Dracula Prince of Darkness
Review Date: June 23, 2000
Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release date: 10/20/1998
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 2.35:1 | 16x9: No
opens with the final scenes of the 1958 film, Horror of Dracula
. Here we are reaquainted with the destruction of the Count at the hands of Professor Van Helsing....Moving forward ten years........
Brothers Charles and Alan Kent, along with their wives Diana and Helen are on holiday in the Carpathian Mountains and they have stopped at a local Inn for some food and drink when they are introduced to Father Sandor. The good Father warns the two couples that they should go no further, that the surrounding area is under a constant cloud of fear and death. Helen feels the couples should heed the warning of Father Sandor, but at the urging of her husband and Charles and Diana, they push on. The foursome soon find themselves deserted when the coachman refuses to drive any deeper into the forest and deserts the two couples. Having resigned themselves to the fact that they will be spending the night in an abandoned shack, their luck takes a turn for the good when a driverless horse and carriage appears. Once aboard the horse bolts and unable to control the animal, they find themselves at the entrance to Castle Dracula.
Inside the couples find a table set for four, once seated, Klove, Dracula's manservant appears and informs them that although his master has been dead for ten years, he had left instructions that his castle always be prepared to receive guests. The two couples raise a glass in honor to their deseased host. Later that night as the couples are preparing to bed down for the night, Alan is lured out of his room and down into the bowels of the castle by Klove. Alan has no idea what ghastly fate awaits him......
With the blood of Alan, Klove is able to revive his Master and soon Klove beckons Helen to her husband. Once Helen has reached her husband, Dracula quickly makes his move and Helen's soul is lost for eternity. Charles and Diana see the evil that has been unleashed in the castle and seek out Father Sandor in an effort to end the reign of terror that has been released, once again. From this point on, the film moves along at a furious pace and is sure to keep Hammer faithful as well as newcomers to the Hammer films on the edge of their seats.
After a six year absence from the role that Christopher Lee made famous, he once again dons the cape and fangs and makes a triumphant return to the role. This film is considered by many fans to be one of the best of the Dracula series and it certainly is a favorite of mine. This is a typical Hammer film, the story, acting, direction, and musical score are all combined to perfection. Christopher Lee's performance is that much more amazing when you realize, he spoke no lines in this film! Barbara Shelley has a heyday in this film; she first portrays the ever prim and proper Helen and once Dracula has made her his, she becomes a snarling and very sexual apostle and she carries it all o ff wonderfully. Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer are also wonderful in their roles of Charles and Diana Kent. With no Van Helsing in sight, the role of the "Vampire Destroyer" falls to, Father Sandor who is portrayed here by, Andrew Keir. Keir does a fantastic job in any role he had for Hammer and this was no exception.
The foreboding and eerie score for this film was written by James Bernard and as with all Bernard scores, it only adds to the atmosphere of the film. Director, Terence Fisher was at the helm of so many Hammer classics and this is just one more example of how Fisher always managed to get the very best from his cast and crew. It should be noted that it was the suggestion of Christopher Lee not to have the Count speak at all in this film. For years fans assumed this was done in an effort to make Dracula appear more menacing, but it's now been told that Lee was very unhappy with the dialgue that had been written for him, so he suggested to have the Count do nothing more than hiss and snarl throughout the film and in all honesty, it really adds to the overall eeriness of the film. What is even more astounding to the story of Lee's unhappiness with the written dialogue, the film was written by top Hammer writer, Jimmy Sangster! Sangster wrote the screenplay under the name, John Sansom.
Anchor Bay has released this film in it's widescreen presentation of 2.35:1, but the film is not anamorphic. The images reveal nice detail and texture with only the occasional hint of haze. The colors for the most part look very natural and solid with good contrast. Blacks appear deep and solid with no grain apparent and the fleshtones natural. No print damage was visable and overall the image quality was very good.
Presented in Mono Dolby Digital 2.0 it's available in both the English and French tracks. James Bernard does a fantastic job with this score. Hammer Studios gave each film they made a memorable score and Dracula Prince of Darkness
is no exception. Dialogue was clear and I noticed no hissing or popping at any time in the film.
Anchor Bay really gave Hammer fans a reason to rejoice with this release. They have included the theatrical trailer, a combo trailer with Plague of the Zombies, an eight minute, behind-the-scenes home movie shot by Francis Matthews' brother during the shooting of the film, and what now seems to be a standard feature in the Anchor Bay Hammer Collection, we have the "World of Hammer" episode entitled, "Dracula and the Undead". This episode is once again narrated by the late, Oliver Reed. The films covered in this episode include:
- Horror of Dracula
- Brides of Dracula
- Captain Kronos-Vampire Hunter
- Vampire Circus
- Dracula-Prince of Darkness
- Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires
- Scars of Dracula
- Kiss of the Vampire
But, the tour de force of the supplements to this DVD has got to be the audio commentary with four of the main stars of the film. Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer gather together to reminisce about the making of this film and what a treat this is! It's wonderful fun to sit and watch this film and listen to the stars talk about the cast, crew and making of this film after over thirty years since it's release. This little extra alone is in my opinion more than worth the price of the DVD.
Dracula, Prince of Darkness
is a mesmerizing film with powerful performances, plenty of atmosphere, action and a wonderful musical score. The film is easily one of Hammer's best and this DVD provides the fan with a first rate presentation. If you are a die-hard Hammer fan, then this disc is a must for your collection. If you're a casual Hammer fan or simply a fan of Gothic horror, this is the film that could very well push you into the realm of the Hammer faithful.
Movie – A
Image Quality – A-
Sound – B
Supplements – A
- Running Time - 1 hour 30 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- 13 Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital Mono 2.0
- French Dolby Digital Mono 2.0
- Audio commentary with actors Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer
- Behind-the-scenes home movie (eight minutes).
- Theatrical Trailer
- Combo Theatrical Trailer with Plague of the Zombies
- Exclusive "World of Hammer" episode entitled: Dracula and the Undead
- Languages-English and French
- Includes a 5"x7" Theatrical Poster Facsimile