TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970)
Definitely an atypical sequel. And definitely a product of its time. Unfortunately it's traded one set of weaknesses for another set.
Thematically it is somewhat more interesting than what's proceeded it. This is a film about the sins of the elders and the retribution for their sins delivered by the youth. That's certainly an appropriate theme for the era and tells us exactly where Hammer thought its bread was buttered. It also presents a change from the previous decade when Hammer had a more adult tendency with middle aged leads.
The climax of DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE is revisited, with a traveling salesman finding his way to the site and scooping up the dried blood of Dracula as well as his signet ring, clasp, and cape. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense that he could be there without someone objecting. And, in the ever shifting continuity, Castle Dracula is once again readily approachable.
The narrative then shifts to London, first time in the series, as we're introduced to three "respectable" gentlemen Hargood (Geoffrey Keen), a puritanical tyrant at home, Paxton (Peter Sallis), who's defined as being weak willed, and Secker (John Carson), who really has no discernible personality but seems to be the know-it-all who moves the plot forward. And their children who are involved in various romantic entanglements. Jeremy Secker (Martin Jarvis) loves Lucy Paxton (Isla Blair). Paul Paxton (Anthony Higgins) loves Alice Hargood (Linda Hayden). Alice's father doesn't approve.
Turns out that the "respectable" gentlemen have a secret. Once a month they go out to engage in debauchery. And they've grown bored with it. Enter Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates) who seems to have ideas that they're lacking. They agree to sell their souls to the Devil, for the experience, buy the blood of Dracula from the salesman now set up in London, and then proceed to an abandoned church for a black mass. And chicken out. Courtley ends up drinking the reconstituted blood of Dracula, acts poisoned, and gets beaten to death by the gentlemen. They flee and Dracula rises from the corpse, 60s special effects style, with the promise of revenge for their destroying his servant. Things proceed from there with Dracula using the offspring as his instruments of destruction.
It's a far more interesting film through the resurrection than it is elsewhere. First of all, there's tits in the brothel scenes. And who can complain about that, even if it was brief flashes easily editable out for television? It was the first Dracula movie to get an R rating, after the surprisingly G rated previous film. It's nicely decadent.
Follow that up with a pretty good black mass scene in a pretty terrific abandoned church set and it's off to a good start. But, like several Hammer films, it doesn't know what to do once Dracula is revived.
Reportedly, Dracula wasn't even supposed to be in this film, but WB wouldn't distribute a Dracula film without Dracula. So, instead of Lord Courtley having his revenge, Dracula steps in. Only problem is that I can't buy Dracula giving a toss about one of his servants. And, even then, I can't see him handling things as indirectly as Dracula does here. Lee's pretty much a glorified cameo basically keeping count of the bodies. He basically hypnotizes and bites the children so that they can carry out his revenge. Lee gets to look imposing, but it's probably his least interesting appearance to date. Added to that, I just can't picture Dracula on the side of innocent youth.
And, again, the focus shifts to the youth and their romantic difficulties. Without anything of interest coming out of it. O.k., the women are attractive, but it's a thoroughly bland set of characters otherwise. With distracting modern haircuts to boot. The absence of a single actor as compelling as Peter Cushing really hampers the film.
The revenges start out pretty well though. Harwood, drunk, catches his daughter coming back into her bedroom at night and wants to beat her. At first you thought he didn't like Paul because of his father, but I think the scene makes it clear that Harwood has lustful, sadomasochistic desires towards his own daughter. He deserves all that's coming to him, which is a sharp-edged shovel to the head courtesy of his hypnotized daughter that's just bloody enough to be convincing.
The death of the weakwilled Paxton is also pretty solid. He ends up getting staked by Lucy, turned vampire, and the hypnotized Alice. A vampire staking a live victim is a nice ironic turn.
And that's pretty much it for interest as far as the plot goes. Paul eventually gets the news that Dracula is behind it all after Secker is killed, he reads a book, and heads out to the abandoned church to save Lucy, who somehow hasn't been turned into a vampire despite being with Dracula for several days. Apparently Dracula only can accomplish about 10 minutes worth of story a night. He basically undoes the desecration of the church which comes alive at the climax and destroys Dracula for him in a very ho hum climax.
This is a fairly decent looking film though. Particularly the exterior church yard locations, the brothel interior, and the abandoned church. The other sets aren't as good, but the big ones work. It's also a film that doesn't have the annoying continuity errors of the previous one.
It's a more interesting film than PRINCE OF DARKNESS at least. And there's thematic interest. But the plot is really rote following Dracula's resurrection and the movie ends flatly. There's promise of much more, but it can't deliver. The lack of a strong lead opposite Lee being one problem, common to several of the Dracula films after Cushing. But bungling the ending is a new problem for Hammer. Hit and miss despite a promising opening.