sadly he just didn't enjoy these movies. He said in an interview that Dracula was never needed, that they always wrote the story first and added Dracula later. So I can understand what he was talking about, he didn't want to be typecast and wanted to move forward in his career. But I don't think he's suffered for it by any means as he's been an inspiration for so many and a lot of directors seek him out. Also much credit to Peter Cushing who did enjoy making these sequels and he's one of the bigger pleasures in the film. The man could have a role in the movie Pink Flamingos and give his role an Oscar worth performance. Plus the man made a career out of killing Christopher Lee, which not to many people could do and do it well. I always love how Dracula states that he's going to win this time but I can't help but say over his mouth "You've defeated me numerous times before, what makes you think you can do it again?!". As complicated as the plot is, I'll explain as best as I can.

A Secret Service agent barely escapes from an English country house, in which satanic rituals are celebrated. Before he dies of his wounds, he reveals to his superiors that four prominent members of society - a government minister, a peer, a general and a famous scientist - are involved in the cult. Murray suggests consulting noted occult expert Professor Lorrimar Van Helsing. The cult kidnaps the Secret Service secretary Jane, who is later bitten by Dracula. Murray, Secret Service agent Torrence and Van Helsing's granddaughter Jessica arrive at the country house, where they discover several vampire women chained up in the cellar, including Jane who is now a vampire herself. Murray kills Jane with a stake and the three escape the grounds. Keeley's research notes lead Van Helsing to the reclusive property developer D. D. Denham, who had funded Keeley's research. Van Helsing also suspects a reincarnated Dracula behind the plot, suggests that Dracula wants to exact revenge on humanity and speculates about a secret death wish on the Count's part. Van Helsing visits Denham in his headquarters and finds out his true identity: Count Dracula. He tries to shoot Dracula with a silver bullet but is beaten by the Count's conspirators. Dracula decides that killing Van Helsing would be too simple and has him transferred to the country house where Dracula will not only bite Jessica in front of Van Helsing but decides to destroy the world.

So the flaw of the story is I think the pacing. It's a lot of talking vs. the typical action we are used in the previous sequels. Plus you do lose interest at times, I had to watch the film a couple of times before I could write the review. I think because the story is a bit complicated, you don't get into it as well. Plus, Dracula destroying the world just doesn't make much sense. Like in the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the vampire Spike says "We like to talk big, vampires do. "I'm going to destroy the world." It's just tough guy talk. Struttin' around with your friends over a pint of blood. The truth is, I like this world. You've got... dog racing, Manchester United, and you've got people. Billions of people walking around like Happy Meals with legs. It's all right here. But then someone comes along with a vision. Goodbye, Piccadilly. Farewell, Leicester bloody Square." Good point there. However, with Peter and Christopher's chemistry, just bouncing back and forth off each other was great. I liked the way Van Helsing found out the true identity of Denham. Also silver bullets are brought into the mix, which by the way do not work very well. Dracula's death scene is alright, again, not so climatic, but Van Helsing got the job done by just getting him stuck in a bunch of weeds…wow, did I really just say that? Yeah, maybe this was a huge flaw. If you want to finish the series, I say to go ahead and watch the movie, but you could skip it over all. It was a sad way to end the series, but I'm sure the when Star Wars came along for Cushing and Lee, they had no regrets whatsoever.

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Last rites for a once great franchise
johnnyparker14 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The legendary Mr. Lee's last outing for dear old Hammer Studios in his red contact lenses and silk-lined cape. And what a sorry end to what was once one of the real jewels of British cinema, the Hammer horror franchise.

While there are one or two glimmers of the style and talent that put Hammer at the top of the tree in the 50s and 60s, this awkward hybrid of espionage thriller and supernatural horror never really gets off the ground. Lee has so little screen time he could probably sue the filmmakers under the Trade's Descriptions Act - "The Satanic Rites of a Bunch of Other People You Don't Give a Stuff About, not the Famous Vampire Count You Were Hoping For" might be a more accurate title.

What irks me about this film is not just that it represents a cheap, slipshod ending to the Hammer Dracula cycle, but that it's not even true to the spirit of those wonderful originals. What few thrills there are derive mostly from some motorcycle stunts and a bit of fashionable nudity. Lee might as well have phoned in his part, and poor old Peter Cushing, still reeling from the death of his beloved wife Helen, walks through what little action he's given like a refugee from Plague of the Zombies.

