Dracula: Prince of Darkness

Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley and Andrew Keir
Warner Home Video/Studio Canal
RRP: 7.99
Certificate: 15
Available 29 October 2004

Four travellers stop off at a village tavern in the Carpathian mountains and are warned away from the castle which they will travel close to on their way through. As the day wears on the coachman refuses to take them any further, and they are met with the prospect of spending the night in a run-down cabin. What appears to be a runaway coach and horses arrives with no driver. They get inside with the intention of riding the coach to their destination, but the horses have other ideas and rush them to the castle. Inside, the table is set for four and their belongings mysteriously appear in upstairs rooms. A sinister butler called Clove introduces himself, explaining to the travellers that his master, Count Dracula, is dead but left explicit instructions to make any travellers welcome. One of the four has reservations, and there is the entire night to endure. Methinks Dracula is not so much dead as undead...

This is the one which follows-on loosely from Horror of Dracula, that my memory cheats had told me started with the master vampire under the ice, when that one was actually Dracula Has Risen From the Grave. We get the benefit of a little recap from Horror at the beginning, but it only brings home how much this film suffers from the absence of Peter Cushing and a Van Helsing nemesis for Dracula. Christopher Lee (excellent once again in the title part) doesn't make an appearance until at least halfway through the running time. It's interesting that the only one of the four travellers reluctant and fearful of the castle actually becomes a vamp almost immediately after Dracula's revival, when in the majority of film situations it's the sensible one who survives.

I was disappointed with the music to Dracula: Price of Darkness. A recurring theme is played every time the castle is seen or talked about, as if the composer is telling us when we should be scared. There's no need for this talking down to the audience. Aside from that, this is a competent telling of the legend, although it falls a little short of the Dracula film immediately before and after it.

Ty Power

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