Film Review: “Scars of Dracula” (1970)

A moment of passion, an angry father, a quick escape on a runaway coach and Paul found himself alone and at dead of night on the open road. An untended black coach provided Paul with a night of dreamless sleep, and in the morning the coach was no longer untended nor on the open road. It stood in the courtyard of a gaunt and eerie castle…the Castle of Count Dracula"

Synopsis

Instantly one has a sense of deja-vu as the audience is once again transported to the Hammer world of painted backdrops and papier-mache castles in what is supposed to be Transylvania. The camera takes an eternity to pan in closer to the ‘stone’ walls and by the time it arrives at a great window your bladder is just about screaming for relief. A dissolve takes us in through the window and we see an altar with the all too shiny satin cloak draped over it. If this is meant to be a continuation of Dracula’s demise from ‘Taste the Blood of Dracula’ how come the locale has inexplicably switched from a Victorian London church to Dracula’s Castle Transylvania circa 1905?

The cloak is liberally sprinkled with what must be Tomato Magic and then, in through the window a rubber bat makes a fabulous entrance, easily stealing the acting honours from the rest of the cast, squeaking, eyes blazing and upchucking blood all over Dracula’s cape. The blood reconstitutes the Tomato Magic and in a reverse re-run of the Count’s decomposition in ‘Taste the Blood of Dracula’s’ climax, Dracula is regenerated- just like that! If you take note, when the camera first enters the chamber everything is black but as Dracula is ‘reborn’ the wall behind him is painted with religious symbols- re: the movie before, and then all is black again. Things progress in similar fashion throughout the entire pic; night for day shoots being the best example.

Thunder booms- there is no storm, no clouds, no lightning, but Dracula is contractually obligated to get up and sneers at the appalling rubber prop flapping just over his head. Christopher Lee’s expression seems to register a sense of foreboding- yes, knowing that he is going to do ‘Dracula A.D. 1972’ and might have to chase hot pants and hang out at the ‘Cavern’ club! Oh the horror! In disgust at his own loss of credibility he lingers by the window for a bit scowling, having been upstaged by the bat and overlooks another sub-standard whip ‘round Elstree.

“Scars of Dracula” (1970)

Cut to a bright, sunny day and we see a gentleman staggering under the weight of the buxom young wench he is carrying. A close up reveals that she has severe acne or is sporting the ‘Scars of Dracula’. James Bernard’s ponderous score gives over to the Strings of Overstatement and then we are treated to another shot of those ghastly holes in the girl’s throat. The peasant looks strained- and it isn’t even that long a credit roll! He kicks in the door to the local Transylvanian inn where the yokels are quaffing steins of the local brew and discussing the All Ordinaries and the Nasdaq Indexes. The Innkeeper (Michael Ripper-who else!) tries to ‘act’ a look of surprise while Michael Gwynn as a perfectly coifed Priest espouses his poor man’s Latin over the dead body.

‘We must free ourselves’, cries the Innkeeper and there is much batting of eyelids, shifting and rolling of eyeballs, gasps and fixed stares. The Innkeeper instructs his wife to take the village women to the church where they’ll be safe. At once the village idiots (as ragged and tawdry a bunch ever to grace a Hammer film) set off for the castle because they know where the evil lies. The priest genuflects at a recycled roadside shrine and mutters some pidgin English as The Wild Bunch serve an eviction notice up at the castle. The Innkeeper is elected to do the dirty deed so he goes up and taps on a little window grate where a Monobrow is all that can be seen when the shutter slides open. The Innkeeper somehow convinces the Monobrow to ‘open up’ and the Cavalry storm the fortress, bent on destruction. They attempt to attain this objective by brandishing lethal garden equipment and burning faggots. One would imagine there wouldn’t be much difficulty burning down a painted backdrop, but the flames seem very contained indeed. The Monobrow turns out to be Dracula’s manservant Klove and someone starts abusing him but he laughs it off declaring the flames will never reach his master! The annoying bat tunes its radar to Dracula’s frequency and narks on the peasants’ bonfire building activities; it flaps hither and thither, the manservant scowls and the fake castle blazes on. Satisfied the villagers return to their church to inform the women how their soccer game went. The perfectly coifed Priest opens the door and OH MY GOD! Four plastic bats swoop over the heads of the villagers and inside- YUK! A terrible scene of mayhem and carnage is revealed, the women have been ripped to bits. It’s been a MASS-A-CREE! There is lots of fake blood splashed about and various close shots of the torn-up faces of the dead women. The orchestra overlays the point and then we are finally treated to the most ICKY one of all- the Innkeeper’s wife. She has a fake eye popped out and blood drips onto a candle.

