Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
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Dracula: Prince of Darkness Collector's Edition
Scream Factory DID announce that they were digging deep into the vaults for Hammer Horror productions, and this December we got a good old taste of some classic vampire films with Dracula: Prince of Darkness, which marked the end of Christopher Lee’s stint as the infamous count. Sadly I wasn’t able to review it back in December due to a mixup with Scream Factory, and they were extremely kind enough to send over a belated review copy for us to enjoy.
Back in the late 50s Terence Fisher and Christopher Lee put out the ground breaking Horror of Dracula, and Christopher Lee decided that was the time to hang up his fangs for good. However, a scant 8 years later Lee was once again required to put on his fangs and hiss at the camera as the count of evil once more. The reason being was that there was some rights being bought and sold over the Dracula name, and Christopher Lee’s iconic presence was needed to seal the deal. Studio head honcho, and personal friend of Lee, James Carreras was needed to talk the reluctant actor into the role as the head vampire, and even agreed for Lee to to have minimal lines (which turned out to be NO lines) and a much more atmospheric take on Count Dracula than the previous films.
It’s an interesting move with Christopher Lee wanting to not do much heavy lifting, but it makes for a fascinating film with Terence Fisher directing once more and using Lee’s stoic tiredness to his advantage. Instead of having Lee dole out the classic cheesy Hammer Films lines, he gets to smirk and sneer at the camera, giving a moody sense of dread that permeates his presence. The terror comes from that cold confidence instead of shrieking girls and bad guys that twirl their mustache, but at the same time it wears a little bit thin with Lee hissing and grimacing at the camera.
A lone sentry named Klove (Phillip Latham) greets them, takes their clothes and puts them up for the night. It’s not until it’s too late do the unsuspecting travelers release that this is a trap. Klove sacrifices Mr. Alan Kent (Charles Tingwell) to his defeated lord, resurrecting him with the human’s blood. Mrs. Kent is next in line, but Alan’s brother Charles (Francis Matthews) and his wife Diana (Suzan Farmer) are lucky enough to get out of Dodge while the gettings good. HOWEVER, with Dracula on the loose there is no stopping the terror without his blood. Dracula wants Diana for his bride (Dracula’s got a real fetish with munching women and keeping them), and Charles must stand up and fight this monster in lieu of Van Helsing’s absence.
Prince of Darkness is fun movie, filled with all of that Hammer Horror cheese that we’ve all known to love and enjoy. Dracula (Lee) is gloriously devilish despite his lack of words, and the film actually features one of the most underutilized “kills” in the whole of ancient vampire lore. It’s a rather nifty one that adds some freshness to the usual “stab him in the heart or use crosses” techniques. There are some flaws to the film though, especially in regards to the “why in blazes didn’t Dracula use that power BEFORE?” moments, but overall this is a fun flick. It’s not as gory or as in your face as Horror of Dracula, but it’s still a solid contender nonetheless.
Not Rated by the MPAA
The one thing that I will say is that I really enjoyed the U.S. master better than the U.K. one, as it feels more “natural”. The colors look more accurate, it’s truer to the source, and the grain levels (while a bit thick) look much more accurate than the smooth and clean U.K. version. The downside to the U.S. edition is a some heavy grain that spikes here and there, as well as random print damage from the less than ideal interpositive due to the fact that they couldn’t use the source print. Flecks are noticeable here and there, as do certain vertical lines and the occasional bit of debris that is noticeable over the lens. But at the end of the day, I’d choose the U.S. edition over the U.K. edition for the color timing alone, and the entire master feels more “purist” in nature.
• NEW 4K REMASTER OF THE U.S. VERSION STRUCK FROM AN INTERPOSITIVE from the 20th Century Fox vaults
• NEW audio commentary with author Troy Howarth
• NEW audio commentary with filmmaker Constantine Nasr and writer/producer Steve Haberman
• Audio commentary with cast members Christopher Lee, Suzan Farmer, Francis Matthews, Barbara Shelley
• World of Hammer episode "Dracula and the Undead"
• Back to Black – The Making of Dracula -Prince of Darkness
• Super 8mm Behind-the-Scenes footage
• Theatrical Trailers
• Still Gallery
Prince of Darkness is a good return to form for Christoper Lee’s portrayal of Count Dracula, and a good sequel to Terence Fishers Horror of Dracula. Scream Factory does a good job with the new 4K remaster of the U.S. cut, and does a very appreciated move of having the U.K. cut and it’s 2K remaster from a few years back included in the disc. The audio and video differences between the two cuts is fascinating to watch and both are unique enough and flawed enough have their own sets of pros and cons for which one you want to view. Extras are excellent and well worthy of the collector’s edition status that the film commands. Definitely worth it for Hammer Horror fans and general horror fans alike. A very good watch.
Starring: Christopher Lee, Barbara Shelley, Andrew Keir, Francis Matthews, Suzan Farmer, Charles "Bud" Tingwell, Thorley Walters, Phillip Lantham
Directed by: Terence Fisher
Written by: Jimmy Sangster
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English, French
Studio: Scream Factory
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: December 18th, 2018
Recommendation: Fun Watch