As I watched the opening of 1970’s Scars of Dracula, I found myself wondering several things.
First off, why do people even bother with trying to kill Dracula? At the end of every Hammer film, Dracula would end up dying but then, just as surely, he would be revived in the sequel. Now, I do think that Hammer deserves some credit for, at the very least, trying to maintain some sort of continuity over the course of its 9 Dracula films. At least they didn’t have Dracula just mysteriously show up alive at the beginning of each sequel. Instead, there was always someone or something who would show up at the beginning of the film for the exact purpose of bringing Dracula back to life. Scars of Dracula, for instance, opens with a rubber bat hovering over the red dust that was once Dracula. The bat spits up some blood and, before you know it, Dracula’s back and, once again, he’s being played by Christopher Lee.
Secondly, what happens to old vampire hunters? Dracula shows up in film after film but, for the most part, his antagonists only show up once and then disappear, with the notable exception, of course, of Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing. Then again, seeing as how they probably know that Dracula never stays dead for more than two years, it’s totally understandable that his enemies would probably leave town while they had the chance.
I mentioned Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing. Interestingly enough, Cushing doesn’t appear in as many Dracula films as you probably think. However, whenever we think of Christopher Lee’s Dracula, we also think of Cushing’s Van Helsing. Peter Cushing was one of the few Hammer actors who had a screen presence as memorable as Christopher Lee’s. As a result, Cushing’s Van Helsing was always seen as a worthy and credible opponent.
The downside of that is that is, when you watch a Dracula film that doesn’t feature Cushing, you find yourself very much aware of just how boring and bland most of Dracula’s other opponents truly were. For the most part, Lee’s Dracula had to deal with an increasingly generic band of “nice” young men and women, none of whom could come close to matching Lee’s dominance of the screen.
Sometimes, of course, that didn’t matter. But often times, as with Scars of Dracula, it’s really hard not to wish that Dracula was spending his time dealing with another Van Helsing instead of the film’s forgettable heroes.
In Scars of Dracula, Simon Carlson (Dennis Waterman) drops by Dracula’s castle while searching for his missing brother Paul (Christopher Matthews). Accompanying Simon is Paul’s fiancee, Sarah (Jenny Hanley). Naturally, Dracula wants to make Sarah into his bride. Complicating matters is the fact that Dracula’s servant, Klove (Patrick Troughton), has also fallen in love with Sarah. There’s plentiful gore, a little nudity, a lot of rubber bats, and Hammer mainstay Michael Ripper shows up playing yet another inn keeper. Christopher Lee is, as always, an intimidating and cruel presence of Dracula and Patrick Troughton has a lot of fun as Klove. But whenever the film focuses on its bland young leads, it comes to a halt.
Scars of Dracula is okay without being particularly memorable. It’s not one of the best of the Christopher Lee’s Dracula films but it has enough of the Hammer style to, if you’re in the right mood, enjoyable.