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Countess Dracula (1971)

First up in my Hammer Holiday film-a-thon is my very first Hammer Horror, Countess Dracula.  I've only viewed two other Hammer films in the past (When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth & Viking Queen) both very boring and very disappointing, so I was pleased to receive a little reassurance with Countess Dracula that not all Hammer films are horrible.  From what little research I did Countess Dracula is not usually thought of as one of the best Hammer Horror films, in fact it's usually overlooked entirely by most people which seems to irritate some, so that gave me a little more hope for greater films to come.

First thing worth mentioning is Countess Dracula is not a vampire film.  Ingrid Pitt is the Countess Elisabeth Nodosheen, widow of a wealthy and well known Count who in his will has dispersed all his possessions leaving his wife with only half ownership of the castle, the other half going to their only daughter.  It's clear the Countess is angered by this, their daughter was shipped away to another country at a very young age so there is really no bond between her and the Countess, but things soon begin to look a little bit brighter when the she discovers a dark secret.

While "disciplining" one of her chamber maids, some of the maids' blood gets on the Countess's face and turns that portion of old weathered skin back to a youthful and smooth look!  Discovering this fountain of youth is too tempting for the Countess and she quickly has the chamber maid killed, drains her body of blood, and uses it to rejuvenate her entire body, completely transforming her into a few young and beautiful woman.  To keep her discovery a secret she presents herself to the rest of the castle as her own daughter, who was scheduled to return upon the Counts death.  Since her daughter had not been seen by anyone since she was a child it was not a hard disguise to pull off.  Her real daughter she had captured on her way to the castle so that her true identity would not be discovered.

With her new found youth the Countess falls in love with a young soldier, the son of her husband's best friend.  But she soon discovers the power of the blood is only temporary, and that once the effects wear off she looks older than she did before.  In order to maintain her youthful appearance she must have a constant supply of female virgin blood.  It's Captain Dobi, the Castle Steward and the Countesses long time lover who is burdened with the responsibility of caring out this task and disposing the bodies.  Dobi quickly begins to grow weary of assisting the Countess in this, not because they are killing innocent women but because she is throwing herself at this young solider instead of him.

Countess Dracula is supposedly based on the true story of Hungarian Countess Erzsebet Bathory who lived from 1560 to 1614.  She is referred to as one of the world's most infamous female serial killers, responsible for the deaths of what legend says was around 600 virgin girls all involving some form of gruesome torture.  Supposedly she is credited for influencing the idea of Dracula and the idea of gaining rejuvenation from the blood.  I don't know how much of that is true since I have always heard that Vlad the Impaler was actually the influence for Dracula, but either way Countess Bathory was quite evil and had a similar sadistic blood-lust.

Once again if you're looking for a vampire film you'll be sorely disappointed. This Countess only bathes in blood, she doesn't drink it, although if she had maybe her beauty would have lasted a bit longer.  The only time she's ever referred to as Countess Dracula is at the film's conclusion, so add all that together and you have a title that is a bit of false advertising.  Overall, I found Countess Dracula pretty entertaining, granted it's quite a simple story, but the performance Ingrid Pitt gives is quite good, she's gorgeous and the film does manage to have a slightly creepy vibe to it.  A few interesting tidbits about Ingrid Pitt in this role I saw on is that Pitt's voice was dubbed and supposedly she was so angry about this she vowed never to speak to the director again.  Also Diana Rigg (On Her Majesty's Secret Service) was originally offered the role of the Countess but she turned it down and the role went to Pitt, who actually looks a little like Rigg.  In the end, Countess Dracula is worth a look, the semi historical aspect of the film is both interesting and creepy but overall I think most fans of the Hammer franchise or bizarre period films will find something here.


1 comment:

  1. I mentioned this film in my comment below. I enjoyed it. Not as good as Vampire Lovers, but still a good watch. I never knew that about Diana Rigg.


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