The Satanic Rites of Dracula Film Details
Overview: This is the eighth film in Hammer’s Dracula series, and the seventh and final one to feature Christopher Lee as Dracula and the fourth one with Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. This film takes place two years after the events of the pre
Tagline: Evil begets evil on the sabbath of the undead!
Review: “Dracula 1972 AD” failed to set the box office ablaze but Hammer wasn’t ready to give up on its biggest franchise. Despite the public’s disinterest, the studio pushed ahead with another Dracula film set in the modern day. The gamble didn’t pay off the second time either. “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” would be the final Dracula film to feature Christopher Lee. Hammer’s line of thinking clearly was that the public was sick of Gothic horror. “Satanic Rites” jettisons any trace of classic horror. Instead, the film is concerned with espionage action and conspiracy theories. The British Secret Service is investigating Satanic rituals. One features prominent members of society and claims to be raising people from the dead. The government brings in the modern day Van Helsing as a consultant. Van Helsing, teaming with his granddaughter and Detective Murray, quickly deduces that something sinister is afoot. A scientist, who mysteriously died, is connected to the Satanic circle. This traces back to reclusive millionaire D. D. Denham, who is none other then Count Dracula. Sick of his eternal life, Dracula intends to unleash a plague on the world, bringing upon the apocalypse. There’s not much I like about “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” but I’ll give the movie one thing. Many of the Hammer Dracula films play fast and loose with continuity. This one is a direct sequel to “Dracula 1972 AD.” Peter Cushing plays the same descendant of Van Helsing. He even lives in the same apartment. His granddaughter Jessica, though played by a different actress, is back too, who has matured some in the two years since the last film. Inspector Murray returns as well and is even played by the same guy. The film directly references the end of the last one by pointing out that “D. D. Denham’s” business building is built upon the remains of the church where Dracula died last time. About the only plot thread left dangling is how the Count returned to unlife. And even that’s easy to address, as a viewer can assume his clan of Satanic followers resurrected him. Disappointingly, the returning characters are the only thing “The Satanic Rites” has in common with “1972 AD.” The movie is not heavy on horror content. And what horror is there is totally different from what we expect. The Satanic rituals, which involve cultist in hoods standing in rooms pouring blood on a naked girl, feel totally of the time. Even Drac gets involved, as he lights black candles while a beautiful woman lies on an altar before him. There are other vampires in the movie. Two scenes take place in a basement where vampire maidens pop out of coffins. However, there’s no fog, no old castles, no stone walls. Nothing about these scenes feels like a classic Hammer movie. It’s not until the very end of the movie, when Cushing and Lee face off for the final time, that this film begins to feel anything like its predecessors. Van Helsing and Dracula have a stern face-off in a burning room before both flee. Walking into the woods, Dracula stumbles into a hawthorn bush, an obscure vampire weakness, allowing Van Helsing to stake the Count with a fencepost. It’s a hugely dubious way to take Dracula out but at least it feels in line with the rest of the series. Most of “Satanic Rites” doesn’t even feel like a horror film though. The film is obviously beholden to “The Avengers” and Roger Moore’s Bond films but on a fraction of the budget. The action in the film is mostly limited to guys in fuzzy, suede vest chasing people on motorcycles. One moments has similarly garbed henchmen shooting sniper rifles at the heroes. Despite these unusual action beats, much of the film’s runtime is devoted to old British guys sitting around and talking in rooms. There is so much droll exposition in these scenes or long moments of guys reading, watching, or looking at pictures. It’s dull and seriously drags the pacing down. If nothing else, the film has the strength of its performers to fall back on. Peter Cushing is in a lot of the movie, bringing the same level of conviction to the role that he always does. Lee is given more to do then in his last appearance. The vampire count doesn’t bite too many beautiful maidens on the neck, save for one scene. Instead, his best moments center on the Count delivering some harsh monologues. Dracula talking about his apocalyptic plans allows Lee to (if you’ll excuse the pun) sink his teeth into the hammy dialogue. The final confrontation between the two, where Dracula prepares to bring about the end of the world and Van Helsing stares him down, is easily the best moment of the film. As for the rest of the cast, Michael Coles gets to do some cool stuff as Inspector Murray, staking vampires and throwing some punches. Future comedy superstar Joanna Lumley is less charming then Stephanie Beachum as Jessica and honestly given less to do. It’s disappointing that the film reduces the character to a damsel in distress once again. Director Alan Gibson, returning from “Dracula 1972 AD,” is less sturdy this time. He employs rough zoom-ins far too many times. The funky score is pretty catchy though. “The Satanic Rites of Dracula” is a real off entry in the series. The pacing lags horribly, the plot isn’t that interesting, and the film barely feels like a Dracula movie. The movie wasn’t bad enough to kill the franchise, as Dracula would return in the next year’s even odder “Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires.” However, it was bad enough to finally make Christopher Lee yell enough. The iconic actor has never put the cape on since. He did not exit on a high note.
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English, Latin
Duration: 87 min
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