Should there be shame attached to this omission in horror film experience though? I say no, so long as once a deficiency is recognized, the nerd in question makes efforts to illuminate themselves of this darkest cinema genre. Take this as a blessing in disguise, not a scarlet letter. Who among us wouldn’t give their collection of severed heads to experience a genre classic newly, for the first time? You can’t go home again, but in this case you can visit a place you’ve never even vacationed (or possibly seen postcards of) before.
I have a horror genre blind spot. It isn’t a minor blemish such has having never seen Uwe Boll’s House of the Dead (I have). No, this spot is glaring, obvious and marginally painful to think about. I’m going to pen a series of articles regaling you with my adventures in casting light into this hole. What is my horror blind spot? (Don’t cringe) It’s the Hammer Horror Films catalogue.
I know. I KNOW. It isn’t as though I’ve never seen any Hammer Horror films. I certainly have. However it’s been years, so many that I’ve got a foggy cloud in my head where those recollections should be. I know that I’m missing out. It’s with that in mind that I’ve borrowed a smattering of Hammer titles from Joel of the eminent podcast - You’ve Got Geek. From his guiding hand, I’ll be experiencing the joys of these gothic marvels for the first time.
Last evening, I began my journey with the 1970 favorite Scars of Dracula. Marking the fourth time that YEAR which Christopher Lee would portray the prince of darkness, Scars of Dracula features enormous atmosphere and styling, as it seems all Hammer period films seem to overflow with. Our tale it's fairly straightforward: Angry villagers, having grown weary of their pretty virginal girls being sucked dry by the Count, attack his castle with pitchforks and torches. They burn the inner workings of castle Dracula through and through, though this means nothing as in a brilliant stroke of forethought the Count's chamber is stone on all sides, built into a cliff face and only accessible via a window above a titanic drop to rocks and sea below.
So, aside from blowing their torch and gunpowder load, the villagers accomplish nothing aside from sparking the anger of one very powerful prince of darkness. Lee exacts his furious vengeance on the womenfolk of sleepy village, driving the men to drink (more than normal) and causing them to be completely standoffish to all travelers. Of course we're then introduced to a young womanizing playboy, who pisses off the daughter of the local town judge and is falsely accused of rape. On the run from the law, our fun loving pal is kicked out of the village inn and having no recourse, he spends the night at Castle Dracula. It's all excellently creepy and done in elaborate style.
Lee is wonderful in the role which he had already become famous for and over which he had already grown quite weary. The gore was ratcheted up above what were normal Hammer standards, in order to compete with American films that brought more bloody messes to the table in the wake of Romero's Night of the Living Dead. The vivid colors pay off and contribute to a sort of faux gore style that's simultaneous gruesome and fancifully stylish. The lovely ladies showcased in the buff are delightful to look upon and contribute, in their own special way, to enlarging the plot's thickness. (*drumroll*).
The Scars of Dracula is a fantastic take on the Dracula mythos, a marvelous period piece and very well made. The Pal region DVD I watched looked great (for DVD with upscaling) though I would very much love to see a high fidelity Blu-Ray version, since the colors would render even more vividly. This was a great first choice to slip into something more comfortable of yesterday. Stay tuned as I continue to illuminate my own personal horror blind spot. Use the comments to tell me what your particular short coming might be.