Saturday, December 4, 2010

TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (Peter Sasdy, 1970)

Three unwise men seek the company of the damned, wishing new experiences that transcend physical pleasures and unwittingly awaken the undead. Director Peter Sasdy drags out the first act and drains the film of all tension, virtually leaving a dried husk of a story that becomes risibly interesting due to skewed and competent cinematic compositions.

The three wealthy “gentleman” are mere plot devices that power the mechanics of Dracula’s vengeance: Hargood is despicably unlikable, Paxton is a meek follower, and Secker is the intellectual and the most interesting of the terrible triumvirate. Unfortunately, the film focuses primarily upon Hargood (whom we pray to dark gods gets his comeuppance!), a violent patriarch who disallows his stepdaughter Alice to romance Paxton’s son Paul…for no other reason than Hargood is a total asshole. The old men conspire with the bedeviled Aristocrat Courtley, a young man denounced and expunged by his own family but inhabiting a shady brothel. The whorehouse scene is full of buxom young ladies flashing breasts, a sensual snake dance, all imbued with homo eroticism: here, the Victorian Age meets the Psychedelic 60‘s. Courtley becomes the most interesting character, sporting groovy sideburns and spitting venomous expletives, a man absorbed by the dark side. He convinces the old men to purchase a box full of Dracula’s possessions, recovered in the film’s introduction by an antique collector who witnessed closing sequence of DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, and together they perform the Black Mass of red powder.

Courtley is subsumed by Dracula after drinking the clotted concoction, and now the titular undead haunts the abandoned Church, gives his bloody kiss to Sacker’s daughter, and hypnotizes Alice: all to seek revenge on the three men who caused his servant’s demise. As Paul follows the advice of his father’s dead cohort, he races against the setting sun to reach Dracula’s tomb and save his true love. In a nice finale, Dracula is driven towards a plate glass window adorned with a crucifix, and we see the desecrated Church as it once was, as a house of god, and a ray of son-light beams through the window causing him to fall upon the altar as the Lord’s Prayer echoes throughout the gothic antechamber. Skewed POV perspectives create a vertiginous climax as Dracula, descending like a fallen angel, disintegrates into red dust once again. Maybe this time they’ll properly dispose of his remains. Then again…maybe not.


Final Grade: (B-)

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