Taste the Blood of Dracula is by far, the silliest entry in Hammer’s series featuring the undead lord of vampires, but even at its silliest, it is still an exceptionally fine horror film. Christopher Lee returns once again and does his usual good job of portraying Dracula this go-round, though he is only in the film for about half of the picture. The first half of the film is spent setting up the scene for the vampire’s big return and the format works to the movie’s advantage. This would be Lee’s fourth time playing the Count and though each film is a couple of years apart, Lee never seems to age, though Dracula’s hair can sometimes be seen to have some grey in it during the various films.
The picture starts during the final moments of Dracula Has Risen From the Grave, with the villain dying upon the cross while a merchant, who just happens to stumble upon him, watches. Said merchant gathers up the remains of the Count, his clothes, jewellery and blood, which has turned to powder. Queue up the foolhardy men who are supposedly God-fearing, yet are into vices of all kinds. They are tired of the same old thing and thus are bored. They need something new other than the same old prostitutes and wickedness and so one day their salvation, or damnation, walks in on them in the form of Lord Courtley, a man not known for niceties. What follows is a descent into darkness and the return of Dracula who declares vengeance upon the men.
The reason for the earlier statement, that of the film being quite silly, is in regards to the way the Count was resurrected. In the previous films, Dracula was first revived by blood, and second by being thawed out and simultaneously given blood, and this film as well, uses blood, but here it was the manner of the way it was accomplished. Thinking he knows what he is doing, Lord Courtley ingests Dracula’s re-hydrated plasma and in a mini-sandstorm which covers his body, within Dracula’s castle, the vampire emerges from a cast, newly reborn. How this happened or why was never explained, though most likely it could be chalked up to sorcery and yet of all the films, it was the strangest sight to have been seen yet.
Lee of course is fantastic, being even more comfortable in the role of the Count than ever before. What hampered Lee’s performance though was the script by Anthony Hinds who gave Lee some of the worst lines of the film. While Lee looks imposing and menacing, when he spouts the lines about getting vengeance for his servant, or any of the other one-liners he gives, it really lessens the impact of his performance. It would have been preferable to have him give another silent performance than see and hear him utter those lines. The way he seduces the women of the film is still impressive, both subtle and forceful simultaneously and it always makes for a good scene when he is about to claim himself a new bride.
This would not be a Hammer film without some beautiful women and this time the main role went to Linda Hayden who played Alice and would-be woman who would aid Dracula in his vengeance. One woman would not be enough of course as Dracula is always in need of women to follow him around and thus Isla Blair would come into the picture as Alice’s friend Lucy and fodder for the Count. Also starring in the film would be Ralph Bates as the deranged Lord Courtley and Geoffrey Keen as William Hargood, Alice’s father and one of the men in Dracula’s sights. Saving Alice at the end of the film would be her boyfriend Paul as played by Anthony Corlan, and while he did not have a large role, he did a good job in helping put Dracula back in the ground.
Freddie Francis would not be back for this sequel, instead he would hand the reins off to Peter Sasdy who, with cinematographer Arthur Grant’s help, would create a very atmospheric film with a lot of craziness and a fair amount of blood. It does seem like the series is losing a little bit of steam with this one, yet Hammer would go on to make three more films before finally putting the Count to rest. Out of the many Dracula films put out by Hammer, Taste the Blood of Dracula is definitely not the best picture, but it is a solid entry and a fun watch despite the little bit of absurdity the viewer is subjected to. Unlike the previous films, this one is definitely matinee fair.
3.5 out of 5