Directed by Terence Fisher, Dracula: Prince of Darkness takes place in 1895, a decade after the events of Horror of Dracula, Hammer Film Productions’ 1958 film starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.
The film begins with the final scenes from Horror of Dracula, showing Dracula’s death at the hands of Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). Using a makeshift crucifix, Van Helsing forces Count Dracula into the destructive rays of the sun. Dracula (Christopher Lee) is destroyed and crumbles to dust in the sunlight.
10 years later, Father Sandor (Andrew Keir) is traveling the English countryside. He happens across a mob of villagers who are going to stake a woman through the heart – for fear that she is a vampire. Sander prevents the staking and chastises the presiding priest for perpetuating the fear of vampirism.
Sandor visits an inn where he meets the Kents – a quartet of travelers. The group is comprised of two brothers, Charles and Alan Kent (Francis Matthews and Charles Tingwell) and their wives, Diana (Suzan Farmer) and Helen (Barbara Shelley).
Sandor and the travelers strike up a conversation, wherein they explain what brings them to the Carpathian Mountains – they’re on a tour of Eastern Europe. Sandor invites them to stay a few days at his monastery in Kleinburg but, as Helen points out, they have a schedule to keep – one that leads them to Karlsbad, the home of Count Dracula.
This is all a little confusing – considering the castle of Count Dracula is located in Klausenberg (Romania) in Horror of Dracula. Anyway, Sandor warns the four Englishmen to stay away from Karlsbad but, because this is a goddamn Dracula movie, they ignore his priestly advice.
As night approaches, the Kents find themselves stranded by their superstitious coach driver two kilometers from Karlsbad, in view of a spooky old castle. A driverless carriage takes them to the castle where they find a dining table set for four. A servant named Klove (Philip Latham) explains that his master, the late Count Dracula, ordered that the castle should always be ready to welcome strangers.
After dinner, the Kents settle in their rooms. Later that night, Alan investigates a strange noise and follows Klove to the crypt, where he is promptly murdered by Dracula’s servant. Alan’s blood is mixed with Dracula’s ashes, reviving the legendary Count Dracula.
1966’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness is a worthy follow-up to Horror of Dracula and it’s 1960 sequel,The Brides of Dracula. While not as effective or as well-written as its predecessor, Prince of Darkness is a Hammer Horror film through and through, with lavish set designs, exquisite costumes and impressive special effects.
With Fisher’s signature eerie atmosphere and James Bernard’s haunting musical score, Dracula: Prince of Darkness is a colorful, violent horror classic worthy of the Hammer name. It should be noted that Christopher Lee barely has a word of dialogue here save a few hisses, yet his silent, feral approach to the classic character is just as iconic as Bela Lugosi’s.
The Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release, distributed by Millennium Media, includes an audio commentary featuring Christopher Lee, Suzan Farmer, Francis Matthews and Barbara Shelley as well as the World of Hammer episode “Hammer Stars: Christopher Lee.”
Also included is Back to Black, a brand-new documentary about the making of Dracula: Prince of Darkness, a restored theatrical trailer, a restoration comparison, and stills gallery. The Blu-ray also includes five exclusive collectible cards depicting classic moments from the film.
All in all, if you’re a Hammer fan you absolutely must own this Collector’s Edition Blu-ray. I wish Hammer Films would release a giant Blu-ray box set, similar to last year’s Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection. It seems like distribution rights for these films are all over the place (Scream Factory recently releases The Vampire Lovers on Blu-ray) but hopefully Millennium Media snags the rights for a few more Hammer Horror releases in the future – because this 1080p restoration is simply gorgeous.