After an eight year absence from the role, Horror of Dracula (1958) star Christopher Lee once again donned the black cape in what probably ended up being Hammer’s last great Dracula film, Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Though it must be said the Lee’s lack of dialogue does tend to feel a bit awkward at times.
The film opens with a pre-title sequence which recaps the climactic events of The Horror of Dracula; we’re led to believe that the vampire king has been killed by Doctor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). However, Ten years later, as two couples—Alan Kent (Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell) his brother Charles (Francis Matthews) and their wives Helen (Barbara Shelley) and Diana (Suzan Farmer) head to the Carpathians for a climbing holiday. Along the way in Karlsbad, they run into Father Sandor (Andrew Keir) who advises them to avoid the town’s castle. However, they have a small accident in their carriage right outside the castle and decide to spend the night there.
They are greeted by a by a mysterious butler named Klove (Phillip Latham) who serves them dinner. The guests are blissfully unaware that Klove is carrying out his employer’s malicious master plan: lulling them into a false sense of security; only to kill one of them in a bid to bring about Dracula’s resurrection. He drags the body to an extremely large basement with a coffin in the middle. Count Dracula (Lee) is resurrected in what is a decidedly impressive ritual.
Father Sandor reappears and vows to destroy Dracula. However, the vampire king calls on an old ally who could help him defeat his opponents. While Christopher Lee clearly relished playing Dracula, the decision to not have him utter a single word of dialogue was a mistake. He shows his fangs, growls and tries to look in charge, but after awhile all his facial expressions just seem humorous. Kudos to Andrew Keir though. His performance is so strong that he dominates nearly every scene he’s in.
Prince of Darkness doesn’t come close to the quality of Count Dracula, but it has enough of a gothic feel—and that cool resurrection scene—to make it worth a spot in the collections of Hammer fans.
Millennium Entertainment has done a great job with this Blu-ray. Framed at 2.35:1, The image is beautiful and sharp as a tack. Colors absolutely pop throughout and there are no digital anomalies to speak of. This transfer puts previous DVD releases to shame. I did note the presence of slight DNR.
The LPCM 2.0 Dolby Stereo track sounds great. Dialogue is clear and the occasionally thunderous score expands nicely.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available.
The following special features are available:
- Audio Commentary: Christopher Lee, Suzan Farmer, Francis Matthews, and Barbara Shelley are informative and entertaining as they discuss how specific scenes were shot, as well as the film’s strengths and weaknesses. And more.
- World of Hammer (25 min) The “Hammer Stars: Christopher Lee” episode from the popular TV series, written and created by Ashley and Robert Sidaway, and narrated by Oliver Reed.
- Documentary: Back to Back (HD, 30 min.) Hammer Films historian Marcus Hearn, actor and writer Mark Gatiss and writer Jonathan Rigby look at what makes Dracula: Prince of Darkness unique. Actors Barbara Shelley and Francis Matthews are among those interviewed.
- Restoration Comparison (HD, 4 min.) A silent look at the restoration process.
- Restored Original Trailer (HD, 3 min)
- Stills Gallery (HD)
- Collectible Cards: Stored in a sealed envelope inside the Blu-ray case.