As you know, IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, my collection of horror movie columns is now available as an EBook from NECON EBooks at www.neconebooks.com. Check out a sample column below, on the Christopher Lee Dracula movie DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966), originally published in the HWA NEWSLETTER in February 2005.
Why this movie?
There’s something about this one, I suppose it’s the icy exteriors of Castle Dracula that make me want to watch it each winter.
Enjoy the column! And stay warm!
DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)
Christopher Lee said no when asked by Hammer Films to play Dracula again in a proposed sequel to Hammer’s mega-hit, HORROR OF DRACULA (1958). Lee did not want to be typecast.
However, the powers that be at Hammer didn’t give up, and eventually, Lee changed his mind. The sequel to HORROR OF DRACULA was a long time coming, but in 1966, it finally arrived in the form of DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966).
DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS proved to be another box office smash, becoming one of the top 15 commercial releases of 1966. It was no secret now to Hammer that Dracula was their most successful franchise. As a result, in the next seven years, Hammer would make five more Dracula movies with Christopher Lee as the Count.
DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS tells the story of two English couples traveling through Europe who get stranded at Dracula’s castle. There they find Dracula’s servant Klove (Philip Latham) who has been waiting for years for someone to visit the castle so he can resurrect his master. Resurrect Dracula he does, in a very bloody scene involving a slit throat and gallons of Hammer blood, and the undead Count is unleashed once more. This time, it’s up to the dynamic Father Sandor (Andrew Keir in a very good performance) to stop Dracula.
For years, DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS has taken hits from both critics and fans alike as an inferior sequel to HORROR OF DRACULA. Sure, it’s not as good as its predecessor, but it is far better than some critics have given it credit for.
Director Terence Fisher, who also directed HORROR OF DRACULA, gives the scenes in Castle Dracula a real “haunted house” feel. It’s all very creepy even before Dracula is resurrected.
And once Lee appears as Dracula, it’s HORROR OF DRACULA all over again. Lee is hissing, snarling, bearing fangs, and genuinely showcasing a very athletic violent Dracula. Simply put, Christopher Lee is damned frightening!
Much has been made of the fact that in DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS, Dracula speaks no lines of dialogue, but before you condemn screenwriter John Sansom, understand that Dracula did speak in the original script, but the lines were all cut by Christopher Lee himself. Lee wrote in his autobiography, CHRISTOPHER LEE, TALL, DARK AND GRUESOME, that he thought the lines given Dracula were ridiculous. And his suggestion to use lines from Stoker’s novel went unheeded.
Composer James Bernard once again utilizes his Dracula theme made famous in HORROR OF DRACULA, a theme as famous today as the themes from JAWS (1975) and HALLOWEEN (1978).
The sets, especially the interior of the castle, are magnificent.
DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS also has a memorable conclusion, in which the battle to destroy Dracula takes place on the ice outside Castle Dracula.
Yes, there’s ice outside the castle, some snow too, and cold winds howling through the castle walls. DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS, a perfect film to watch on a frigid winter evening.