‘Taste The Blood of Dracula’ or — The Sins of The Fathers?

‘Taste The Blood of Dracula’ (1970) is an odd Dracula film, possibly because it’s not really about Dracula. Or vampires for that matter. But what it is about — middle-aged parental hypocrisy, guilt and abuse — might be somewhat more interesting.

It’s Victorian London and three upright and distinguished gentlemen have forbidden their young, but grown-up, children to attend parties. These are immoral affairs after all and they belong to respectable families who engage in charitable work. Having suitably chastised their offspring these three gentlemen then head off into the night… to relax at the local brothel to take drugs and indulge in sordid, sexual activities. I guess they are giving it to the poor after all.

However, when their orgy is interrupted by the arrogant Lord Courtley the three men become fascinated by his tales of even greater pleasures, pleasures more ecstatic than those of the flesh. Curious, these three middle-aged sensation seekers follow Courtley to an abandoned church and engage in a ceremony involving dried blood. But when Courtley chokes on a goblet of his own juice the three men feel duped and beat the young Lord to death.

Shaken at their murderous crime the friends return home, vowing to never speak of what has happened to a living soul. The only problem is that the ceremony might have worked after all and it might not be a living soul that these three hypocrites have to worry about.

What’s immediately striking about ‘TTBOD’ is that it the middle-aged fathers who are the ones seeking the hedonistic delights of Dracula and not the youngsters, as can so often be the case. Indeed, it is their children who will pay the price for their father’s crime. This adds a different angle and focus and even though it relegates Dracula to almost a background figure who simply pops up for the murders it’s because the story isn’t really about the Count this time.

Plus, vampirism isn’t the threat here but fatherly abuse. Indeed, you could argue the daughters are better off WITH the Count than their own dads. There’s one scene in particular that’s pretty unsettling when Geoffrey Keen’s pater familias darkly enters his daughter’s bedroom to chastise her and we have NO idea just how far it is going to go or just what it is he wants to do to her; no wonder she buggers off.

This is the focus of the story and the film and it’s all about how retribution will be visited on these three toxic parents. Although this lack of vampire action could put some people off (nobody gets bitten until over an hour in!) and Dracula is nothing more than a Scooby Doo villain of the week — we know nothing about him or what he wants and he’s simply there to administer death, but this makes for an effective malevolent presence even if what kills him off in the end is a case of vertigo. Slight spoiler — I did like it when Dracula goes bonkers at the end and just starts chucking stuff, including pipe organ pipes, at our heroes.

The story is simple, effectively told and with the director having a firm grip on the plot, characters and tone. The pacing is brisk (maybe a little too brisk — at one point a character speed-reads a book on vampirism during a montage sequence so BANG, he’s now a vampire expert), the logic straight-forward and all the fates feel inevitable and satisfying. It does all get a little silly towards the end and the lack of vampire presence throughout the rest of the movie means when it does rear its head in the third act it feels a tad jarring (oh, so we’re dealing with vampires now, even though nobody has mentioned them before until now in this world) but everything is moving along so spritely that it’s all over before you know it.

I really enjoyed ‘Taste The Blood of Dracula’. Yes, Christopher Lee is side-lined but it’s not his movie; it’s about the fathers and the three actors playing these parents give strong and committed performances, taking the material absolutely seriously and with the aforementioned Geoffrey Keen giving a particularly nasty, yet impressive, turn.

Less hoary than other entries (there’s a hand-held shot that includes a modern yale lock that feels way more unintentionally modern than any of the Dracula films set in the 70s) and with an emphasis on human treachery rather than supernatural threats ‘Taste The Blood of Dracula’ is a refreshing alternative in the Hammer Horror series and most certainly worth taking a sip of.

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Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.

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Colin Edwards

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.