The Series Project: Hammer Dracula (Part 2)
Taste the Blood of Dracula (dir. Peter Sasdy, 1970)
This one has some of my favorite Hammer Dracula moments to date, and indeed has one of the best premises.
So you're a wild wealthy elderly hedonist looking for new sensual adventures, right? You live in turn-of-the-century England, and you've become all too familiar with the local prostitutes, and your constant access to every known drug has become boring. Then a mysterious man approaches you with promise of a drug that is made of Dracula. Just follow him to a distant alter, and drink the powders mixed with water. And you'll probably get, like, Dracula High. What do you say but “Hell yes!”?
So, yes, in a re-purposing of the From the Grave ending, Dracula's death and disintegration was witnessed by a passing traveler (Roy Kinnear), who, acting under some sort of bizarre Satanic influence, treks into town looking for druggies to snort up Dracula powder. This will restore Dracula, of course, but the hedonists don't know that. For someone who has seen probably hundreds of vampire movies, and thought himself familiar with every possible vampire myth, a Dracula snortin' powder is entirely new to me. This film is easily the most exciting and original in the series. Okay they don't snort it. They are entreated to drink the powder mixed with human blood.
Taste the Blood is the first to feature bare breasts and overt sexuality over the usual brand of heaving bosoms and occasional pants groping. There's also a lot more gore.
The three hedonists in question are Mr. Hargood (Geoffrey Keen), Mr. Secker (John Carson), and Mr. Paxton (Peter Sallis, whom you may know as the voice of Wallace from the Wallace & Gromit films). Their dealer is played by the scenery-chewing Ralph Bates. When they unwittingly resurrect Dracula (the dealer drinks some of the concoction, passes out, is left for dead, and eventually transforms into Dracula) about halfway through the movie, it shifts gears to a revenge plot. Dracula (Christopher Lee) wants to kill the hedonists, using their own sons as murderous slaves. Why does he want to kill them? “They destroyed my servant!,” he intones. So it was the dealer's death he's mad about? But didn't the guy sacrifice him life to bring Dracula back from the dead?
It's an oblique slasher plot, but feels natural for the tone of these Dracula film that are, by the 5th film in the series, teetering into “latter day” status. The revenge murders aren't as much fun as the Dracula Drug plot, as it's largely just Dracula stalking and killing people one by one. Lee still barely speaks.
The lady of the film is the girlish and gorgeous Alice Hargood, played by Linda Hayden, who also becomes one of Dracula's slaves. Mr. Hargood, by the way, is kind of the villain of the piece, as he whips his daughter, drunks too much, and doesn't seem to care a whole lot about anything. In a weird way, Dracula has become a form of divine justice against the horribly decadent and abusive hedonists. Alice ends up staving his head in with a shovel under Dracula's influence. Linda also has a boyfriend named Paul (Anthony Corlan), although I don't think it's supposed to be the same Paul from the last film.
Dracula is killed when said Paul decorates his lair with crosses. No stabbings, no fire, just a bunch of crosses. The sight of them all is enough to kill off Dracula, and force him to melt into another pile of red Dracula powder. Remember kids, even if you are a Satanist, it's not a good idea to drink Dracula powder. Only Dracula losers do Dracula drugs.
Up next is kind of a rote Hammer Dracula film that feels the most perfunctory to date. Although that may be true of any sixth film in any franchise. This is perhaps the dullest film to date as well. Which is odd, since it's also one of the more significant to popular video gaming culture. I'll explain below…