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Taste the Blood of Dracula

Taste the Blood of Dracula(1970)

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Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969) is the fourth outing in the Hammer series of Dracula films and gets good marks as "the last worthwhile entry in the series" (The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film) or even "one of the best" (The Essential Monster Movie Guide). It was the first feature for the Hungarian director Peter Sasdy and Christopher Lee's umpteenth return as the count (his fourth for Hammer alone). Christopher Lee almost didn't reprise his role as Dracula because he was demanding a higher salary from Hammer and the studio, in response, wrote him out of the script and meant to transfer the cape over to a young disciple of Dracula that was to be played by Ralph Bates in his film debut. While Bates maintains a prominent role in the finished product, the American distributors for Hammer, Warner Bros./Seven Arts, did not want to lose Lee's marquee value and insisted he be brought back.

The opening for Taste the Blood of Dracula is still electrifying, thanks to a great turn by Roy Kinnear playing the role of Weller, a traveling salesman who gets jettisoned from his coach by two men who aren't in a haggling mood. Left unconscious by the road, Weller wakes up in the dark woods and hears a blood-curdling scream. Running through the trees he sees Dracula screeching in pain and clutching at a wound in his chest, and soon there is nothing left of Vlad the impaled but a cape, medallion, and a puddle of gelatinous blood oozing down a rock that turns into red powder. Having just witnessed the climax to Dracula has Risen from the Grave (1968), Weller scoops up what remains of Dracula and later sells his find to three Edwardian patriarchs looking for new thrills beyond the weekly decadence already indulged in at a nearby whorehouse. Jonathan Rigby notes in his book English Gothic that several shots and scenes are inexplicably cut from American prints (such as one of "Dracula's colossal, cloaked silhouette framed beside the gnarled outline of a tree" as witnessed by his first victim) along with some not-so inexplicably missing scenes such as that of "a raunchy snake dance in the elaborate brothel sequences." Viewers will be happy to know that all of these scenes and shots are present and accounted for in the Warner Home Video dvd release of Taste the Blood of Dracula.

Referenced in English Gothic is a great quote from Hammer producer Aida Young from a 1996 interview in Little Shoppe of Horrors (issue #13) where she says how "At first, when I read the script for Taste, I thought `What a load of rubbish!" But then I got into it and realized that it was about hypocrisy in Victorian times and that there was a serious undercurrent... It wasn't just a Dracula film per se." Indeed, while Dracula remains a reliable master of evil, it is somehow more disquieting to see one of the Edwardian patriarchs as he drunkenly lurches toward his daughter full of anger and menace - and maybe even lust? It speaks volumes that when she escapes only to run into Dracula, there is actually a sense of relief.

Warner Bros. dvd release of Taste the Blood of Dracula features the film in all its Technicolor gory glory in its widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (the better to enjoy those pulsating zooms with) and includes an original theatrical trailer.

For more information about Taste the Blood of Dracula, visit Warner Video. To order Taste the Blood of Dracula, go to TCM Shopping.

by Pablo Kjolseth