Dracula, Prince of Darkness

An enjoyable 90 minutes was spent at the IFI last Saturday watching 1966’s Dracula, Prince of Darkness. Probably my least favourite of Hammer’s Dracula efforts but it’s not like you can turn down a chance to see any Hammer film on the big screen.

It was the last of the Hammer Dracs that I saw when I was a boy. It never seemed to be on tv and I couldn’t track it down in the big HMV on Grafton Street where I would buy all my Hammers and Universals and B-Movie SF films. When I say “all” we’re talking about twelve VHS cassettes bought over five or six years, though I had a much larger library taped from the tele. I’m kind of sorry that I binned the VHS tapes as I replaced them with DVDs – there would be a reassuringly nostalgic quality to watching them again. Even now, when watching it on DVD, I still expect the tension of the climactic scenes of Quatermass 2 to be broken by the sudden appearance of Frank Bruno flogging bottles of HP Sauce.

For a long time the only thing I knew of Drac PoD was the iconic black and white photo featured in Alan Frank’s HORROR MOVIES book.

Dennis Gifford-Horror Movies - Dracula Prince of Darkness

And the equally striking image contained in Denis Gifford’s A PICTORIAL HISTORY OF HORROR MOVIES.

Alan Frank - Horror Movies - Dracula Prince of Darkness

The film is just about okay. Barbara Shelley is always good, and Christopher Lee can’t be beat, even though he doesn’t actually say a word and is on screen for all of about 3 minutes. His hissing is impressive though. The second act drags along at a painfully slow pace, I think that’s what kills it. The opening act and the final ten minutes are really rather good.

I’m not sure how much the other patrons enjoyed it: a sweaty-browed pillock behind me fell asleep and started to snore loudly until his friend woke him up. I’ve admitted that the second act drags a little, but come on. Then the woman sitting two seats over casually kicked her shoes off and dangled her fetid feet over the backrest of the empty seat in front of her. What’s that about? I don’t mean to sound like Dean Tavalouris here but seriously, what is wrong with people?

The cinema was all but sold out, and nearly everyone was polite enough to keep their shoes on. They should show more of these old horror films.


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