Sunday, October 22, 2017

Dracula Month Day 22: The Satanic Rites of Dracula

Christopher Lee's tenure as Dracula in the Hammer horror films officially came to an end in 1973's The Satanic Rites of Dracula. The film is set in contemporary times with Dracula operating mostly behind-the-scenes as the master of a Satanic cult and Peter Cushing as another member of the Van Helsing clan sworn to destroy the vampire.

Beyond the fashion and hairstyles there is something appealingly 70s about this film, what with the 1970s kitschy interest in the occult. However, much of this film is taken up with uninteresting police drama as the Secret Service cautiously and politely investigate the cult of killer vampires. The henchmen of the cult are motorcyclists which causes one to perk up - vampire bikers? - but they don't do much and it would take 1998's Blade to mine that territory. There's also a cellar full of chained-up vampire brides which is briefly thrilling.

Dracula's ultimate plan is to spread the bubonic plague. Dracula's first confrontation with Van Helsing - wherein Dracula is behind a desk, his face hidden in shadows - is the most effective in the film. The climax features Dracula being caught in a hawthorn bush, which I suppose the filmmakers employed because they wanted to exploit a different vampiric weakness than those previously employed, but Dracula has to seriously cooperate with Van Helsing in order to wind up in that predicament. It's not his finest hour, nor is this picture as a whole.

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