DIRECTOR Terence Fisher WRITER Jimmy Sangster; Anthony Hinds (concept); Bram Stoker (characters) STARS Christopher Lee; Barbara Shelley; Andrew Keir DOUBLE PLAY Now
Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Dracula is justifiably iconic; the character is one of the greatest and recognisable in the history of horror, from a period when the word actually meant horrifying.
While this second outing for the Count from Hammer isn’t quite up to the standards of the 1958 original, it’s obvious to see why Dracula: Prince of Darkness is the first title to get the high-definition treatment. This is prototypical Hammer Horror. A period piece, with snooty English tourists who care little for local superstition. Dark roads and dim forests, with warnings to ‘stay away from the castle’. Haunted, chilling faces looking from windows. Cap that off with the hero locked in a dark room with the monster and it’s clear why Hammer’s return to the genre with The Woman in Black struck a chord with audiences; this is a formula that works, and there isn’t much reason to change it.
It’s easy to dismiss 60s horror in the wake of the taboo-breaking that came in the following decade, but Dracula: Prince of Darkness is genuinely creepy and surprisingly gory; a graphic throat-slitting will surprise you, and there’s a high level of violence. And naturally the great Christopher Lee, bereft of dialogue, dominates every scene with his presence, with Barbara Shelley and Andrew Keir providing great support. The Blu-ray looks fantastic, giving an HD polish to the brilliant gothic sets and costumes, and a rich sheen to the blacks and blood-reds, with a wealth of extras providing much background. Turn out the lights, dial up the volume and immerse yourself in this superb film in the way it was meant to be seen. Wonderful stuff.