Count Dracula (1970) – Movie review


Count Dracula 1970 pic 3

“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make.”

Count Dracula (1970)

Directed by Jesse Franco
Christopher Lee
Herbert Lom
Klaus Kinski
Soledad Miranda
Maria Rohm

This is one of Jesse Franco’s more coherent films. It’s a somewhat faithful version of Bram Stokers Dracula, dripping with gothic atmosphere. It’s artistically lit with vibrant orange and blue tones contrasted with black shadows like a noir film. Suitably dramatic music score layers the mood, although the harpsichord main theme gets a bit monotonous. It is filmed and edited in Count Dracula 1970 jesse francolate 60’s Euro style which portends its slow pacing.

It’s amazing how Lom’s portrayal of Van Helsing is mirrored by Hopkin’s version some thirty years later. Christopher Lee is gray-haired with a distinguished mustache in his portrayal of an aged Dracula. As he is inspired by a modern London (1800s) and feeds, he grows younger as the film progresses. This version spends more time with Renfield than others, but in an attempt to also be faithful to Stokers story, Klaus Count Dracula 1970 pic 16Kinski doesn’t have much substance to his part.

A few exceptional scenes break up the sluggish pace. The early scenes of Harker traveling the haunted woods of the Carpathian Mountains by stagecoach are as creepy as any film version. In one scene Dracula appears from the shadowed corner of Nina’s bedroom with Van Helsing as her guard. When Van Helsing makes the sign of the cross upon the floor, Dracula moves backward dissolving into the shadow.

It’s slow pacing and abrupt ending keep this from being a recommended vampire film. However, Dracula film aficionados and Lee completists will enjoy this for a few well crafted scenes and it’s gothic atmosphere.

And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973) – Amicus Films – movie review

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And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973)

Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Starring: Peter Cushing, Ian Ogilvy, Stephanie Beacham, Herbert Lom, and Patrick Magee

This is the only Amicus Films pre-1900’s gothic period piece. It starts with a ride in a horse-drawn coach and a small introduction narrative. Catherine and Charles Fengriffen are newly married and Catherine is being shown around the castle estate. Stephanie Beachman looks and now the screaming starts posterwonderful as Catherine in her Victorian dress, bustier showing an impressive amount of cleavage. Charles, (Ian Ogilvy) is showing her the family ancestral portraits when she is unduly mesmerized by a painting of Henry (Herbert Lom), grandfather to Charles. Soon there are strange occurrences tormenting the young newlywed. Windows open and doors lock by themselves. An eyeless apparition of a man with no right hand appears. A disembodied hand attacks Catherine. Subsequently friends, workers and servants of the family begin to die. I imagine at the time some of these scenes would have been quite chilling. I have to say Beacham does scream quite a bit in this film, which, as an old-time horror fan, gives me an enjoyable satisfaction.

When Catherine is discovered to be with child, examined by a secretive family doctor, Dr. Whittle (Patrick Magee), the details of the haunting begin to make themselves known. The woodsman that lives on the property is suspect of the mounting murders but the story is not so simple. When Charles calls in a doctor from London, played by the impeccable Peter Cushing, it certainly elevates the mystery aspect. He portrays a psychiatrist and now the screaming starts pic 5looking to find the facts, a character reminiscent of his role as Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles. He discovers there is a curse upon the house and the male children that are born within it, associated with the philandering ancestor, Henry Fengriffen. It is up to Dr. Pope to discover if this curse is real or imagined, supernatural or by the hands of the living.

If you can put yourself in the mindset of the era, you may enjoy the tale that unfolds. I can’t say it would be to everyone’s tastes, but if you like the slower story-telling pace of 60’s and 70’s films and you like period pieces, this is a good viewing choice. It’s not the best of its kind, but eerie nevertheless. Despite the dated effects and style, it is a decent gothic story with both mystery and paranormal aspects. It’s visually colorful and vibrant, and looks great in HD (not always the case with older films). The film is based on the novel Fengriffen by David Case, written for screen by Roger Marshall and deftly directed by Roy Ward Baker.

oakley court

Trivia: The gothic estate used in the film is Oakley Court, now a 4-star Hotel near Bray village, Berkshire England. The estate was also used in, The Brides of Dracula (1960), Nightmare (1963), The Plague of the Zombies (1966), The Bells of St. Trinian’s (comedy-1954) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975).

