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Countess Dracula

UK 1971
produced by
Alexander Paal for Hammer
directed by Peter Sasdy
starring Ingrid Pitt, Nigel Green, Sandor Elès, Maurice Denham, Patience Collier, Peter Jeffrey, Lesley-Anne Downe, Leon Lissek, Jessie evans, Andrea Lawrence, Susan Brodrick, Ian Trigger, Nike Arrighi, Peter May, John Moore, Joan Haythorne, Marianne Stone, Charles Farrell, Sally Adcock, Anne Stallybrass, Paddy Ryan, Michael Cadman, Hülya Babus, Lesley Andeson, Biddy Hearne, Diana Sawday, Andrew Burleigh, Gary Rich, Albert Wilkinson
story by Peter Sasdy, Alexander Paal, screenplay by Jeremy Paul, idea by Gabriel Ronap, music by Harry Robertson, music supervisor: Philip Martell, special effects by Bert Luxford

Elizabeth Bathory

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Though based on the real-life Hungarian virgin blood-bathing Countess Elizabeth Bathory from the 16th/17th century, this film has rather little to do with historical facts - but then again who watches a film with the title Countess Dracula for its historical authencity ?

 

In this film, Countess Elizabeth (Ingrid Pitt), a woman in her fifities of sixties by the looks of it, discovers rather by chance that bathing in virgin's blood makes her looking young again - about twenty or so. So she has her 19 year old daughter Ilona (Lesley-Anne Downe), who just arrives from wherever and whom nobody around this area has seen since she was six, incarcerated and takes her place ... and before you know it, she has conquered the heart of young officer Imre Toth (Sandor Elès), the a bit naive son of the best friend of her late husband - much to the dismay of Captain Dobi (Nigel Green), who was the Countess' lover (in her old incarnation) and who hoped to one day marry her ...

Then though, the Countess turns old again, and she realizes she needs more virgin's blood, more and more, and out of love, Dobi provides her with virgins, even though he knows she will always favour Imre over him. On seeral occasions, he tries to discredit Imre, but to no avail. Then though, the court's scholar Fabio (Maurice Denham) finds out the Countess' little secret, and Dobi has to kill him ... and lets himself be caught by Imre, in hopes to drive him away upon finding out the truth - but no such luck, the Countess has found a way to force Imre not only to stay but to marry her despite the fact that he now knows everything.

After the death of the scholar, the police searches the house and finds the corpses of the dead virgins. This should have alerted the Countess, but she decides to go through with the wedding nevertheless.

In the meantime, Imre finds Ilona, the real Ilona locked, in the tower of the castle, and facilitates her escape, which is supposed to take place during the wedding ceremony - but the wedding ceremony ends with a bang: Without warning, the Countess turns old and ugly again, and when she spots her daughter Ilona trying to get away, she attacks her with a knife in front of all guests. When trying to disarm her, Imre is accidently stabbed by the Countess instead of Ilona and ...

The Countess spends the rest of her life in a cell as an old hag, waiting for the hangman.

 

In 1971, the classic Hammer period was definitely over and the company's best films were more than a decade old. Furthermore traditional gothics were by far not as much in demand as in the late 1950's/early 60's. So to reflect the more liberated times, Hammer made a rather obvious decision and added sex to their formula - and one of their erotic gothics from that period of time was Countess Dracula.

Unfortunately though, Countess Dracula is far from satisfying: Sure, it features quite a bit of topless nudity and a very open attitude towards sex, sure, the sets, costumes and props are of the usual high standards, and sure, the actors are all flawless - however, it's the film's story that's just dead boring, and that's quite an achievement considering its basic premise: There is not one single shock in the whole film, there is no build-up of tension to speak of, there are not even isolated suspense scenes. The whole thing is just a rather tired historical drama with some ridiculous supernatural elements tagged on.

That said, the film is not a total failure, if you love Hammer gothics you will at least find some reasons to like it - just keep your expectations rather low.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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written by
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