Countess Dracula (1971, Peter Sasdy)


These reviews reveal plot twists.

Setting: Seventeenth-century Hungary. The real Elizabeth Báthory, on whom the lead character is based, lived from 1560 until 1614.

Faithful to the novel? The connection is beyond slim. The story is inspired by Elizabeth Báthory, a serial-killing countess who is reported to have tortured and murdered hundreds of young women. After her death, the rumour circulated that she’d bathed in the blood of her victims. This film dramatises that notion, adding in the supernatural twist that the baths make Ingrid Pitt’s Countess Elisabeth Nadasdy young again. At the end of the film, a disgusted villager calls her ‘Countess Dracula’ (solely so the film can have a more marketable title, it seems).

Best performance: Lesley-Ann Down, later of Upstairs Downstairs, plays Elisabeth’s daughter, who has to be hidden away while Elisabeth grows young and takes her place. Countess Ilona then gets a bizarre Stockholm Syndrome subplot with a mute thug.

Best bit: A prostitute says she’ll never go near the castle, fearfully recounting the rumours that the Countess is a witch who sold her soul to the devil. When offered 50 koronas, however, she says, “Oh, well. I was never one to listen to gossip…”

Review: Most of the usual Hammer Films cliches are on show here – villagers, superstitions, noblemen, horses, gushing blood, cleavages, nudity, taverns, castles, woods… (The one glaring omission of course is vampires.) But the film has a real lack of oomph at times. It an unsettling story, potentially full of horrific psychology, but sadly doesn’t pack much punch. Ingrid Pitt is reasonably good as the fruit-loop lead character, especially when she de-ages – the character goes from a Phyllis Pearce lookalike to a tit-tape-sporting floozy in the first 15 minutes. All her dialogue has been distractingly dubbed by another actress, however.

Five travelling circuses out of 10


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