This review is part of a series I am doing to review all the Amicus horror films.
You can check out all the reviews from links at this page:
Amicus Films – overview



Asylum (1972) – Movie review – Amicus Films

Asylum dvd coverAsylum (1972) – movie review

Written by Robert Bloch and directed by Roy Ward Baker. Stars, Robert Powell, Patrick Magee, Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Charlotte Rampling and Barbara Parkins. A Doctor Martin shows up at an Asylum for a job interview as head doctor. A wheelchair bound Dr. Rutherford (Magee), the Asylum’s administrator, explains that the previous head doctor had suffered a mental breakdown and is now one of the patients at the institute. He then gives Dr. Martin a test to see if he is worthy of the job. If he can interview the patients on the second floor and discover which patient is his predecessor, he would basically have the job. An orderly, Max, escorts him from room to room, to meet each patient. Thusly, each interview takes the viewer into a different story.

While House that Dripped Blood used a minimalist style musical score, Asylum uses bold musical pieces by Modest Mussorgsky. The intro credits are accompanied by the powerful ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ as Dr. Martin drives up to the ominous asylum building. My favorite piece plays as Dr. Martin ascends the asylum stairs while observing disturbing paintings upon the walls showing harsh treatment of mental patients through history. The piece ‘Gnomus’ from Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures of an Exhibition’ accompanies the scene and is quite foreboding and sinister with its dissonant harmonies and broad brass blasts.

Frozen Fear – in the first room we are introduced to a woman named Bonnie. She recounts the tale of how she plotted with her married lover to kill his wife. The husband, Walter, chops his wife to bits and wraps the pieces in brown butcher paper, asylum pic 4placing the pieces neatly in a basement freezer. However, the wife having studied voodoo can not die and the separate pieces crawl out of the freezer looking for revenge.

The Weird Tailor – tells a story of how a suspicious Mr. Smith (Peter Cushing) came into the Tailor’s shop with a unique fabric and pattern asking him to make this suit for him. When the tailor finishes, days later, he delivers the suit to Smith. He then learns of the suits magic powers of resurrection and Smith’s intentions for the suit. Trying to stop him he accidentally kills Smith and returns to his shop with the magic suit. However, when he awakens, he discovers his wife has put the suit on a mannequin and the mindless humanoid knows only to kill. This is my favorite segment of the film.

In Lucy Comes To Stay a young lady, Barbara (Charlotte Rampling) relays the story of how she had been watched closely because of a prior mental breakdown. She felt like a prisoner in her own home due to the watchful eyes of her brother George and her nurse. It wasn’t until her good friend Lucy (Britt Ekland) came for a visit that she saw her only chance at freedom.

Mannikins of Horror – In this segment, a Dr. Byron (Herbert Lom) is a scientist that is working on transferring his soul asylum pic 8into a small toy robot by filling its insides with his own biological makings. He can telepathically control the small version of himself through meditation. However, the small toy is an evil incarnation of Dr. Byron that breaks contact with his master and does his own bidding. This segment is unintentionally humorous because watching the miniature toy with Herbert Loms head walking around can only be regarded as comical.

The film wraps up with a reveal to Dr. Martin, a couple of murders and a ‘patients running the asylum’ ending. Aside from The Weird Tailor segment, this is probably my least favorite of the Amicus anthologies. However, I think the wrap-around story is probably one of the most interesting and developed of all the Amicus anthologies. There are some bright spots in the film and it’s definitely worth a watch for completists and those who like movies from this era.

Amicus Films overview