Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1970)
It's hard to be critical of a film that's opening scenes feature the wonderful Roy Kinnear. Luckily, with Taste The Blood Of Dracula, I don't have to be. Not only is it an intelligently written, beautifully filmed tale which takes the Dracula idea and expands on it, but it actually follows on from the last one (Dracula Has Risen From The Grave) - and not in a crappy "Don't go there, that's Castle Dracula - where once, terrible things happened" kind of way, either. Even the rather lurid title makes sense.
After getting lobbed out of his coach "What a way to travel, eh?" old Roy finds Dracula writhing on his cross, tears of blood pouring from his eyes (which, if we all remember correctly, is the way the last film finished - whaddya mean you fell asleep?). As the body dissolves leaving just a bit of red powder paint, a cloak and some jewellery, old Roy has an idea...
"Dracula... Dracula's blood..."
After the credits a bunch of stiff-upper-lipped Victorians make their way out of church, and once they get home, frumpy Alice (the soon-to-be-gorgeous Linda Hayden) is berated by her father for "smiling and flirting" with a young man.
Of course dad is William Hargood, one of a trio of typically hypocritical Victorian men who spend their days bossing people about and once a week indulge in "pleasures of the flesh" at an East End Brothel (whilst telling everyone they're doing charity work).
So, to the cries of "'ot potaters..." the threesome make their way into Limehouse and start the shagging, opium abuse and whatever else passed for fun in those days. However, their (rather odd-looking) debauchery is cut short by Lord Courtley (Ralph Bates), who crashes the party and whips away Madeleine Smith without so much as a by-your-leave (personally I'd ask for my money back...)
Felix the bald pouf who runs the establishment tells them: "If I weren't religious I'd say he was possessed... possessed of the devil..."
Intrigued, they go to the mystery man for advice on how to further their experience, and he carts them off to Kinnear's shop where they are told: "These pieces belonged to the most evil man of all time... Dracula."
"We'll pay the price," says Hargood.
"You'll be repaid a thousand times," Courtley tells them.
"And may the devil take good care of you," adds Kinnear.
The three make their way to an abandoned church, where Courtley drinks the reconstituted blood (probably not a good idea) and promptly expires, begging for help from the other three (who've all bottled it). They give him a good kicking, realise he's dead and leg it, Tucker Jenkins-style.
Of course, that's not the end, nay it's but the beginning, as thanks to the powers of dodgy zooms, dry ice, backwards sand blowing and red contact lenses (never pleasant), Dracula is re-born. "They have destroyed my servant," he deadpans. "They will be destroyed."
The three make their way to their respective homes, and try to get on with normal life. But it isn't long before Alice gets caught coming back from a party and Hargood (gazing uncomfortably at her ample charms) tells her: "I haven't beaten you... since you were a little girl..."
She runs away, straight into Dracula, and before you can say "the first..." she's twatted Hargood in the head with a spade. "Nasty, that..." says copper Michael Ripper, the next morning.
Of course, Dracula soon gets busy with the other sons and daughters, too. Paxton gets staked by his vampirised daughter Lucy after he refuses to put her out of her misery ("the second..."), and Secker, on being shot by Paxton for suggesting it might be a good idea, makes it home and drafts a letter of warning before his pointy-toothed son (Martin Jarvis) finishes him of with a knife ("the third..." the audience cheerfully anticipates).
Our hero and Alice's beau, Paul, finds the letter and reads it: "Find her, Paul! Find her before it is too late! Find her!" (Not bad writing for a man who'd been shot in the arm). He finds the church, does a spot of redecorating, and when Dracula makes an appearance he realises he's in a church and promptly expires.
What makes Taste The Blood... ace is not the ending (which quite frankly is a bit shite - Dracula resorting to chucking stuff at the goodies from a balcony before realising-oops-he's been in a church for practically the whole film), it's all the other stuff. Rather than re-inventing the Dracula story with Kung Fu or modern settings, it takes the original times and places Stoker was writing about, thinks what it can do with them, and comes up with an idea all its own. To be honest, Dracula doesn't have to be in it at all - it could work equally well as a Victorian era Blood On Satan's Claw (the films are remarkably similar). Fantastic stuff - only let down by being in the middle of the turgid Dracula Has Risen From The Grave and the bad, bad, bad (and I don't mean bad in the Michael Jackson way) Scars Of Dracula.
Last updated: February 27, 2010