It’s a birthday party for Sarah (Jenny Hanley) attended by ‘Terry’ from ‘Minder’, Dennis Waterman as would be lover, Simon. Gotta remember that this is 1970 and the other half of ‘Minder’, Arfer Daly (George Cole) is over on the ‘The Vampire Lovers’ set.

“Scars of Dracula” (1970)

“Speech,” says a ‘generous’ young man to Sarah and everyone takes up the chant giving the audience a glimpse of hideous hairstyles and muttonchops that belong over at the Handlebar Club. Then we are given a shot of her cleavage as she bends over an array of large phallic candles, reminiscent of dynamite. But it transpires that poor Simon is not the fuse that’ll make Sarah’s world go bang, but his brother Paul, not putting off till tomorrow what he can do today. Paul has been working late- continuing his studies at night school- anatomy perhaps, like in ‘The Horror of Frankenstein’? The Burgomaster’s daughter Alice does her best not to offend the censor by clasping the sheet firmly to her bosom. Paul counts the hours gonging off from the town square clock and realizes he’s late- he’s late, he’s late for a very important date! Quickly shoving his doodle into his pants he accidentally drops his bundle-err, a thingy wrapped up in brown paper. Alice’s suspicions are aroused and his buxom concubine accuses him of rushing out to meet another woman. My, such stamina! Despite her threats that she won’t let him go he splits the scene, Alice bringing up the rear with that sheet firmly in front. “I hate you,” she shouts, “hate, hate, hate, you!” Thus echoing the sentiments of a nauseated audience who are treated to a flash of her naked bum. Yes, briefly the censor has nodded off to sleep right when a moment of quivering, pasty buttocks fill the frame. Oh, shame, shame, shame!

Alice pursues Paul down the stairs and he is confronted at the front door by the Burgomaster (Bob Todd). Knowing that she’s in some deep shit Alice lies, says that Paul has tried to rape her; the Burgomaster is enraged and as Paul makes his escape, two ineffectual servants give chase.

Back at Sarah’s polka party things are really swinging- the cake is disappearing and the punch is flowing-even the cravats get their turn to dazzle the audience! Simon thinks it’s about time he got the jump on that oversexed brother of his and gives Sarah a ring. She “Ooohs,” but doesn’t “Ahhh!” Damn! Paul rocks up spinning a whoppa about his being late and gives his gift to Sarah- of course its not what she really wants but she’ll have to make do with her cameo in a cracked frame. Paul is unhappy that the glass has broken and takes it back, reassuring Sarah that he will have it fixed. The trackers turn up and Paul must make a quick escape, plummeting out of a window and plunging through the roof of a convenient carriage. Making a hasty getaway with stunt double on board he rushes by the Douanne Station to the crack of rifle shots and onward- right outta town! The suspense, the pounding music, the tension- its soooo exciting! Luckily Paul is knocked off the coach by a low hanging branch- but sadly he is not seriously injured- as we had hoped.

“Scars of Dracula” (1970)

Back in Klienburgh Simon escorts Sarah to her home and they share an intimate moment - Sarah confessing that she is attracted to Paul. Why Simon isn’t crushed by this information we’ll never know because he’s better looking than his brother for a start and besides, he’s the one in a popular television show!

Wolves howl and Paul treks through a day-for-night-forest and comes upon the Hammer Hut but since it’s only a facade he skirts it and raps on the Inn door instead. Julie, the tavern wench (sporting another monstrous hair do) pokes her head out of an upper window and advises him that the only accommodation he’ll find around here is the Hotel Dracula. But this is a ‘Horror’ movie so she decides to loosen her cleavage and let him in, even though her employer has given her strict instructions against such idiocy.

“Couldn’t you stretch a point?” asks Paul after she gives him the run down on why she shouldn’t be letting him in- and her eyes are looking directly at his crotch. I kid you not! They begin fondling each other and the Innkeeper interrupts and the Carriage of Cataclysm rumbles by outside. Ejected into the night Paul sets off in search of Dracula’s abode and perchance stumbles upon a black carriage in the middle of the wood. Naturally he gets in and falls asleep. Klove has been out deer hunting and has a fake animal slung over his shoulder. Not realizing that Paul has made himself comfy in the back- exhausted after all his sexy shenanigans, the Monobrow whips his courtesy coach off to the castle. When Paul wakes up he finds himself looking at a bad sculpture of a raven, the smoke machine fires up in a feeble attempt to conceal the low budget sets and whoops! Paul almost slips over a precipice, endangering his manhood. Can’t have that happening now can we, not to such a horny young chappy! He looks down upon a dodgy painting of the plunge to perdition and is attacked by the rubber bat. Cleavage appears so he fakes a twisted ankle; so the cleavage invites him into the Hotel. Coyly she avoids all of his questions, but, ah! His charms strike her like a mallet blow to the head and she whispers huskily- “I’ll have a room prepared.” Now how’s that for luck! While she is gone Paul takes to fiddling about with the castle’s cutlery and is sprung by Dracula who seems awfully aloof- as if he’s just pretending to be in the picture and would much rather be admired as a statue.

