Dracula, who died upon the altar of the reconstituted church in the last film, returns to life with the help of a friendly bat who manages to drip blood into the vampire’s mouth. Here, writer Anthony Hinds drops the ball in the logic department, for if Dracula died in this church, how can he regenerate in the very same place? And how is Dracula controlling bats from beyond the grave? Wasting no time, the Count goes about his business reclaiming his castle and leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Paul, who is a little free with his affections, is soon on the run from a girl’s father, eventually ending up at Dracula’s castle where he meets his end, but starts a fatal chain of events.
Once again, Christopher Lee stars as our erstwhile vampire, returning to the role that made him a household name and with this film, it returns the character to his roots with a performance more akin to the first film of the series, Horror of Dracula. Here, Lee speaks often and is seen more as his gentleman self. He of course still plays the rabid vampire, but it is nice to see Lee with a meatier part than he had in the previous three films. Another big difference with this film is the way Dracula relies on his servant Klove. The previous movies have always shown Dracula with various men or women willing to serve him at a moment’s notice, but in this instance, it looks as if Klove has been doing so for quite some time. While Lee looks much the same as he always does, statuesque and regal as the vampire lord, his hair is a bit greyer than in the previous films which is just a little strange as vampires are not supposed to age.
Dennis Waterman would star as the lead protagonist in the film, a man named Simon, along with the gorgeous Jenny Hanley as the damsel in distress, Sarah. They would find themselves at Castle Dracula looking for Simon’s brother Paul who, as was previously mentioned, had made his way there and found himself at the vampire’s tender mercies. Waterman does a great job with the material, being far more charismatic in the role than the leads of the previous few movies. Jenny Hanley would also have a bigger part than the women in the films that came before this, having numerous lines and being featured quite prominently throughout the film. Rounding out the main cast would be Patrick Troughton as Klove, the poor, unfortunate servant of Dracula, used and abused until finally finding redemption near the end of the picture.
One small problem with this film is essentially how formulaic the series has gotten to this point. They all follow the same basic plot, even though the body of the film is somewhat different in each one. It is no fault of Anthony Hinds, though his writing on this film is much stronger than on the previous two, perhaps he himself noticing that things were becoming a bit stale by this point in time. This would also mark the last film of the series to take place in this time period, moving forward to present times with the next film. Perhaps Hammer also noticed that it was time to try a little something different.
While Scars of Dracula would not break any new ground, director Roy Ward Baker would do a good job of it, with the film being fairly moody and creepy even, what with all the bat attacks and with Kove being quite the deceiving and merciless servant. The special effects were decent, with the makeup being far superior to the practical effects used for the bats, but would in the end; get the point across to the viewer. Of the latter films in the series up until this point, Scars is probably the most enjoyable one. With a good mix of horror and drama, and featuring Lee throughout almost all of the film, this is definitely one of the better Dracula movies in the Hammer library.
4 out of 5