And as for the ending, well, there used to be a well-defined mythology in these movies, a vampiric rulebook that everybody abided by. Bram Stoker made most of it up in the first place, but once they'd put their spin on it, the Hammer boys generally stuck to it: garlic, stakes, holy water, silver bullets, running water, all that stuff we'd all rely on to dispatch the bloodsucking nobleman if he ever started licking his lips in our bedrooms. But suddenly, out of nowhere, there's this new lethal substance, something else that can do for a vampire - the King of the Vampires even. And what is it? A hawthorn tree. Yes, you heard right; Dracula, immortal, super-powerful, supreme monster that he is, curls up his pointy toe-nailed tootsies and shuffles off this mortal coil because he gets his cape caught in a bloody hawthorn tree. Ho hum. (Mind you, they can give you a nasty scratch can those hawthorn trees.)

Clearly Hammer had seen the writing on the wall splattered there by Night of the Living Dead and The Exorcist, but although it tried, it simply couldn't adapt. The truth is that the classical Hammer ethos doesn't really translate to the modern idiom. The films were very much of their time, and the times, as Mr. Dylan so helpfully reminds us, they are a changin'.

So charge your glasses with the best of British blood, leave this one in the rental store and check out something from the golden era of Hammer. Contrary to one of the film's many misleading alternative titles, Dracula is not alive and well and living in London. He's dead. And Hammer buried him.
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A hugely entertaining change-of-pace Hammer horror vampire/action/thriller hybrid romp
Woodyanders12 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
By the early 70's Hammer Studios began making attempts to revitalize their by now trite'n'tired period Gothic horror formula with varying degrees of success. This enjoyably daft contemporary blend of horror, action and spy suspense thriller rates as one of their more engagingly offbeat efforts. Something sinister is afoot in modern swinging 70's London. For starters, there's a dastardly Satanic cult made up of wealthy businessmen and powerful politicians who participate in sick and kinky unholy rituals. Moreover, the leader of said cult is none other than Dracula (Christopher Lee, as fearsome and imposing as ever). Worse yet, brilliant, yet batty Professor Julian Keeley (a delightfully dotty Freddie Jones) has been commissioned by Dracula to create a virulent new strain of bubonic plague which could wipe out all mankind. It's up to occult expert Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing in typically fine form), his comely granddaughter Jessica (a pleasingly perky turn by ravishing redhead Joanna Lumley) and stalwart Scotland Yard special agent Inspector Murray (dashing Michael Coles) to stop Dracula before it's too late. Alan Gibson's lively, stylish direction treats the outlandish premise with admirable seriousness and maintains a ceaseless barnstorming pace throughout. The action scenes and shock set pieces are staged with substantial go-for-it brio (the use of strenuous slow motion is especially striking and effective). Brian Probyn's bright, sharp cinematography, the plentiful graphic gore, John ("Horror Express") Cacavas' funky, rousing, syncopated score, a smidgen of nudity, and sound acting from a tip-top cast all likewise hit the satisfying spot. Grood, groovy 70's fright feature fun.
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Pretty good, considering some of the others in the series.
FoxRyan6 February 2003
Saw Satanic Rites last night for the second time, and paid more attention this time. The film, if you`re waiting to see a lot of Dracula will be a bit of a let down (but let`s face it, since Taste the Blood of Dracula, I don`t think Christopher Lee has had 30 minutes screen time with all of the Dracula films joined together.) The movie starts slowly, with, for once, no Dracula resurrection scene. He`s just back, and does not appear until well into the film. (He appears in a scene obviously stuck in because they realized he had not made an appearance at all so long into the film). When Peter Cushing appears, you start to feel like this is a proper Hammer film after all. Peter Cushing really does this one justice. Then from the time he visits D.D.Denham, it is a pretty good Dracula picture. The action between our hero and villain gets going, and builds up to a reasonable finale. This is better than Dracula AD 1972, but as I have said before, the whole series should have stayed in Victorian times. Joanna Lumley is radiant as Jessica, who's character returns from the previous film. It is a pretty scary premise. Dracula, finally sick of being resurrected for 2 or 3 days at a time, wants to end it all, but in doing this, he wants to take everyone with him. THE WHOLE WORLD! It is a good plot which just happens to have Dracula as the figure-head. For once Christopher Lee gets a reasonably decent script and delivers his lines beautifully. A couple of points. In some of the Dracula films, we are introduced to new but apparently tested ways of dealing with the fanged one. Dracula, Prince of Darkness introduced clear running water, as used at the end of DPOD, in Dracula AD 1972, and in Satanic Rites. Then in AD `72 we are introduced to the fact that the good Count can be knobbled with a silver bladed knife. Handy, since Van Helsing has one. Then in this movie, Van Helsing introduces the Hawthorn bush, from which Christ recieved his crown of thorns. Guess where Drac ends up near the end? Do these things really work? Or is it just that sunlight and the old stake are boring now, and the writers just make these things up? I feel a bit cheated when someone like Dracula can be beaten by lightning, drowned in a moat (NOT running water), or overcome in a church (whereas he had already killed a girl and placed her body in a full blown God worshipping church.) This film, when it gets going, is a pleasing finale to the Christopher Lee years as Dracula, and to boot, Peter Cushing delivers a really good performance too.
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end of an era
signofend18 May 2006
Hammer's last throw with Christopher Lee who refused to do another Dracula after AD 1972. He regarded the last Hammer's as such a departure from Stoker as to be sacrilegious. This replaces horror with a thriller. Dracula in a thriller? French Connection was a thriller. How does the suave and deadly Count become transplanted into a more style which uses more realism? He cannot, he is incongruous. Consequently Dracula makes almost no appearance until the last 15 minutes. The rest of the film is a chase between his henchmen and Cushing with the police. The quality of the Dracula films had deteriorated in their glamour and stylishness and transferring to the modern day was an attempt to inject glamour again. The most interesting piece of this film is the satanic rite of the title. Its images and practises have been used by the Church of Satan and other occult groups. The actor, scientist and parapsychologist Stephen Armourae has referred to it in articles and the actress Mia Martin has appeared in some of his drawings and paintings. Oddly despite such a high profile release none of the actors including Pauline Peart and Mia Martin did anything since despite their glamour and looks.
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Better than you might think!
The Welsh Raging Bull30 November 2001
Hammer's penultimate Dracula film and the last one to feature a tired Christopher Lee in the title role.

