SHOCK SCENES: DRACULA’S DEMISE- A Look at the Hammer Dracula Endings
Welcome to Part 3 of our look at the endings to the Hammer DRACULA series, where we examine how Dracula met his demise in the various Hammer Dracula movies. Previously we looked at the endings to the first four Hammer Dracula pics. Here in Part 3 we’ll look at the endings to the next two films in the series, TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1969) and SCARS OF DRACULA (1970).
And remember, if you haven’t seen these films, there are major spoilers here, so proceed with caution.
TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1969)
Give credit to director Peter Sasdy. With the exception of the first two Hammer Dracula films by Terence Fisher, HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) and THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960), TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA is probably the best looking of the Hammer Draculas. The cinematography is clear, crisp, rich and colorful, with deep dark reds and blues spilling onto the screen like a bruised corpse dripping blood.
While most of the Hammer Dracula sequels are shot in a way that make them look like horror films, TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA looks like a PBS drama. The cinematography here is simply a step above the rest.
And Christopher Lee has never looked better as Dracula. Gone are the red bloodshot eyes (for the most part – they’re back in some scenes) and pasty white face shot with green light in DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968), and in their place is a more noble and princely looking Lee. In fact, at times Sasdy’s camera makes Lee look about ten years younger. Other than way back in HORROR OF DRACULA, when he was only 36, Christopher Lee is probably photographed at his handsomest as Dracula here in TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA.
The film gets its title because in this one, a young devil worshipper Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates) gets hold of a vial of Dracula’s blood, spilled after the vampire was impaled on a cross at the end of DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968). To resurrect Dracula, he mixes his own blood with Drac’s and then orders the men he has brought into his circle to drink it. Hence the title.
While TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA may be richly photographed, it’s not my favorite of the Dracula sequels. Its story doesn’t always makes sense, and its characters simply aren’t as likable or as developed as those in the previous films in the series.
TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA also has the strangest ending of the entire series.
Young Paul (Anthony Corland) attempts to rescue his girlfriend Alice (Linda Hayden) from the clutches of Dracula (Christopher Lee) who’s hiding out in a desecrated church. Paul places crucifixes throughout the church and puts a white cloth over the altar. As you might imagine, Dracula is none too happy about these changes, and there is a struggle.
Dracula flees to the upper level of the church to get away from Paul’s crosses, and when he smashes a stained-glass window, he turns to see the entire church lit with candles and looking like it’s ready for Sunday Mass. It’s a miracle! Unable to withstand this sudden burst of holiness, Dracula falls from his perch and proceeds to disintegrate into ashes once more.
Scratching your head? Me, too, and I’ve seen this ending multiple times. It appears as best as I can figure it, that in this movie, God destroys Dracula! Yup, that’s about the size of it. It’s a weird ending, and worse yet, it’s simply not very satisfying. It also serves as proof that the characters in this movie aren’t up to the task of destroying Dracula, so, why destroy him at all? I still think some of these Hammer Dracula sequels would have been even better had Dracula simply survived at the end. It would have given these movies some very dark endings which would only have made them more memorable.
And while the special effects in the disintegration sequence are impressive, they lack the excitement and thrill of the effects in HORROR OF DRACULA.
It all makes for a very bizarre and rather disappointing ending.
SCARS OF DRACULA (1970)
While TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA may have had the strangest ending to the series, the next movie, SCARS OF DRACULA, has the worst ending.
SCARS OF DRACULA was an attempt by Hammer to give Dracula more screen time, which is a rarity since even in the best of the Hammer Draculas, like HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), for example, Dracula just isn’t in the film very much. The Hammer Draculas always made the most of Dracula’s brief screen time.
DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968), Hammer’s biggest money-maker of all time, struck a nice balance with its Dracula scenes, and Dracula seemed to be in this one more than the other films. On the other hand, it took Dracula nearly half of TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA to show up, which no doubt left viewers disappointed, regardless of how richly photographed that movie was.
In this regard, giving Dracula more screen time, SCARS OF DRACULA succeeds. Dracula (Christopher Lee) shows up within the first few minutes of the film and is in this one quite a lot. He also has a field day, as SCARS OF DRACULA is probably the most violent film in the series, as in addition to biting people on the neck, Dracula also whips, stabs, impales and brands his victims here. Ouch!
The other neat thing about this movie, and which makes it stand out from the rest of the Hammer Draculas, is the way Dracula appears and disappears. In the previous films, most of Draculas entrances were all highly dramatic, often with undead king baring his fangs and hissing in some genuine shock scenes. Here, director Roy Ward Baker made the interesting choice never to show Dracula enter or exit a room. Suddenly, he’s just standing there, and when a character turns around for a moment, he’s suddenly gone. Even though it’s not the traditional Christopher Lee interpretation, it works.
So, for the most part, I really like SCARS OF DRACULA, even though its cinematography is vastly inferior to that of TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA. More so, it’s inferior to the cinematography of the rest of the Hammer Dracula’s as well. There’s something very rushed and cheap looking about this movie, which goes against the Hammer Films formula of making sure that at the very least their films looked like they had a high budget.
But the ending is the worst and takes the rest of the film down several notches. Dracula is on the roof of his castle, once more battling a young man over his girlfriend. Dracula needs some lessons on dating. Anyway, Dracula grabs a spear and prepares to hurl it at his adversary when a lightning bolt zaps the spear and ignites Dracula in a fiery blaze. So, in the last film Dracula was desroyed by God. This time he’s done in by— the weather? Yep, Dracula is struck down by Mother Nature. How implausible is that? If you can’t write characters who are worthy of destroying Dracula, just let him survive already!
Dracula bursts into flames and as he screams in agony, he’s filmed in ridiculous slow motion. When he falls from the castle roof, the shot of him plunging down the side looks as realistic as one of the freefalls of Wile E. Coyote.
Don’t get me wrong. I love SCARS OF DRACULA. But I don’t like the ending. At all.
So, that about wraps things up for Part 3 of our look at the endings to the Hammer DRACULA series. Join me next time for Part 4, when we’ll look at the endings to the rest of the films in the series.
See you then!
And thanks for reading!