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Films: S is for...

Satanic Rites of Dracula, The

Hammer’s penultimate and Christopher Lee’s last caped catastrophe. We’re all for bringing the Count into the 20th century, if only to get out of having to see the same old plaster of Paris castle walls over and over again, but here the erstwhile impaler does precious little apart from get some boardroom types to conduct a sub-Wheatley black mass, call upon a gang of sheepskinned biker heavies to knock off anyone who’s onto him and fiddle about with a phial of urine – sorry, bubonic plague. We can’t help thinking writer Don Houghton (best known for creating Take the High Road, coincidentally) hasn’t thought this one through. If he’s just going to carry on like your average Bond villain, what’s the point of him even being Dracula, apart from the still-extant pull of the brand name, and a convenient get-out-clause cause of demise when the time runs out (and this film’s Geoff Hamiltonesque vampire despatch is the most silly yet, beating even AD)? Still, Cushing gamely turns up as a nine-stone Van Helsing, here working for the Secret Service and armed with Joanna Lumley as a feisty daughter. Richard Vernon, William Franklyn and Freddie Jones try their best (well, OK, they turn up to the set on time and say the words on the board without smirking) and Alan ‘Dominick Hide’ Gibson tries to jazz up the dynamics with the occasional rakish camera angle, but really, in the year Hammer was also producing the far superior Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (and indeed the far superior Man About the House), this effort couldn’t look more irrelevant, sorry and bedraggled. Also, we’re especially annoyed for this billing because we had a dead funny line about the Setanta Rights of Dracula but the idiots went bust before we could type it out. Bloomin’ fly-by-night media conglomerates!



  1. Gazza

    December 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I’m sorry, but if you think that Freddie Jones is just ‘turning up to set on time and saying the words’, then you obviously weren’t watching the film. The wonderful, wonderful Jones seemed to realise that with only one scene he really needed to make an impression and he does…by God he does. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen such a wealth of tics, twitches, leers, mumbles, roars, sweats, sudden turns, blinks, eye rolls, trembles, shakes, and ‘I’m going to put the stress on the wrong word EVERY time’ in many years of film and telly watching!

  2. Applemask

    September 6, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    It does achieve a neat synthesis of Hammer Horror with gritty two-fisted leather-clad 70s action at times. It’s like someone pitched an episode of The Sweeney with Dracula in it as a laugh, and they accidentally made it. Or “Mike Hodges’ Dracula”. It’s definitely less camp than AD 1972.

  3. richardpd

    September 6, 2019 at 11:23 pm

    I didn’t know Don Houghton created Take The High Road.

    He wrote a couple of good Dr Who stories & was married to “Female Burt Kwok” Pik Sen Lim.

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