“I am Dracula,”

“I am Dracula,” Chris intones as he offers the offensive youth a refreshment from his vast collection of ‘reds’. The cleavage comes back and is introduced as Tania. Meaningful glances are exchanged; Klove won’t be left out of the party and puts in his Monobrow then accompanies Paul to his room. The violins begin a symphony of Hunger because Paul has yet to eat but the room service isn’t the best at the castle so he’ll have to go to bed without supper. Dracula gets a taste of Tania and it gives him a dreadful case of pinkeye.

Enter Paul’s room. WOW! It looks as if it has been decorated by Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen! But nothing gives off an aura of Feng Shui- there is an awful lot of red. He crosses to the window, opens it and looks out at a painted mountain backdrop. The Clarinet of Contemplation tootles on the soundtrack as Sarah’s portrait once again makes an appearance. Off comes Paul’s clothes- he isn’t going to use her pic as a stick mag?! Please NO! Thankfully our pigeon-chested hero is distracted by a knock at the door. It is the delectable Tania in a see-through negligee. A wolf whistles at her from the forest- YEAH BABY! And while espousing her pseudo feministic crud about being held prisoner (that old chestnut again) and wanting to be set free and other such nonsense Paul ogles her negligee. Is Paul really a new age sensitive guy or just a lecherous lothario on the make? We’ll take the latter because he shuts her up by fucking her. I quote from the terrible novel based on this film by Angus Hall- “…he forced himself inside her soft pink center.” YUKKY! The candles flicker as we pan to the open window and then pan back again- it’s like a game of ping pong. Behind the bed curtains Tania has woken up and has obviously enjoyed herself- she’s smiling, but my, hasn’t she got BIG teeth!

She is a vampire!? and cannot resist the temptation- it all proves too tantalizing to sink them into Paul’s ‘throbbing’ vein. Dracula tears back the curtain with aforementioned cutlery in hand, flings Paul across the room (we are treated to a ‘brief’ glimpse of his red undies) and stabs Tania Twenty two times in the torso! Dracula goes down on Tania (but the censor must have awoken at this point and demanded the removal of him sucking). A cock crows and Paul lives to letch another day, or maybe not. He finds that he is locked in his room, so Rapunzel-like he knots those red curtains together and fastens them at the window and begins a perilous descent down the painted backdrop to a window below. He jumps into a room containing a black coffin and someone steals the curtains- Klove in a dastardly act to imprison the sex bomb for crimes against good taste. Hopelessly trapped Paul opens the coffin and takes a peek within and you just know that Dracula is in there and he ain’t gonna be a happy vampire.

Cut to the Inn. The Tavern Scrubber Julie is scrubbing the cockles and mussels alive, alive O! The perfectly coifed Priest, obviously a regular at this local boozer watches two Keystone Cops come in complaining about the lack of variety in the liquor barn. They’re lookin’ to arrest Paul and the Scrubber narks to the dismay of the Priest. Realising that another trip ‘round Elstree might exhaust them they opt out of the chase and leave.

Meanwhile, back at the Castle, Klove has seconded Ingrid Pitt’s hip bath, fills it with acid and sets about cleaning up the mess in Paul’s room. A nasty splinter is sticking out of Tania’s guts and he’s going to fix that by chopping her up and dissolving her in the acid. Sarah’s portrait watches on vacuously.

