Updated: Mar 12
"Some of London's leading citizens are involved in a Satanic cult whose rituals center around the worship of blood. And who is the leader of said cult - none other than Count Dracula himself."
Review by Kelly
Released in 1973 by Hammer Film Productions, this film stars Christopher Lee as Count Dracula and Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing. It might also be number 40 in the Hammer vampire series (well technically there are nine in total, but who’s counting).
As with all movies made in the 70s, it has the look with a psychedelic soundtrack combined with the typical Gothic horror that Hammer Films are known for. It makes for an interesting juxtaposition. The premise of the movie is that our more modernized Dracula is the head of a business and a satanic blood cult(?). He has apparently promised those involved with it that they would be saved from the plague that he had one of his worshipers create. Yes, in this movie Count Dracula wants to start the apocalypse with a grim new plague!
The movie opens up with a man beaten and tied up on a bed who actually ends up escaping but there's a really great slow motion strangulation. At the same time we get to see the “Baptism of Blood”, the blood sacrifice and Satanic ritual. The police seem to investigating this cult or at least the “going ons” in the house that is deemed sketchy and mysterious. Later on a woman that works with the police is kidnapped and while she is not beaten like the prisoner before her, she is left for Dracula. Possibly for a fate worse than death? I have grown to be quite fond of Lee's Dracula. I really need to watch more of the Hammer horror starring him as Dracula because I am just infatuated with him. He has incredible presence and definitely a dark mysterious sexuality to him. He walks into the room with fog enveloping him. The woman is instantly mesmerized and smiles at him. He walks over to her, sits on the bed, and gently embraces her. He then bites her on the neck. The vampiric penetration of the vulnerable neck is definitely a mixture of pleasure and pain. The expression we see upon the woman's face is similar to the initial penetration in the act of sex. It's a very intimate moment, as well as representative of how the vampire can be seen as a sexual predator.
Eventually Dr. Van Helsing figures out that it's Count Dracula in charge of everything and he plans on taking him out. Again. I really feel like whenever anyone is getting ready for a battle, especially if they're making their own silver bullets, that there should be an 80s montage a la The Monster Squad. Unfortunately, in The Satanic Rites of Dracula, we see more humans than we do the Count but he does have this super grim speech near the end when he's about to turn Van Helsing’s niece named Jessica into a vampire. It really makes up for a relatively slow movie overall.
At the end of the movie it is Van Helsing vs Dracula but Dracula gets bested by a thorn bush? What part of vampire mythology is that from?! After Dracula becomes entangled in the bushes, he falls over and Van Helsing stakes him. Just like in Horror of Dracula, the demise and decay of Dracula is spectacular. It’s slow and beautiful.
Overall I would say that I did enjoy this movie. I have felt that I have really done Hammer Films a disservice, and really the whole origins of my favorite genre, by not watching way more it than I have. I am definitely going to remedy that as soon as possible by watching every single Dracula movie that Christopher Lee has been in.
If you like Hammer horror or Christopher Lee then I would definitely recommend this to you.