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The Satanic Rites of Dracula

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The Satanic Rites of Dracula
Draculavampirebride.jpg
Film poster by Tom Chantrell under its American title
Directed by Alan Gibson
Produced by Roy Skeggs
Written by Don Houghton
Starring Christopher Lee
Peter Cushing
Joanna Lumley
Michael Coles
Music by John Cacavas
Cinematography Brian Probyn
Editing by Chris Barnes
Distributed by Hammer Studios
Universal Studios
Release date(s) 13 January 1974 (1974-01-13)
Running time 87 min.
Language English

The Satanic Rites of Dracula is a 1974 Hammer Horror film directed by Alan Gibson. It is the eighth film in the Hammer Dracula series, and the seventh and final to feature Christopher Lee as Dracula. The film also the third film to reunite Peter Cushing as Van Helsing with Christopher Lee together since Horror of Dracula (1958), and Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972).


Plot Edit

A Secret Service agent (Maurice O'Connell) barely escapes from an English country house, in which satanic rituals are celebrated. Before he dies of his wounds, he reveals to his superiors that four prominent members of society - a government minister, a peer, a general and a famous scientist - are involved in the cult, led by Chin Yang (Barbara Yu Ling). In order to avoid any reprisals by the minister, the secret service call in Scotland Yard's Inspector Murray (Michael Coles) to work on the case independently. Murray (who had appeared in the preceding Dracula film) suggests consulting noted occult expert Professor Lorrimar Van Helsing (Cushing).

The cult kidnaps the Secret Service secretary Jane (Valerie Van Ost), who is later bitten by Dracula (Lee).

Murray, Secret Service agent Torrence (William Franklyn), and Van Helsing's granddaughter Jessica (Joanna Lumley) arrive at the country house, where they discover several vampire women chained up in the cellar, including Jane who is now a vampire herself. Murray kills Jane with a stake and the three escape the grounds.

Meanwhile, Van Helsing pays a visit to his scientist friend Julian Keeley (Freddie Jones), whom he had recognized among the four conspirators, and finds him mentally unstable and involved on bacteriological research aiming at creating a virulent strain of the bubonic plague. Van Helsing is shot unconscious by a guard. As he comes to, Keeley's dead body hangs from the ceiling while the petri dishes containing the bacteria are gone.

Keeley had referred to the 23rd of the month, which Van Helsing reveals to be the "Sabbath of the Undead". Keeley's research notes lead Van Helsing to the reclusive property developer D. D. Denham, who had funded Keeley's research. Van Helsing also suspects a reincarnated Dracula behind the plot, suggests that Dracula wants to exact revenge on humanity and speculates about a secret death wish on the Count's part. Van Helsing visits Denham in his headquarters (built on top of the church yard where Dracula died in the previous film) and finds out his true identity: Count Dracula. He tries to shoot Dracula with a silver bullet but is beaten by the Count's conspirators. Dracula decides that killing Van Helsing would be too simple and has him transferred to the country house.

Meanwhile, Jessica, Murray and Torrence, while observing the country house, are attacked by snipers. Torrence is killed, while Murray and Jessica are captured. Murray awakes in the cellar and escapes the clutches of the female vampires, and later Chin Yang, revealed to be a vampire herself, just as Dracula arrives with Van Helsing.

Dracula announces to Van Helsing and the ministers that Jessica, who is laid out on the satanic altar, will be his consort, uncorrupted by the plague that his "four horsemen" – including Van Helsing – would carry out into the world. The conspirators, who had considered the plague a mere deterrent, not to be used, begin to question their master but Dracula's hypnotic command stops them and causes the minister John Porter (Richard Mathews) to break the vial, releasing the bacteria and immediately infecting the minister, causing him horrible suffering.

Murray runs into a guard in the computer room, but overpowers him after a fight scene. The guard's metal baton smashes a computer panel and the ensuing explosion starts a fire and breaks open the ritual room. The two uninfected conspirators escape, Murray rescues Jessica, while the infected minister - and the plague bacteria - burns in the fire. Dracula attacks Van Helsing, who escapes through a window into the woods. He lures Dracula into a hawthorn bush - a symbol of good as it provided Christ with his Crown of thorns - where he is entangled until Van Helsing drives a stake through his heart.

Cast Edit

Production Edit

The film included much of the original cast and characters of Dracula A.D. 1972, the main change being Joanna Lumley playing a more mature version of Jessica Van Helsing, as compared to Stephanie Beacham.

Work began on what was tentatively titled Dracula is Dead and Well and Living in London in November 1972. The title was a parody of the stage and film musical revue Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, but Lee was not amused. Speaking at a press conference in 1973 to announce the film, Lee said:

"I'm doing it under protest ... I think it is fatuous. I can think of twenty adjectives – fatuous, pointless, absurd. It's not a comedy, but it's got a comic title. I don't see the point."

The film was eventually retitled as The Satanic Rites of Dracula (the film's American title, Count Dracula and his Vampire Bride, has nothing to do with the film itself). It is a mixture of horror science fiction, and spy thriller with a screenplay by Don Houghton, a veteran of BBC's Doctor Who. It wrapped on January 3, 1973 – 15 years to the day since the original Hammer Dracula.

After the first installment and Dracula AD 1972, this was the third Dracula film to star Lee and Cushing opposite each other. It would also be the last, as Lee would only play Dracula one more time, in the 1976 French comedy Dracula père et fils ("Dracula father and son"), while Cushing would play Lawrence Van Helsing in Hammer's ninth Dracula instalment The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, which did not include Lee.

In the United States, the film was distributed as Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride. It was marketed with the tagline "Evil begets evil on the Sabbath of the undead!"

The original score was composed by television composer John Cacavas.

ReferencesEdit

  • Rigby, Jonathan, (2000). English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema. Reynolds & Hearn. ISBN 1-903111-01-3. 
  • Haining, Peter (1992). The Dracula Scrapbook. Chancellor Press. ISBN 1-85152-195-X. 

External linksEdit

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