Countess Dracula (1971)

In which Ingrid Pitt inadvertently discovers that the blood of younger women is really good for removing her old woman makeup. Well, not exactly, but you know what I mean. More precisely, Ingrid Pitt plays a recently widowed countess who finds her share of her erstwhile husband’s will is split between her and their daughter Ilona. Now, since the countess is a greedy old bitch, there’s only one logical next step: have herself a merry little bloodbath to rejuvenate herself and pretend to be Ilona while also having the real Ilona conveniently hidden away. Complications ensue when “Ilona” attracts a young admirer along with Elizabeth’s older one, and when she discovers that when the blood wears off she winds up looking older than before. This is a Hammer production, hence why I was a bit surprised to find it as part of one of those Rank Classic three-packs that are turning up a lot lately, but Rank did distribute some Hammers around that time, evidently… plus it’s late-period Hammer, too, released at the end of January 1971 just after the return of Michael Carreras to the family company, when the studio were slightly adrift and struggling with the loss of various key personnel. Sinclair McKay says in his book on Hammer about Scars of Dracula how even the celluloid looked different, which is true of this too, it doesn’t look somehow like the old Hammers did… everything about it seems greyer, a bit shabbier somehow. By drawing on the legend of old Lizzie Bathory, Hammer were obviously reaching for something a bit different to the Dracula and Frankenstein sequels they were still clinging to, and it was a nice try but somehow it doesn’t quite work, the overall effect is kind of flat. Of course, later in 1971 Hammer would really reach for something different with On the Buses, whereupon the decline would REALLY begin…

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