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Scars Of Dracula (1970)

Scars Of Dracula is not a good film. There, I've said it. It's also (unfortunately) the "archetypal" Hammer Horror, with bad SFX, hammy acting (even from Lee), Carry On-style humour, gaudy sets, a distinct lack of horror, etc etc.

I say archetypal not because I don't know what it means, but because this is the way most non-fans see Hammer - all busty wenches, burgermeisters, tomato ketchup and red contact lenses. Which is shame when you consider that the company had just brought us the far superior Taste The Blood Of Dracula and had certified classics like Twins Of Evil waiting in the wings.

The film doesn't even help itself - the scene where the "hero" Paul is chased from the burgermeister's house after deflowering the fat git's daughter is possibly the worst scene in any horror film ever (even Robin Askwith would turn his nose up at such low-brow shenanigans). And whoever decided that bats would feature so much in the script without bothering to see if they could make them appear remotely realistic needed his head examining (with a shovel).

The film begins with one of said bats puking blood over Dracula's remains, which reconstitute themselves into a fully-clothed Dracula. The bat then starts squeaking at the Count, Lee listening intently as if to say: "What's that you say, Batty? Is someone trapped down the well? I'd better fetch the sheriff..." Of course he doesn't, that would be silly. Instead, he goes off and kills some busty wench, the scars on her neck alerting us that this film is called Scars Of Dracula.

The body is taken to the local pub (of course), where landlord Michael Ripper (yay!) gets all worked up much quicker than usual. "We know where the evil lies!" He shouts. "We must free ourselves - now!"

The priest is there, too, but his warnings that "Your violence will only lead to more violence" go unheeded. Peasants.

Of course, the sight of villagers approaching the castle, flaming torches aloft, before 88 minutes into the film is quite possibly a first - but before you can applaud the film makers for going against our expectations we're treated to Ripper's hilariously bad example of how not to get into a castle. "Open the door! I've something for you! I'm quite alone! Open up!"

Luckily Klove (Dracula's servant, played this time by the ever wonderful Patrick Troughton) obviously hasn't seen this kind of film before, and actually lets them in. As the castle burns around them, neither Klove or Big D seem particularly bothered. No-one stops to wonder why...

The reason, it appears, is because a grand total of three (count 'em) rubbery bats have laid waste to every woman and child in the village, who had holed up in the church for "protection". The (strangely quiet and unaffected) men find their loved ones scattered around the pews sporting a variety of gouges, scrapes and hanging-out eyeballs. Oops.

"The devil has won..." and we're only 10 minutes into the film.

As blood drips onto the church candles (there's plenty of it smeared on the walls, too) we cut to the candles on Sarah's birthday cake. "Now she can eat that cake" says a fat bastard, licking his lips in anticipation. Sarah (played by Jenny "Magpie" Hanley and showing a lot of chest) is going out with Simon (Dennis Waterman), but oddly loves his brother, the philandering Paul. Paul is late for the party, as he is busy knocking up the aforementioned burgermeister's daughter. Cue close up of sign reading "Never put off til tomorrow what you can do today", Carry On music and single entendres so dire they don't even deserve to appear on this site. Anyway, he makes his escape "Oversexed young puppy - a spell in prison will cool him down!" and makes a speedy entrance to the party, followed by an even speedier exit into a carriage, the horses promptly bolting and carrying him out into the forest.

Lost but finding a village, we're treated to more of his chat-up lines when the local barmaid-cum-bike takes a shine to him.

"What about a bed? I don't mind... sharing... I don't want to get you into trouble..."

"I won't let you."

"I'll be off as soon as my head hits the pillow."

"I've heard that one before..." etc etc ad nauseum.

Enter the landlord, who soon sees through his pathetic "charm" and boots him out. The young rogue finds a hearse and decides to take a kip (like you would), waking up in the castle grounds. After nearly falling off the battlements (clumsy) he's invited in by Goth chick Tania (Anouska Hempel) who promptly introduces him to Dracula (so he wasn't killed in the fire - shock).

After Paul's gone to bed, Dracula has a quick munch on Tania, and she promptly whisks off to Paul's abode, imperiously commanding him: "Love me..."

Never one to resist such an offer, Paul gets down to some sweaty fumblings (gallantly keeping on his red M&S undies, mind) until their post coital bliss is ruined by an angry Dracula and his big knife (yes, knife - since when has Dracula stabbed people to death? It rather defeats the point - especially as Tania is a vampire anyway).

Realising he's in deep shit, Paul makes his escape - but only manages to end up trapping himself in Dracula's crypt (nice one). Meanwhile, brother Simon and the lovely Sarah are busy looking for him - and they're soon at the castle. Klove (who's fallen for Sarah after discovering her photo amongst Paul's possessions) saves her from some poisoned broth(once again - eh?) and the two escape back to the village, where Ripper tells them: "Go back to where you came from... we want no trouble here..." and the priest explains how the church was "once vilely used" (some understatement there, methinks).

Dracula gives Klove a good whipping with a pink-hot sword (for the third time - eh? Will he not use his fangs once in this pile of crap?) for letting them escape, but he needn't worry, Simon's on his way back, ready for the final discovery of what happened to his brother and the climactic castle-top confrontation.

Scars Of Dracula is, like its stablemate Horror Of Frankenstein, truly dreadful in every way. That makes it enjoyable the first time round, but it's ultimately an empty experience. Lee is uncharacteristically dreadful as Dracula: "The cross!" and the lack of logic is astonishing. Watch it yourself and ask these questions:

Why does Dracula leave Paul after stabbing Tania?

How does he manage to kill Tania (a vampire) by stabbing her with a dagger?

Why does he try to poison Sarah, instead of just killing her?

Why do all the villagers fear the castle, but seem quite happy to let all and sundry wander up there?

I'll tell you why - plot expediency. And it's a bad, bad thing when that happens.

Director: Roy Ward Baker Writer(s): Anthony Hinds (as John Elder), Bram Stoker (novel Dracula)

Cast: Christopher Lee - Dracula, Dennis Waterman - Simon Carlson, Jenny Hanley - Sarah Framsen, Patrick Troughton - Klove, Michael Ripper - Landlord, Michael Gwynn - The Priest, Wendy Hamilton - Julie, Christopher Matthews - Paul Carlson, Anouska Hempel - Tania, Delta Lindsay - Alice, burgomaster's daughter, Bob Todd - Burgomaster, David Leland - First Policeman, Richard Durden - Second Policeman, Toke Townley - Man with Cart, Margo Boht - Maria, landlord's wife, Olga Anthony - Girl At Party, Clive Barrie, Morris Bush - Farmer, George Innes - Servant


Last updated: February 27, 2010

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