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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Countess Dracula (Synapse Blu-ray) - Lady Hammer Returns with Bite

As Hammer aged two things happened... their movies became more gratuitous and they began exploring less traditional stories. While Hammer's fame came at the hands of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and their respective sequels, movies like Twins of Evil, Devil Rides Out and The Gorgon are excellent examples of movies that tried to steer away from Universal based horror with varying degrees of success. Personally, I love 'em all, and if I have a bias toward the classic horror the 60's and 70's as produced by the great British studio that dripped blood, then you'll know that I am a fan. As a fan you'll know that a fan is watching and enjoying Countess Dracula as released by Synapse. You'll also know that this is only my second time watching Countess Dracula, but the difference is uncanny. It's a unique story that doesn't play on the myths of so many Universal derived characters, but of the a lady from history notorious for taking baths... in BLOOD.

Synopsis from Synapse:

The beautiful Ingrid Pitt (The Wicker Man, Where Eagles Dare) stars as Elisabeth Nádasdy, an aging Hungarian Countess who discovers she can reverse her aging by bathing in the blood of young women. While in her youthful state, the Countess falls for the handsome Lt. Imre Toth (Sandor Elès), and impersonates her own daughter to win his affections. Soon, girls in the village go missing… kidnapped and murdered by the Countess and her steward, Julie (Patience Collier) to satiate her horrifying bloodlust. Can Elisabeth live a life of deception with her grotesque lust for blood to stay eternally young, or will her ghoulish secret finally be revealed? Co-starring Nigel Green (Jason and the Argonauts, Zulu).


The first time I had the pleasure to watch Countess Dracula was on Netflix. While a streaming service cannot be used as the benchmark of quality by which to judge a transfer to Blu-ray it was apparent that the version I was watching could not compare to the pristine 1080p HD transfer. What once looked washed out and full of drab, almost cloudy frames is now a preserved work of art. If you want to watch Ingrid Pitt, best to do it in the proper definition and aspect ratio (1.66:1). The DVD/Blu-ray combo features a commentary from Pitt herself, screenwriter Jeremy Paul, author Jonathan Sothcott and direct Peter Sarsdy. Sarsdy would be response for Hands of the Ripper and Taste the Blood of Dracula as well starting in 1970. Along with the trailer, you get an interview with Ingrid Pitt as well as a look back at her as an actress in a featurette.

Note: my absolute favorite thing about this disc is the reversible cover art. On both sides we have provocative, seductive artwork featuring drawn women, scantily clad and evil. It's a pure delight. I prefer the darker, more nude cover (figures).

Bathory horror is making a come back. After enjoying Chastity Bites (a newer, fresh take on the Bathory legend though I admit it won't be for everyone) it was nice to return to a more Gothic interpretation of the great blood bather. While Countess Dracula movies rather slowly through it's storytelling, when it decides to deliver, there's a sex appeal that is both violent and erotic. Ingrid Pitt is stunning as the Countess. She is the Bathory of your dreams with perfect wanting eyes and poise. Of course as a Hammer production Countess Dracula look much like other vamp flicks of the early 70's with less attention to set and makeup than some of the earlier Universal stripped efforts. 1970 was about the cut off for Hammer; when the studio laid the blood and boobs on the screen and sold its audience gratuity rather than pure story and monsters.

Ultimately an audience who can appreciate the Karnstein trilogy will find great love for Countess Dracula. It bears all the hallmarks of movies like Vampire Lovers and Twins of Evil though may be a bit more subdued at times. The disc looks great, comes with an assortment of fan extras and may have feature some artwork on the interior with which you may not be familiar.

Don't age another minute. Pick up the latest Hammer Blu from Synapse.

You can order Countess Dracula now. 

-Doc Terror

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