I’ve mentioned before that I’m a big fan of Hammer Horror, and my fandom grows exponentially with each new title I watch. I have to confess I’ve only seen a handful of Hammer films, however I’ve seen enough to know I love them. And thanks to Synapse Films, fans like me can enjoy these timeless classics with digitally remastered sound and picture. Their latest release, COUNTESS DRACULA, stars the lovely Ingrid Pitt and embodies everything Hammer Horror is renowned for.
If you are not familiar with COUNTESS DRACULA, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Synapse Films:
THE VOLUPTUOUS INGRID PITT STARS IN THIS REMASTERED HAMMER HORROR CLASSIC!
The beautiful Ingrid Pitt (The Wicker Man, Where Eagles Dare) stars as Elisabeth Nádasdy, an aging Hungarian Countess who discovers she can reverse her aging by bathing in the blood of young women. While in her youthful state, the Countess falls for the handsome Lt. Imre Toth (Sandor Elès), and impersonates her own daughter to win his affections. Soon, girls in the village go missing… kidnapped and murdered by the Countess and her steward, Julie (Patience Collier) to satiate her horrifying bloodlust. Can Elisabeth live a life of deception with her grotesque lust for blood to stay eternally young, or will her ghoulish secret finally be revealed? Co-starring Nigel Green (Jason and the Argonauts, Zulu).
Considered “one of the more underrated films from the latter days of the Hammer Films dynasty“ (Donald Guarisco, Allmovie.com), Countess Dracula is based on the real-life Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory, a woman accused of torturing and murdering more than 600 girls.
Director Peter Sasdy directed a couple of other Hammer films, including TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA and HANDS OF THE RIPPER, as well as three episodes of the short-lived HAMMER HOUSE OF MYSTERY AND SUSPENSE television series. As such, he was the perfect choice to bring this concept to the big screen.
COUNTESS DRACULA is shot well and has the same foreboding feel that made Hammer films so popular. The acting is first rate with the afore mentioned Ingrid Pitt portraying the titular character. She is accompanied onscreen by Sandor Eles, who portrays Lt. Toth, and Nigel Green as Captain Dobi. Pitt steals the show, however, giving a magnificent performance as both a young woman and an old crone.
There’s not much gore or even blood in the film, which really surprises me given the premise. However, the lack thereof is just fine; the intensity that is built up within the film doesn’t need gore or blood to heighten it. That’s not to say it wouldn’t have been enjoyable to see…but with Hammer, the darkness comes from within the characters, not from splattering the walls with carnage.
I have not seen a previous copy of COUNTESS DRACULA, so I cannot say how much the picture and/or sound have improved…but watching this film on Blu-ray is an excellent experience. The picture is very clear, with no noticeable grainy images or blurred shots. Likewise, the sound is exquisite, especially the ambient sounds that come through the surround-sound. If you have the chance, do yourself a favor and watch this on Blu-ray.
COUNTESS DRACULA is a huge win for me, and I suggest fans of Gothic horror give it a look. Even if you’re not a fan of Hammer films already, this is the perfect movie to get you started. It is available now.