Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hammer Dracula: Scars Of Dracula (1970)

Scars Of Dracula
Director: Roy Ward Baker
Starring: Christopher Lee, Jenny Hanley, Dennis Waterman, Christopher Matthews, Patrick Troughton, Deliah Linsdsay, Wendy Hamilton, Michael Gwynn
Rated: R

What we shall be facing in a few hours' time is not a man.  He is evil.  He is the embodiment of all that is evil.  He is the very Devil himself.
                 ~Dr. Loo-err,...The Priest

Dracula returned once again in the sequel/quasi-reboot Scars Of Dracula, the second film in the franchise released in 1970.  This is also one of the more debated and controversial entries in the series among Hammer fans.  And I will admit, that this film is a little off and feels like territory that's been covered plenty already.  With all that said, this one turns out to be one of the more watchable and entertaining entries in the series.
To get things kicked off, at random we just get a giant bat flying in and vomiting blood onto Dracula's remains from the last movie.  Then we get to see his death from the previous film in reverse (a nice money-saving tactic).  And the people in the town don't mess around, they up and decide, let's go get this SOB and storm his castle, which they randomly run into a new version of Klove who was last seen in Prince Of Darkness hanging out in the castle.  As much damage as they do, they don't get Dracula because he's hanging out below.  But then, this movie cranks it up as vampire bats have massacred the town's women and children inside a church while the guys were out.  And this is an absolutely graphic and horrifying scene.  Right away, this film has let you know two things; its gonna be a little weird and its gonna be gory.
Gore is one of the big factors that Scars has going for it.  Its taken it up many notches.  There is blood and violence everywhere.  There's a scene where Dracula stabs the f*** out of his temptress out of nowhere.  While, yes, Dracula should have bit her, this is the 6th movie and my oh my does it shock and take one by surprise.  Scars includes many a grueling death too.  There's even one guy hanging brutally from a meathook.  This film is very nasty and has a lot of awesome practical effect work to make ever so gruesome.
Speaking of the guy on the meathook.  His name is Paul.  For the third straight film in row in this series we have had a main character named Paul.  Is there some sort of inside Hammer humor with the name Paul?  I don't get it.  I know there's loose continuity throughout these like any good slasher series, but I find it funny how this name just so happened to keep popping up.  I mean, this was the second Dracula film they did in the same year too.  You would think somebody would be like "Hey, we had a guy named Paul in the last one."  Nahh...
Scars actually softly tries to reboot the series, so we get another "Guy stumbles upon Dracula's castle/mansion/home disappears and people go investigating" story.  However, this one uses Paulx3 to sort of fill in for the Jonathan Harker role and they actually get a little closer to the Stoker novel's story with this retelling.  There are also little details, like Dracula scaling up the castle walls, that also pop in to pay tribute.  I'm also not sure why Klove (now played by a former Doctor Who actor, Patrick Troughton) was brought back, and they've kind of Renfield'ed him up, but its a nice piece to Dracula's home dynamic.
Christopher Lee also plays a big role in this movie.  And its surprising considering his reluctance in the last few films kept his filming, dialogue and presence to a minimum.  Here he's giving speaches and interacting throughout the runtime.  He also gets to go back to being his diplomatic self for a few scenes and then turning into the menacing monster we know him as at different times.  In this film in particular, he's almost at his most intense and vicious of them all.  Could Mr. Lee have actually been having fun again or thrown in the proverbial "Eh, can't escape it, might as well embrace it" towel for Scars?  This is one factor this movie has over all the rest so far.  I think he may have more lines and screentime than even Horror Of Dracula.
I'm going to take a moment and honor Jenny Hanley here, who I found to be an absolute knock out in this movie.  She was also in the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service as one of Blofeld's women he was brainwashing in Switzerland.  Hammer has had some luxurious women in their films already, but man...I guess I can say..."I get it, Count Dracula, I do".
As has been tradition with these, I like to talk about how they do away with the Count in these movies.  And Scars does not disappoint.  Like the movie itself, its both random and awesome.  Simon first throws a metal rod like a javelin into Dracula.  Dracula pulls it out like "Haha! What now, fool?" and as he does the rod is struck by lightning (because the weather is always stormy during a horror climax, duh!).  Dracula then bursts into flames and is waving all about going crazy.  He then takes a plunge of the castles all the way down off the cliff.  Not may personal favorite, but it is definitely up there.  Pretty awesome.  MUCH better than last time.
Scars Of Dracula doesn't cover much new territory at all.  In fact, its a soft retelling of the original Bram Stoker tale with different characters.  It's how they tell this story that brings the fun.  The film is a bit silly and weird.  You have to deal with a fake ass giant flying bat roaming around and attacking people.  But, with the weirdness also comes an increase in the intensity and suspense levels coupled with a big increase in the gore department.  There's also a little more sex in this one, couple with nudity and much more cleavage.  Scars is sort of the exploitative take on the Hammer Dracula films.  Judging it on pure movie merits, it may sound kinda boring or like a bad one, however the enjoyment factor in watching this one rises above a good handful.  Its a dumb but completely entertaining watch.  Sort of what we may have been needing after the previous film.  I know this film has a lot of detractors, but I'll stand up for it no problem.

NEXT TIME:  1972...a year of Vito Corleone, Sally Bowles and COUNT DRACULA!

No comments:

Post a Comment