The evil Count Dracula is revived from a pile of ash by the blood of a vampire bat and lurks menacingly in his creepy castle. His hunchback assistant keeps him company alongside a buxom wench and a string of unwanted visitors so at least he never gets bored. The villagers warn strangers not to go near Dracula’s castle at night but no-one listens so they all trudge up the mountain to meet their doom.

Scars of Dracula was Hammer Films sixth Dracula movie and the fifth to star Christopher Lee. It marked a distinct change of style for Hammer as it ups the gore, sex and sadism considerably in an obvious attempt to appeal to a younger, modernĀ audience. It was shown as part of a double bill with Horror of Frankenstein on its original cinema release, which was a failed attempt to reboot Hammer’s Frankenstein franchise as a more sexually explicit black comedy. At least Scars of Dracula kept both the star (Christopher Lee) and the old school gothic trappings of their earlier Dracula films rather than trying too hard at contemporising the series and undermining the iconic character with out-of-place humour and cheap vulgarity.

That is not to say that Scars of Dracula doesn’t have its faults; the giant rubber bat bounces from scene to scene unconvincingly and the storyline does have rather a “been there, done that” feel. But on the whole this is a rather underrated little film with some good performances, top notch Hammer Glamour (in the shapely forms of Jenny Hanley and Anouska Hempel) and a strong atmosphere of corruption and decay.

Review by Richard Gladman

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