Satanic Rites of Dracula
Reviewed by David Conner
Rating: 5.5 Beans
his is the next-to-last movie in Hammer's series of Dracula movies (the last being, on something of a technicality, the kung-fu/vampire classic "Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires"). It features Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as a Van Helsing family member.
The movie is set in modern times, and is a direct follow-up to "Dracula A.D. 1972," which was set in the hip, mod, swinging London of the time. This movie, however, is set in the decidedly unswinging official London of government agents, bureaucrats, and corporate headquarters. I was a bit disappointed by this, frankly. "Satanic Rites" attempts to cross the spy and horror genres, with limited success. Looking at it today, I really would have liked to see this combined with the "swinging London" of "Dracula A.D. 1972." Wouldn't "Austin Powers vs. Dracula" be a great idea for a movie? I'll have to send a letter to Mike Myers about that....
Anyhow, the plot involves Dracula acting as a Howard Hughes-type reclusive billionaire, using his wealth and power to unleash a deadly bubonic plague on the world. It's an unusual premise, one I thought made for a good change of pace. Lee and Cushing are good, as always. In fact, Peter Cushing's presence alone is usually enough to subtract 2 or 3 Beans from a movie.
Unfortunately, the movie falls down in execution. For one thing, it's a James Bond-level premise with a BBC-level budget, and simply looks cheap in many scenes. For instance, Dracula's office looks more suited to some middle management peon than the CEO of a huge corporation.
The vampire death scenes also leave something to be desired. In one scene, a number of vampires are killed by "running water" - in this case, a fire sprinkler system. Which raises a few questions:
1. Given that this place is owned and operated by a vampire, is a sprinkler system something you'd really want here?
2. Will the invention of the Super Soaker spell the permanent end of the vampire scourge?
Count Dracula's own demise is a bit lacking, too. Earlier in the movie, Van Helsing ticks off a list of vampire death methods. In addition to the usual, he mentions one I'd never heard before - "the crown of thorns." Foreshadowing alert!!! Yes, this obscure method is later used by Van Helsing to off Dracula. How? By, um, getting Dracula to, um, walk into a bush. No, I'm not making this up.
This scene is what pushes "Satanic Rites" over the line from being a pretty good, entertaining movie, to an entertaining Bad Movie.
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