Countess Dracula
U.K. / 1970
Directed by Peter Sasdy
Starring
Ingrid Pitt
Nigel Green
Lesley-Anne Down
Color / 93 Minutes / R
Format: DVD
Double Feature Disc / R1 - NTSC

MGM Home Entertainment
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5
    9   10 = Highest Rating  
Guest Review by John J. Cook
Despite the Hammer trademarks of gothic atmosphere and bright, red blood being spilled not quite ten minutes into our film, Countess Dracula is not really up to fang with the other vampire classics of the company's heyday. This particular film is notable mainly for the emergence of the cult film star, Ingrid Pitt, as the title anti-heroine. She clearly relishes the chance to play a dual character the young, playful, sexy seductress and the evil old crone, the Countess.
    The story is very loosely based on the bloody legend of Hungarian noblewoman Elisabeth Báthory (1560-1614), who reputedly murdered hundreds of women and young girls. As to Hammer's spin on the story... After the death of her husband, the decrepit and deluded Countess Nadasdy (Pitt, in effective old age makeup) contemplates a romance with Imre Toth (Sandor Eles), a handsome young army officer and son of a man the late count greatly respected. When a serving maid is cut in an accident involving peaches (you'll see), the Countess discovers that the girl's virgin blood is her own special brand of vanishing cream. Her wrinkles melt away and the young, winsome Ingrid Pitt emerges.
    But how can she possibly explain the miraculous transformation?
    In a rather Brothers Grimm-style twist, the Countess has her visiting daughter, Ilona (Lesley-Anne Down), captured en route to the castle and held captive by a brutish criminal in her employ. The Countess then impersonates her own daughter
thus quelling any suspicions about her person. Aiding her in the deception is the castle steward, Captain Dobi (Play Dirty's Nigel Green), who'll do anything for the Countess as she long as she shares her bed with him. (Especially now that she's young and sexy!) To Dobi's frustration the Countess is much more interested in Lieutenant Toth, embarking on a deceptive romance with the young hussar while posing as Ilona. Before long, as a doddering resident scholar, Master Fabio (Maurice Denham), discovers the true identity of "Ilona" and as the corpses of young girls start to pile up the villagers become aware that all is not well at the castle.
    My main issue with Countess Dracula is that it's not a traditional vampire movie. Actually, the Countess really isn't a vampire at all. She doesn't drink blood and she doesn't have any fangs. This isn't to say that the film is a 'Draculean' dud. There are many highlights. The image of the buxom Ms. Pitt giving herself a bloody sponge bath will likely remain etched in many viewers' minds, as will the scene in which the Countess violently stabs one of her victims in the neck with a hairpin. The standout performance and presence of Ingrid Pitt is the reason any horror fan should own this DVD. The way that Pitt switches roles from playful seductress to evil old woman is where the real fun of the film lies.

Countess Dracula looks and sounds great on DVD, presented in a non-anamorphic (1.66:1) letterboxed transfer with a strong, clear mono audio track. The fact that MGM has restored missing footage and taken the care and time to include an audio commentary with Ingrid Pitt, director Peter Sasdy, and screenwriter Jeremy Paul is a testament to the cult following the film has gained over the years. And since the double feature DVD includes an even better Hammer horror starring Pitt, The Vampire Lovers, on side B, there's no excuse to pass this one up! (EC's DVD rating factors in the total value of this double feature package.) 10/23/03
UPDATE The Countess Dracula/Vampire Lovers double feature disc was temporarily withdrawn from the market by MGM in September 2003, just a few weeks after its release. This was because the packaging incorrectly listed Countess Dracula as being rated PG. The typo on the paper cover insert was subsequently corrected and the DVD reissued.
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