The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974)
Dir: Alan Gibson.
Dracula (Christopher Lee) devises the ultimate plan to destroy Mankind and
end his own epic existence.
Using some influential people in the Government and Military and Science, by trapping them into his service via their lusts for sin (via Satanic Rituals) and power, he aims to release a mutated version of The Plague.
But his 'helpers' are being watched by the Secret Service and soon operative
Torrence (William Franklyn), his Boss, Hanson (Richard Vernon) and Inspector
Murray of Scotland Yard (Michael Coles, reprising his role from "Dracula
AD '72") are uncovering the amazing plot.
Murray calls in the help of Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) as a 'Satanic' edge to the case appears ..
Much maligned, this last entry into the Lee/"Dracula" cycle is in fact first rate entertainment.
The much criticized plot (mostly by critics who never really listen carefully)
by Don Houghton, of Dracula's to wipe out Mankind, is actually extremely nasty
and effective as he plans to release the flaming Hell of the Plague.
And it's also backed up in some great dialogue that explains why he wishes to wipe out his 'food source', and gives the viewer an horrific image of what his plans would mean.
Check this speech out from Van Helsing:
"He is a cursed immortal, existing on violence, fear and dread. Now just suppose he yearns for final peace. He'd want to bring down the whole Universe with him. The ultimate revenge. Thousands dying of the Plague and like the Shadow of Death itself one figure scything its way through the terror and anguish.... Count Dracula! It's is the Biblical prophecy of Armageddon".
Wonderful stuff!! You just have to use your imagination...think of that image, of Dracula striding through the rotting, the dead and the still rotting living. A mass of stench and puss. And end to all Mankind has ever achieved...or would have. Excellent plotting.
The acting of all is at the least above average, with the likeable characters of Murray and Torrence professionally played by Coles and the talented Franklyn. There is also a good turn by a young Joanna Lumley as Van Helsing's Niece, Jessica. And it's more like Jessica should have been rather than the Hippie Chick version in the previous "Dracula AD 72" played by Stephanie Beacham.
Cushing is also in good form and despite his (and the characters) age he still
has a strong physical presence, fighting back against being held by Dracula's
'helpers' and slapping some sense into Freddie Jones's tarnished Scientist Professor
Keeley and still doing a fine one on one with Dracula in their inevitable, (and
well crafted) final confrontation.
His delivery of the lines, like the above example, is also perfect and he never seems tired or jaded. A true professional actor and much missed.
And the aforementioned Freddie Jones is simply amazing.
He delivers some choice lines with absolute mastery. His physical work here is also excellent. As he drifts off into the realms of dark pleasure as he utters great lines like "You need to feel the thrill of disgust. The beauty of...obscenity" we see his whole composure change. Then as Helsing shouts "Julian! In God's name!" the shock of hearing the name of God, that snaps him out of his semi-trance of pleasurable sin, is superbly played. Classy work.
While Lee's Dracula may not be as active as usual, this is made up for by him
actually having some kind of character. Lee actually has LINES of dialogue!
Shock! Yes Lee has a chance to act as Dracula rather than just mime.
His speech to Van Helsing near the end is powerful stuff. And his put on accent as 'D D Denhem' (Dracula's alias) is also a great bit of Lugosi humour added to the dark proceedings and a clever take on Lee never giving Dracula the accent of Lugosi, the other most famous Count.
We also have the best 'Brides' of Dracula sequence in any 'Hammer Dracula'.
The sequence in the cellar where the Female Vamps crawl from their crate coffins, pawing and hissing at their would be victim is highly effective.
That this sequence also has the most explicit (and very well done) staking in a Dracula film on a champing Female Vamp is simply the icing on the cake.
Add to all this the wonderfully cheesy, nicely nude and bloody Ritual to the entertainment on show here, as well as one of Dracula's most seductive 'bite scenes' on a soon to be 'Bride' and the film never fails to hold the attention.
Overall we are given a fun, bloody romp with some classy acting, a welcome dose of exploitation and a plot that has more to it than at first meets the eye.