Simon and Sarah take a hayride into the Transylvanian Alps and gabble on about the whereabouts of Paul, (as if anyone cares!) while Klove continues with his amateur butchery. Arriving at the Inn our two young people don’t go down too well with the locals. The shifty wagon-driver proffers them some paltry advice about not staying at this Inn for supper (no doubt because the room service is simply terrible). Question: Would you accept advice from a man with a hat like that? No wonder they ignore him and go in for some steinlager and brandy. The Innkeeper asks our intrepid adventurers if they are holidaying students and that, wink, nudge, wink; it’s the best time of their lives! No doubt his inn is a great place to hang out for a vacation but no, they want none of that, they want info. Simon is not convinced when he is told that his brother must have taken a left turn at Albuquerque rather than swingin’ by Romania and upon protesting, both of them are flung out of the inn. Once again the Scrubber narks and is not only a buxom tavern wench but also the local Street Directory- she tells them to take the mountain road and head for the pass. It proves a long trek and all the while Sarah whines about her desires for Paul- why Simon doesn’t give her up is not made clear but instead he puts the moves on her and she…wait for it…ACCEPTS! The rubber bat appears doing some lethargic push-ups just above their heads- of course they fail to notice.

“Scars of Dracula” (1970)

Klove now possesses Sarah’s portrait so that into the late hours he can abuse his own manservant. Simon and Sarah arrive at Dracula’s chateau set and are harassed by the mangy bat thing on strings. Managing to flee from its ‘attack’ (and a lame man could manage it) they enter Dracula’s stronghold. They meet the gentleman himself and he refuses to give any credence to their silly story about a rubber bat and instead puts the pinkeye on Sarah. She faints (from exhaustion) and is promptly carted off to the room Paul was fucking in. It must be the Honeymoon Suite. Simon has to make do with a lumpy couch.

In the red room some ‘sheer’ night attire is laid out for Sarah, like she’s been expected, and while she dons the skimpy p-jays Klove regales Simon with a boring re-run of the naughty villagers attempts to burn down the castle. Uh, oh! The Count’s just polished off three scoobs of Transylvanian Heads and has a serious case of the munchies- and there’s no Pizza Hut in site! Look’s like the new cleavage will have to make do. But damn, she’s wearing…an anchovy? around her neck. From Dracula’s expression the thing stinks and he calls for Klove to come and remove the offending thing. Poor Simon has been drugged so he’s out of it and Klove won’t remove the anchovy because he recognizes the girl as the same face in the cracked portrait. Klove bolts, Dracula wrinkles up his face in disgust and the hairy fish stays nestled in between Sarah’s tits.

The next morning Sarah awakens and tells Simon that she had a bad dream involving pizza toppings. He thinks to himself that it all sounds rather sexual, what with the fish and all, and brings her broth for breakfast. He then searches the castle for Klove and finds Sarah’s portrait tucked under the mattress. In a disturbing scene Simon discovers the truth about Klove- that he might have appeared in another Mexican exploitation opus ‘Lash of the Penitents’ and that Klove is not repentant. Klove offers to help the couple ‘get away before its too late,” because Dracula is an evil man and will do terrible things to them. The dynamic-duo escape by the skin of their teeth and reconnoiter the courtesy coach, fleeing back to the village.

Back at the tavern of Meaningful Glances the perfectly coifed Priest hears the coach arrive and expects a cathartic Catholic catastrophe. Any excuse to touch up on his abysmal Latin. The youth’s enter the somber tavern and beg the help of the local layabouts. Nobody offers to assist because they are obviously made out of cardboard. The situation seems hopeless and Simon wants to go it alone, but the Priest forsakes the pub and offers them the safety of more sanctimonious surrounds, his church-(that’s right, the one where the rubber bats ripped up all of the women!) He also offers them his services even though he proved useless last time, suggesting that he and Simon get together for some tag team vampire busting; thus setting up the ‘classic’ rules of the buddy action thriller of the 70’s and 80’s. The Innkeeper advises the tavern tart Julie that she shouldn’t leave, especially not at night, but she’s had enough of having to nark and won’t hear his crap anymore. He tries to scare her by telling her that Dracula had sent out his remote controlled rubber bats to murder all of the town’s women, including his wife but the Scrubber has scrubbed one too many times and takes the hike.

At the castle Dracula tries out a new shish-kebab recipe on Klove’s back with a hot sword. Punishment for letting lunch get away.

Back at the church the truth is finally out- vampire bats drink the blood of animals and human vampires- the blood of human being! Crikey, who’d of thunk it? But wait, there’s more! Sarah’s anchovy is actually a cross after all and vampires are not Catholic. She toys with the cross and so that Simon doesn’t feel left out the perfectly coifed Priest gives Simon his own rosary.

Air traffic Control gives the all clear for the bat to circle a flight pattern above the forest where Julie just happens upon a black coach. (Ummm, hasn’t this happened before?) In any case she hops in and is transported back to the castle where the maitre de has a severe case of pinkeye again! Typically, he puts the bite on her and the Scrubber goes down.

