Countess Dracula Blu-ray Review
Directed by Peter Sasdy
Written by Jeremy PAul
1971, Region A, 93 minutes, Rated PG
Blu-ray/DVD Combo released on May 6th, 2014
Ingrid Pitt as Countess Elisabeth Nádasdy
Nigel Green as Captain Dobi the Castle Steward
Sandor Elès as Lt. Imre Toth
Maurice Denham as Master Fabio, Castle Historian
Patience Collier as Julie Sentash the Nurse
Peter Jeffrey as Captain Balogh
I often joke around and say that when I'm older I'm probably going to look like Benicio Del Toro in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. My youthful metabolism will slow from the years of abusing my right to McDonalds and affinity for ice cream, I'll grow weary of maintaining body hair and I'll just start sweating and swearing every time anyone ever speaks to me. With that being said, I still would not go through half of what Countess Elisabeth goes through to recapture and maintain her youthfulness in this film. In spite of her exhausting efforts, the movie is an enjoyable and appealing watch that horror fans should consider if they're looking for a sexy but tamer alternative in seventies horror.
Countess Dracula chronicles the life of the widow Elisabeth after she discovers that if she bathes in the blood of young women, she will lose her wrinkles, moles, grey hair and sagging breasts, and look rejuvenated and beautiful again. She uses this quirk to her advantage by pursuing the handsome (if you're into mustaches) Lt. Imre Toth by posing as her own daughter. Enlisting the help of her companion and steward, Captain Dobi, the two continue to capture and murder young women in the area to maintain Elisabeth's looks, because the spell is short-lived, and after it ends she looks older than she did before. Elisabeth struggles with her desire to be beautiful while Dobi tries to persuade her otherwise so that they can get married before she becomes an old hag beyond her years when there are no more young women to kill. The Castle Historian grows increasingly suspicious after he discovers a pretty poorly misplaced chapter about blood sacrifices in the library and Elisabeth and Dobi catch him snooping around. In exchange for his life, he offers the only knowledge that he has, which is the rest of the blood sacrifices chapter that Elisabeth and Dobi irresponsibly skimmed over, much like my Biology notes when I was in high school.
When it comes to Hammer Films, they typically seem to have an air of pop culture significance that makes them timeless, and Countess Dracula is no exception. Based on a 'true story' of the Hungarian Countess Erzsebet Bathory, who allegedly murdered and mutilated hundreds of young women, the plot is not remarkably interesting other than that because it is fairly predictable what the fate of the selfish Elisabeth is, but it is an enjoyable watch nonetheless. Countess Dracula isn't as wild as some of the exploitation horror films that would have been present in its decade, but it successfully manages to be an example of "less is more." Any scenes of blood or nudity catch the viewer off guard because of the rest of the film being primarily G-rated, which makes any bath of blood or slip of a brassiere worthy of a giggle or a shock. This film is no splatter-fest and it isn't really a psychological thriller, but it is a moral story on the dangers of vanity and how it could make you into a black-magic-usin', young-girl-killin', mustache-lovin' lunatic.
Video and Audio:
Presented in 1:66:1, the film's colour scheme is saturated but not grainy like other movies of the era might appear. With bright red blood that is iconic to seventies horror, it is aptly rendered on Blu-ray.
The DTS-HD 2.0 soundtrack causes the dialogue to be fairly quiet compared to any music, score or remotely loud sound, which is booming. This can be irritating for viewers because of having to constantly grab the remote to turn the volume up or down to suit what is happening in the scene.
English subtitles are available for the deaf or hard of hearing.
There special features are relatively sparse, but they are a goldmine for fans (or addicts) of the star of the film, Ingrid Pitt.
There is a seven-minute long stills gallery of black and white photos that are primarily headshots of Pitt. The selection is set to a hilariously overdramatic score which is just about as interesting as a still gallery can get.
The audio commentary featuring Pitt, Director Peter Sasdy, Screenwriter Jeremy Paul and Author Jonathon Sothcott is not particularly palatable or interesting. Sasdy and Paul frequently boast their intelligence, using phrases like "pardon my education" after using words that aren't especially 'educated' such as 'quasi'. Pitt, who would probably have been the most interesting to listen to, barely speaks at all, but intermittently throws in how much fun it was to do the movie. There are not any fun facts or interesting stories of trivia being relayed throughout the audio commentary, making it barely worth listening to.
There is a featurette entitled, "Immortal Countess: The Cinematic Life of Ingrid Pitt," which albeit interesting did warrant a few giggles upon viewing it. Pitt, the strong willed woman that she was, was a survivor of a work camp during the Second World War, and as she grew older she tirelessly pursued her dreams in acting. What's giggle worthy of the featurette is the cast of middle-aged male film historians who stammer when they talk about how sexy the starlet was in her early years of Hammer horror.
There is an archival audio interview of Pitt which is virtually unwatchable. For the eight- minute selection, I got to maybe two minutes in before I turned it off because the audio is so mumbled and hard to understand that I was catching every fifth or sixth word.
There is also a classic theatrical trailer which is as colourful and fun as the film itself.
Arguably the best of the special features is not available on the disc, but the reverse cover for the case; one side features a yellow silhouette of voluptuous woman, and the other side depicts a nude Countess Dracula standing in a graveyard. Obviously, the side with the nipples is much cooler.
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