This is a significant improvement over Dracula A.D. 1972, but Peter Cushing is used significantly less in the fight scenes (which are not particularly good anyway).

The story, which revolves around a revived Dracula (in disguise) getting government ministers and leading doctors to help him take over the world with the plague has its merits. Infact, the story is well-paced and it's content is refreshingly varied (bike chases, cellars with female vampires, a plague victim etc).

Freddie Jones turns up with a superbly jittery performance as a scientist (he was also excellent in "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed").

Christopher Lee doesn't get enough screen time, but his scenes with Peter Cushing are, as you might expect, good (n.b. the scene in the tower block where Van Helsing goes to expose D.D. Denham as Dracula). Lee, also gets a chance to utter the immortal lines " revenge has spread over centuries and has just begun..." (which is apparently from the book).

If you go into this film with an open-mind, you won't be too disappointed - there is certainly plenty going on, even if the plot is not very tightly structured.
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Count Dracula Speaks!
vampi196029 August 2006
i bought this as a double feature from east west video/DVD at the local dollar store,the second feature is torture chamber(aka;torture chamber of Dr.sadism)anyway its the last time the great Christopher lee played Dracula.and the last time peter Cushing played his Nemesis van helsing. well the count now has a satanic cult of followers that sacrifice naked women and etc;so you know this is an r rated movie right.its a pretty good hammer feature,i believe Christopher lee was getting tired of playing count Dracula and wanted to end the series.and i think Christopher lee is one of the greatest actors around,he's a legend like Boris Karloff,Bela Lugosi,Vincent price,and Lon Chaney Sr and Jr.i would'nt rate this as the best Dracula movie but its good none the less. this has 2 different a 5o movie horror collection,you'll see the satanic rites of Dracula and count Dracula and his vampire brides. they are both the same movie,so the 50 movie collection as seen on TV is really 49 movies,i did the math.oh well i guess they goofed.i give count Dracula and his vampire brides 8 out of 10.Christopher lee you rule.
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A waste of Cushing and Lee
Aba7415 July 2006
This is the worst of the Dracula's Cushing and Lee films. A updated (1974)version with needless nudity, blood,gore and a Satanic cult etc. The plot centers around a Devil cult. I guess this gives them the right to sarcifice nude virgins? The police is involve in a sting to bring the cult down which may reach as far as the British government. Now you ask what does this has to do with a vampire, nothing really. The time Lee spends on screen... if you blink you're will miss him. A frail looking Cushing is aided by his granddaughter to get the devil cult and vampires that are kept in the basement! Does this plot sound stupid--- believe me it is. A bad decision to try to modernize the franchise. Fans would do well to not waste time or money on this one!
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No Fog, No Old Castles, No Stone Walls
Bonehead-XL30 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"Dracula 1972 AD" failed to set the box office ablaze but Hammer wasn't ready to give up on its biggest franchise. Despite the public's disinterest, the studio pushed ahead with another Dracula film set in the modern day. The gamble didn't pay off the second time either. "The Satanic Rites of Dracula" would be the final Dracula film to feature Christopher Lee.

