Ingrid Pitt's next starring vehicle for Hammer made good use of her comedic abilities in this off-the-wall vampire variation, adding a heavy dose of bawdy visuals – heaving bosoms seem to dominate every shot – and a love triangle, between elder lover Nigel Green, forced to supply the virgins, and young stud Sandor Eles. Buffered by a superior supporting cast of English character actors, “Countess Dracula” also creates magic with sets and costumes, Kenneth Talbot's beautifully composed cinematography, and Harry Robinson's rich music score.
In addition to a really crisp transfer, the disc includes a largely consistent commentary track, hosted by Hammer scholar Jonathan Southcott. Gathering star Pitt, director Peter Sasdy, and writer Jeremy Paul. The quartet cover a fair amount of ground for one of the studio's better vampire riffs from the Seventies.
Sasdy, a Hungarian who came to England in 1956, finally had a chance to make a film in a Hungarian setting (albeit shot in England), and in record time managed to get a decent script fashioned from ideas suggested by himself and fellow Hungarian Alexander Paal, loosely based on the real-life beauty secrets of the sadistic, bored and utterly vain murderess Countess Bathory, who racked up 400+ murders to stay supple.
Some of the gorgeous sets came from “Anne Of A Thousand Days” after that production wrapped, and many of the costumes were pillaged from historical BBC productions, some of which Sasdy directed. The quartet also detail casting choices, and provide some amusing anecdotes for the late, great Nigel Green (also an avid yoga practitioner); Hitchcock's longtime producer Joan Harrison; and Hammer's practice of baiting British censors with naughty bits, so the real good stuff wouldn't get trimmed.
Everyone waxes joyfully over their happy experience producing the film, although no one addresses the dubbing that eliminated Pitt's thick accent with a smooth Brit voice. (It works, though, because Pitt imbues her character with such verve – a pleasant surprise, considering her previous role as depressed Mircalla Karnstein in The Vampire Lovers ) The actress also describes meeting adult fans, toting their children at horror conventions twenty years later - men who fell under her spell as young boys.
The DVD also contains the film's full screen trailer, but save it until last; the ‘mirror, mirror' poem is fun, but spoils the movie's major revelations and makeup effects.
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan