When the MPAA arrived with the ratings system in 1968, there was a new level of freedom in filmmaking. No longer did they have to create movies that were declared safe enough to pays the Hays Code. Producers and directors didn’t have to figure work around elements to communicate items that would get snipped if they were blatant. If it was too sexy or violent for PG, it would now just get an R-rating. Movies didn’t have to hide behind innuendo. Why did this happen? Mostly because people were staying at home and watching movies on television. Broadcast television didn’t have to edit content in Hayes Code approved movies. But your local station can’t run an R-rated film so this quickly became a tool bring adults back to the seats and buy a bucket of popcorn. While Hammer Films had spent a decade pushing the limits of the Hayes Code starting with the release of Curse of Frankenstein and the Horror of Dracula, the ratings code had them amp up the blood and flesh content in their films. With Scars of Dracula, Hammer was able to go for an R rating on it’s flagship vampire series starring Christopher Lee (Man With the Golden Gun). The blood could flow and the bodices drop when the Count rises once more.
While Taste the Blood of Dracula ends with the Count meeting his fate in England, Scars opens with his remains being reconstituted in his old castle by a large bat spitting blood. He’s back and ready to suck away. The locals get pissed off after a few girls turn up dead with the bite marks on their neck. They unite to burn down the Count’s haunt. They makes a bad miscalculation when they send the women and children to a “safe place.” The locals didn’t outsmart Dracula as their plan implodes on both ends. Flash forward a few years to a neighboring town. Paul Carlson (Scream and Scream Again‘s Christopher Matthews) is supposed to be at his brother’s engagement party, but first he needs to hook up with the daughter of the Burgomaster (The Benny Hill Show‘s Bob Todd). This really goes wrong for him as he must flee town before he gets thrown into jail when she turns on him to maintain her innocence. He drops by the engagement party for his brother Simon (Fright‘s Dennis Waterman) and fiancé Sarah (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘s Jenny Hanley) with a gift of a photo of her. Before he can enjoy a drink, he must flee as the law busts into the party. He flees and ends up in the town of the damned. His plan to sleep at the local tavern gets shot down when the owner (The Reptile‘s Michael Ripper) boots him out. This leads to him dropping by the Count’s castle. He meets the count’s assistant Klove (Doctor Who‘s Patrick Troughton) and main lady Tania (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service‘s Anouska Hempel). He gets treated nicely when the Count arrives. They even set him up in a sweet guest room. Things don’t go right when Tania makes a move on Paul and Klove has to clean up the mess. Klove also falls hard from Sarah when he sees Paul’s photo of his future sister-in-law. Eventually Simon and Sarah arrive looking for him and find themselves fearing for their lives.
Scars of Dracula really delivers on the gore and seduction. Dracula is calculated when it comes to fresh meet in his castle. Klove shows off how his Master’s retirement package includes a bondsaw and a tub full of acid. The R Rating turned out to be a bit of an issue for the movie since Warner Brothers backed off releasing the film and smaller distributor Continental nabbed the film and Horror of Frankenstein for a double feature bill. Some critics view the movie as one of the lesser entries in the series, but who says no to more Christopher Lee with fangs? The film lets us see the Count be a bit more graphic was he terrifies the mortals around him. Scars of Dracula was the last period piece of Hammer’s Dracula series starring Christopher Lee. Dracula A.D. 1972 would relocate the immortal undead bloodsucker into a contemporary London and return him to a PG rating so Warners wouldn’t mind releasing the films. Scars of Dracula allowed Hammer to sink the Counts fangs deeper into his victims.
The video is 1.66:1 anamorphic and 1.85:1 anamorphic. The upgrade from the old Anchor Bay DVD is considerable. The blood is richer along with the tortures Dracula dishes out on his assistants. You get a great view of the Counts blood red eyes as he feasts. The audio is DTS-HD MA Mono. The sound is crisp and clear so you hear the various screams and gasps. The movie is subtitled.
Audio Commentary With Filmmaker/Film Historian Constantine Nasr And Film Historian Randall Larson gets into the history of the film.
Blood Rites: Inside Scars Of Dracula (18:03) goes into the history of the film with various Hammer historians and Hanley. Around this time, English films were losing funding from American sources. There’s talk of how Christopher Lee wasn’t sure if he’d return to the role. She talks of how Christopher Lee didn’t like his co-stars not taking the vampire bat puppet seriously.
Audio Commentary with star Christopher Lee and director Roy Ward Baker, moderated By Hammer Film Historian Marcus Hearn allows them to review their work and share stories. Lee talks about his frustration to Hammer’s approach to the various Dracula films. Lee admits Michael Ripper is the true face of Hammer horror. What’s fun is hearing Christopher Lee talk about watching The Benny Hill Show and praising Bob Todd. The star and the director have passed away.
Theatrical Trailers (5:05) includes the trailer for the double feature with Horror of Frankenstein.
Still Gallery (10:20) includes behind the scenes photos, publicity stills, press photos, an Odeon theater with the double bill, posters, lobby cards, newspaper ads.
Scream Factory presents Scars of Dracula. Directed by Roy Ward Baker. Screenplay by: Anthony Hinds. Starring: Christopher Lee, Patrick Troughton, Dennis Waterman, Jenny Hanley, Michael Gwynn & Michael Ripper. Rated: R. Running Time: 95 minutes. Released: September 10, 2019
Tags: christopher lee, Hammer Horror, Scars of Dracula, Scream Factory