The perfectly coifed Priest escorts Paul to the recycled roadside shrine but wimps out when he sees “The bat! The bat!” and Paul is forced to continue the trip alone. The priest cowers back to the ‘safety’ of the church to ‘protect’ Sarah whom they have ‘wisely’ left by herself. At the castle Simon connives to trick Klove into letting him into the lobby and then smashes up the furniture to use as a makeshift stake and lowers a rope from the red-room window. He climbs down the perilous descent just like his brother before him, but crafty Klove cuts the hemp and Simon is only saved from falling into the canvas by the string of rosary beads about his neck getting caught on a gargoyle’s horn. He clambers into the Count’s bedchamber as a storm is brewing and finds Dracula in his open coffin. Klove takes back the rope and sniggers. The special effects department take over when Simon tries to stake the vampire by superimposing…(what do you think?…pinkeye of course!) over Dracula’s eyelids. This spooky effect proves all too much for our insipid hero and he passes out.

Meanwhile, back at the chapel trouble has started. The bat flaps in on its wire and zooms Sarah’s way. Artfully she waves her hands about to guard it off and ‘Run!’ declares the priest. The bat is not going to take such intervention lightly and makes hamburger out of the minister’s face. Sarah gasps her way on a leisurely jog through the Transylvanian countryside, heaving her bosom while the plastic bat keeps a glassy eye on her slow progress.

Simon discovers Paul’s corpse strung up on a meat hook in Dracula’s bedchamber and Dracula, having awoken, tells him that Sarah is on her way back to the castle. Even he thinks it is as stupid a plot device as could be conjured as you see- the BAT TOLD HIM SO!

It’s broad daylight in the forest and yet thunder crashes overhead and its night on the sets at Castle Dracula. The Count brushes up on his rock climbing training and shimmies up the castle wall leaving Simon to contemplate how the hell he is going to get out of a room without a door. One wonders if Sarah is ever going to get to the chateau, but in a sensible twist of logic she follows the smoke machine and is finally at the castle. “Simon”, she calls out lamely, jiggling into the castle door which slams shut as lightning flashes and thunder roars. She returns to the honeymoon suite and opens the window. Don’t ask, it just happens. At this point Klove must thinks all of his Christmases have come at once because Sarah opens the door and the Monobrow is there! Oh, that eyebrow, it scares her silly. Dracula puts in another token appearance and is not going to let Klove get his dirty fingers on this bit of sticky crumpet and a case of dueling eyeballs ensues. Sarah is saved by the Holy Cross of Anchovy and makes for the castle parapets. Klove strings another length of hemp down to Simon then he’s off to see what he can do about stopping another outbreak of pinkeye. Dracula finds the remote control to his rubber bat and has it remove the cross from Sarah’s bosom with its teeth. Lots of blood drips into her cleavage. Klove makes the scene and is ruthlessly tossed over the battlements, a suitable ending for such a squalid little man. Dracula moves in on Sarah who backs away- the timid, helpless little thing that she is. Simon climbs up the rope and arrives on the battlement set, easily dislodging a handy length of iron and hurling it at the vampire, getting not quite a bull’s eye, but nonetheless a good strike to the guts. Dracula not only rock climbs but has taken javelin as well, plucks the spike from his body and lifts it above his head, preparing to throw it at Simon. God intervenes and Dracula finds himself a Conductor, but not one ‘On The Buses’, but one electrical. 200,000 volts of hot stuff fry the vampire’s stunt double who does a belly flop off the parapet receiving a score of Three from the judges.

“Scars of Dracula” (1970)

The last of Hammer’s ‘Gothic’ Dracula series, (excluding the execrable ‘The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires’) ‘Scars of Dracula’ is without doubt their most vacuous attempt at clinging to the ‘old school’ regime while the world was growing up and moving into modern times. That same year ‘Count Yorga Vampire’ proved that a vampire story could still be scary, but Hammer were not taking notice. Christopher Lee looks suitably embarrassed with the turgid proceedings, relegated (thankfully) to a minor player in a dull and shoddy tale that fails to inject any life whatsoever into its tepid plot. The special effects are atrocious, and it beggars the question as to why Hammer went with the bat thingy as it failed to be convincing in ‘The Brides of Dracula’ and ruined the climax of ‘Kiss of the Vampire’. James Bernard has written a laboured melody and offsets this with as emphatic a commotion as he can and lastly, but most tragically of all, Roy Ward Baker just doesn’t seem to care, no doubt telephoning in his sloppy and pedestrian direction from a holiday resort in the Bahamas.