Welcome to the final installment of B-Movie Enema’s October Vampire Bookake!
This time around, we’ll see the final appearance of Christopher Lee as Count Dracula AND the final showdown between Lee’s Count and Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing. It’s Hammer Films’ 1973 Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride – also known as Count Dracula and His Vampire Brides and The Satanic Rites of Dracula. I will also warn that while this is Hammer and it is Lee and Cushing, sadly, this is not a particularly great installment. Most will agree it is better than the one before it (Dracula A.D. 1972), but it seemed that Hammer had a hard time bringing the Count into the present day.
I don’t think Hammer, or Lee, or Cushing really need much of an introduction. These are all hallowed names of horror royalty. I do find it interesting that Hammer was able to more successfully create a series of films featuring Dracula than Universal did despite Bela Lugosi’s iconic performance. Universal’s Dracula spawned four more movies dealing with the Transylvanian, but Hammer made nine films in their Dracula series, arguably making their series the one, true Dracula of note.
So, from the 50-Pack Drive In Movie Classics set, our synopsis reads: “Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) has developed a deadly strain of bubonic plague. He plans to use his Satan-worshiping disciples to release the plague in London in an effort to destroy the human race. Standing in the way is Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), Dracula’s nemesis, who must not only stop his archenemy but also save mankind.”
Let’s get started and send this month of vampire flicks back to hell where they belong!
If any of you know Hammer Films, you know they get right to the good stuff quickly. No sooner than the opening credits end, we’re immediately taken to a Satan-worshiping ceremony where they have a naked chick on an altar. There is a guy in a control room that seems to be recording the ceremony or possibly doing some A/V work to possibly illuminate dem titties a little better, I dunno. There is another of these guys that is holding watch over a tied up guy. Not sure what that is all about but he’s got a nail file or something that allows him to cut his restraints. The captive uses his rope to strangle his captive to death and he makes for the hills. I’d like for this movie to go back to the naked blonde, but as the Rolling Stones once sang, “It’s only Rock and Roll and I like it…” Wait. Shit. That’s not the right song. They said “Brown Sugar… Why you gotta taste so good?” No. Wait. “Some girls just wanna get fucked all night.” That’s it.
The captive got an assist from the police or the government or something. He gets questioned about the Satanic ceremony and we do go back to our naked blonde who has a rooster sacrificed over her body. The escaped guy can’t really continue with the interrogation because he died. A couple of the guys talking to him discuss how one of the worshipers is a Minister of the Crown. That obviously creates some issues with trying to topple this group of Satanists.
I think these guys are part of the secret service or some sort of clandestine agency. They’ve been spying on this place that looks like a Masonic Lodge. While they were talking about what intel they have, our movie does cut back to the naked chick who has something of an orgasm when that rooster’s blood is poured over her body. I appreciate that effort to return to the naked boobs multiple times. Each member of this cult is a high ranking member of the government. Each of these old farts create a unique problem for this organization if they were to make a big fuss over bringing down this cult.
One of the people in this secret service org is a woman with a nice bod and her hair pulled back and big glasses. I bet if Dracula gets a hold of her, she’s probably gonna be real hot despite looking like a mouse currently. When she drives home after being dismissed, she gets chased by some of the strong men of the cult and she’s kidnapped. While the agents listen to the interrogation again, our naked blonde gets killed, but she wakes up and her sacrificial wound heals itself. Right on, undead sexy girl.
They decide to enlist the help of Dr. Van Helsing. When they play the tape for him, Van Helsing just takes it in while smoking a cigarette like a fucking badass. He explains that these kinds of cults were not unheard of and it was an ancient ritual of blood. He mentions an old group called the Hellfire Club which was full of sophisticated men who sought ultimate power. I’m kinda hoping for an appearance from Sebastian Shaw.
Van Helsing’s granddaughter, Jessica, comes in and she’s a smokin’ hot redhead. I’m looking forward to Dracula sexing her look up even further. I mean why the hell else do you introduce her as a character with speaking lines if you aren’t going to have her be a target of a lustful vampire?
Anyway, she points out that they know one of these guys in particular. When Van Helsing goes to talk to the scientist who seems to be working on some sort of bacteria, and acting very oddly. Van Helsing is attacked before he’s able to find out why his friend is acting so strangely, and passes out from a gunshot wound. When he awakens, the scientist’s dead body is hanging from the ceiling as if he committed suicide.
While talking to his friend, the mention of how his project needed to be completed by the 23rd of that month which gives Van Helsing cause to think of what could possibly be so important about that date.
Meanwhile, at the compound, the girl who worked for the agency, Jane, wakes up in the cult’s compound. She hears someone trying to get into the room, and sees fog under the door. When the door opens, Dracula himself enters. As he approaches, Jane goes from scared to like turned on and stuff and he makes a meal out of her.
It was during Van Helsing’s visit with the wacky scientist that the plan of how the bubonic plague is going to be used to help destroy life on the planet for the cult and Dracula. The scientist says he grew the cultures, then exposed it to radioactivity which accelerated the growth of the bacteria and made it even deadlier – which seems pretty unnecessary. The plague is pretty deadly on its own. Not sure why you’d need it to be even deadlier.
Also, why does Dracula want to help kill everything? How’s he going to eat? If there is no more life, then there’s no more source of the all important blood for Dracula and any other vampires he’s made to survive.