Hammer's line of thinking clearly was that the public was sick of Gothic horror. "Satanic Rites" jettisons any trace of classic horror. Instead, the film is concerned with espionage action and conspiracy theories. The British Secret Service is investigating Satanic rituals. One features prominent members of society and claims to be raising people from the dead. The government brings in the modern day Van Helsing as a consultant. Van Helsing, teaming with his granddaughter and Detective Murray, quickly deduces that something sinister is afoot. A scientist, who mysteriously died, is connected to the Satanic circle. This traces back to reclusive millionaire D. D. Denham, who is none other then Count Dracula. Sick of his eternal life, Dracula intends to unleash a plague on the world, bringing upon the apocalypse.

There's not much I like about "The Satanic Rites of Dracula" but I'll give the movie one thing. Many of the Hammer Dracula films play fast and loose with continuity. This one is a direct sequel to "Dracula 1972 AD." Peter Cushing plays the same descendant of Van Helsing. He even lives in the same apartment. His granddaughter Jessica, though played by a different actress, is back too, who has matured some in the two years since the last film. Inspector Murray returns as well and is even played by the same guy. The film directly references the end of the last one by pointing out that "D. D. Denham's" business building is built upon the remains of the church where Dracula died last time. About the only plot thread left dangling is how the Count returned to unlife. And even that's easy to address, as a viewer can assume his clan of Satanic followers resurrected him.

Disappointingly, the returning characters are the only thing "The Satanic Rites" has in common with "1972 AD." The movie is not heavy on horror content. And what horror is there is totally different from what we expect. The Satanic rituals, which involve cultist in hoods standing in rooms pouring blood on a naked girl, feel totally of the time. Even Drac gets involved, as he lights black candles while a beautiful woman lies on an altar before him. There are other vampires in the movie. Two scenes take place in a basement where vampire maidens pop out of coffins. However, there's no fog, no old castles, no stone walls. Nothing about these scenes feels like a classic Hammer movie. It's not until the very end of the movie, when Cushing and Lee face off for the final time, that this film begins to feel anything like its predecessors. Van Helsing and Dracula have a stern face-off in a burning room before both flee. Walking into the woods, Dracula stumbles into a hawthorn bush, an obscure vampire weakness, allowing Van Helsing to stake the Count with a fencepost. It's a hugely dubious way to take Dracula out but at least it feels in line with the rest of the series.

Most of "Satanic Rites" doesn't even feel like a horror film though. The film is obviously beholden to "The Avengers" and Roger Moore's Bond films but on a fraction of the budget. The action in the film is mostly limited to guys in fuzzy, suede vest chasing people on motorcycles. One moments has similarly garbed henchmen shooting sniper rifles at the heroes. Despite these unusual action beats, much of the film's runtime is devoted to old British guys sitting around and talking in rooms. There is so much droll exposition in these scenes or long moments of guys reading, watching, or looking at pictures. It's dull and seriously drags the pacing down.

If nothing else, the film has the strength of its performers to fall back on. Peter Cushing is in a lot of the movie, bringing the same level of conviction to the role that he always does. Lee is given more to do then in his last appearance. The vampire count doesn't bite too many beautiful maidens on the neck, save for one scene. Instead, his best moments center on the Count delivering some harsh monologues. Dracula talking about his apocalyptic plans allows Lee to (if you'll excuse the pun) sink his teeth into the hammy dialogue. The final confrontation between the two, where Dracula prepares to bring about the end of the world and Van Helsing stares him down, is easily the best moment of the film. As for the rest of the cast, Michael Coles gets to do some cool stuff as Inspector Murray, staking vampires and throwing some punches. Future comedy superstar Joanna Lumley is less charming then Stephanie Beachum as Jessica and honestly given less to do. It's disappointing that the film reduces the character to a damsel in distress once again.

Director Alan Gibson, returning from "Dracula 1972 AD," is less sturdy this time. He employs rough zoom-ins far too many times. The funky score is pretty catchy though. "The Satanic Rites of Dracula" is a real off entry in the series. The pacing lags horribly, the plot isn't that interesting, and the film barely feels like a Dracula movie. The movie wasn't bad enough to kill the franchise, as Dracula would return in the next year's even odder "Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires." However, it was bad enough to finally make Christopher Lee yell enough. The iconic actor has never put the cape on since. He did not exit on a high note.
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