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July 14, 2014

Movie Review: Countess Dracula (1970, Blu-ray / DVD)

What do you get when you mix blood, murder, virgins, and a selfish, manipulative, homicidal crazy who doesn’t want to get older? Elizabeth Nádasdy, aka Countess Bathory. Hammer Films brings us Countess Dracula, a campy little vehicle perfect for the sultry beauty of Ingrid Pitt, our luscious little noble.

Countess Dracula is the story of Elizabeth Bathory and her horrific crimes committed against the young and nubile ladies in her neighborhood. We open with the funeral of the Countess’s husband and how she ogles Imre, the son of her husband’s best friend. I have to admit he is pretty but I’ve always been a sucker for a cleft chin.

At the reading of the Count’s will, Fabio, the castle Historian (who knew there was such a thing?) and Imre are very happy. But Captain Dobi dislikes inheriting the armory and the Countess is pissed she has to share her estate with Ilona, her and the Count’s daughter. Just because you can have kids doesn’t mean you should. What a bitch.

After a maid cuts herself, her blood splattering the Countess’s face, Elizabeth’s skin becomes 20 years younger. And so the madness begins. She reveals her youthful half-naked countenance to Dobi who is more worried about what she did with the maid’s corpse than with this supernatural transformation and what Ilona might think of it all. The MURDER hardly seems like an afterthought.

What the hell is wrong with these people?

Despite the bosom bursting corsets worn by the help, Imre is enchanted only by the Countess, whom he thinks is Ilona. The real Ilona has been kidnapped and is being held hostage by a man who appears to be more simpleton than sinister. She tries to escape a couple of times but ends up being a total girl and trips over nothing while running.

As everyone knows, blood magic can’t last forever so when it wears off, the Countess is even more hideous and wrinkly than before. With each change, she spirals further and further into madness and hideocity. Seriously, the Ugly Stick visits her face more than a rock ‘n’ roll musician visits his doctor for medicinal pubes shampoo.

Anyone who gets in Elizabeth’s way doesn’t last long. The only reason Dobi continues to help her is because she keeps playing the ‘I’ll sleep with you if you help me’ card all the time. Men are so stupid.

If you do what I ask, you can put it in here.
Eventually the truth comes out, in fantastic fashion at a public event, and the Countess is left to age and rot while she awaits her death sentence.

I’ve adored a lot of Hammer films (Curse of Frankenstein, The Gorgon, handful of Dracula films with Christopher Lee, natch). Some are terrifying and some are camp but all have been extremely entertaining. And this film is no exception.

While most of the acting is heavy handed, it’s all fitting for this period piece. Ingrid was fantastic as the Mad Hatter of blood. The way she switched so flawlessly between the aged Countess and her younger incarnation was fascinating. I honestly felt sorry for the old bat as she trembled and cried with desperation and terror. I don’t condone what she did but I understand.

The camp comes in with the gratuitous use of convenient set ups for victim scrounging. Seriously, how many times do we have to watch the local circus performers parade their gypsy belly dancers around? We get it. The young pretty ones are fodder for the blood cannon. And so are their boobs. Even the conversation of ‘Ilona’ regaling her guests with a story her ‘mom’ told about her extramarital affairs is considered charming. Wow.

I am SO a pretty pretty princess, God dammit!
Where it pushes the envelope of believability (for me) is when the Countess reveals her truth to Imre but guilts him into staying by her side and keeping his damn mouth shut. How does she do this? She confronts him about the whore he brought home, but didn’t sleep with, by showing the skank’s corpse stuffed into Elizabeth’s closet. Bringing home a busty bar bimbo is SO much worse than me murdering her because I’m batshit psycho. Obvi.

Aside from those few weak ass plot points, I love this film. The genre, the style, the camp, the subject matter. It’s a lot of brilliant bloody fun.

4 Hatchets (out of 5)

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