The two agents, Murray and Torrence, ride out to the country house where all this ghastly business is happening. Jessica is told to wait in the car because things are too dangerous for her to stick her nose in – but not too dangerous for her to be brought to the devil worshiping house. She, being a modern woman, sneaks past the gates when Murray and Torrence are let in. She gets into the compound by way of the cellar. In the cellar she finds some pine boxes. She doesn’t see Jane shackled to the wall until she turns on the lights and looks around more. She’s attacked by Jane who has been turned into a vampire. The commotion of their struggle awakens the other vampire brides in the cellar. If it wasn’t for the brides being chained down too, it would have been bad news for Jessica. Her screams are heard by Murray and Torrence upstairs where they are looking around to see if they can find anything strange. They get downstairs to save Jessica just in time. When they are about to leave, Jane calls for Torrence to help her. He doesn’t realize she’s a vampire until it is almost too late. Murray kills her with a piece from one of the pine boxes. They escape the compound quickly.
Murray, Torrence, Van Helsing, and another secret serviceman, Mathews, all get together to discuss what they have all seen and discovered. They learn that Dracula is at fault for everything and the lady who is leading the cult, Chin Yang, knew how to resurrect him after the events of the previous movie. Van Helsing figures out that the 23rd is the Sabbath of the Undead. That turns out to be the day after tomorrow so they need to act quickly to do something, but they talk about it a little more instead of getting a plan together quick. Van Helsing answers my question about why Dracula wants to kill everyone. He conjectures that he is truly nihilistic and wishes to destroy everything so he himself can die.
Murray, Jessica, Torrence, and Mathews scope out the cult’s compound. Van Helsing has yet to arrive. While they spy on the compound, Torrence discovers Mathews has been sniped. He is unable to find those at fault before he’s gunned down as well. Van Helsing, back at his home, melts a silver cross into a bullet that he plans to use to kill Dracula. Jessica and Murray are fired upon outside the compound. When they are missed multiple times, Murray states that this is clearly a cat and mouse game as the shooter could easily pick them off whenever he wanted. When they get back to Mathews’ car, they are met by one of the guards and are captured.
Van Helsing revisits a corporate building that was built on the site of his last battle against Dracula. He meets with the head of the company. Having a hunch that this guy is actually Dracula, he’s told to go up to this guy’s actual penthouse suite. When he goes into the suite, he meets with the man who remains in shadows. The man speaks with a strange accent. They discuss how the decadence of the present needs to be toppled so a new government can rise. After a little tense conversation, Van Helsing tricks Dracula to reveal himself. However, Van Helsing’s bullet misses when the cult members interfere. They take him to the cult compound as well.
At compound, Chin Yang, the witchy, dragon lady who does all the cult stuff, tries to convince Murray that she’s held prisoner at the compound as well. When he doesn’t exactly go for it, she casts a spell over him and reveals herself to be a vampire too. Murray stakes her and it’s becoming clear he’s rather good at the whole vampire slayer thing. Better than Van Helsing… At least in this installment. When the other vampire chicks try to attack him, he uses the sprinkler system to kill them. Why plain, old, clear running water kills vampires is unclear, but whatever.
Murray finds Jessica on the altar as if she’s been prepared for a ceremony. She seems to be okay, but not responding to him. He hides when the members of the cult arrive with Van Helsing and Dracula. Why Dracula didn’t do away with his greatest nemesis and instead wants to kill him more interestingly is beyond me. For real, he says it would be “too easy” to kill Van Helsing when he had the chance. That’s fucking hubris, man.
Alright, so here comes our climax. Dracula plans to make Jessica his consort. One of the members of the cult reveals a vile of the plague. Van Helsing asks Dracula if he really wants to rule over a dead husk of a world. Dracula tells Van Helsing that he’s chosen four carriers of the plague, his horsemen of this apocalypse. Now, Van Helsing will be one of the horsemen and he’ll be forced to carry out his bidding through Jessica becoming Dracula’s bride. The others aren’t so into the idea of how they did everything he told them only to be carriers of the plague and not reap the benefits of their service. One of the followers is infected and he turns into a melty faced nightmare. Murray’s tussle with one of the guards sets a fire that allows for him to save Jessica while Van Helsing and Dracula fight one last time. Van Helsing dumps out the window with Dracula following. Van Helsing finds a hawthorn bush and leads Dracula into it so he becomes entangled in the thorns. He then stakes Dracula and thus ends this installment with a bit of a thud.
This movie is a bit of a mess. There’s an attempt to blend the satanic ritual idea of how Dracula had previously been resurrected with some modernism, but it doesn’t really blend well. By this time in history, the Hammer Horror series were dwindling in popularity and production value. Gone were the more Gothic elements. We still got to see some boobs, and that’s always appreciated, but the gore that seemed to always be present in the Hammer films of the late 50s and 60s was also gone. It was as if the censors, or probably more accurate, the MPAA, had finally caught up to the British production company. This didn’t have the same punch that many of the entries in this series alone had, let alone the other Hammer monster films – the Frankenstein series in particular. Hell, even the Dracula melting scene was lame and pretty toothless.
Ultimately, Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride isn’t terrible. It’s probably better than at least three of the other vampire flicks I featured since the end of September – only Blacula reigns supreme over this one if all we had were these five vampire movies to base our ranking system. The problem is that this movie is fairly uninteresting. That’s the worst thing a horror movie can be. In particular, ones that feature an iconic monster as the villain.
The Vampire Halloween is over, but I promise you there will be a couple more, very famous, vampire movies yet to come. However, that’s for later. November begins and what better way to celebrate the month that ends with Thanksgiving than to take a look at 1992’s Full Moon Features take on Doctor Strange, Doctor Mordrid!