Countess Dracula (1971)
Before watching this, I presumed that the plot would be as follows:
"DRACULA! Only this time, he's a woman!"
But no. Countess Dracula is Hammer's take on the horrible tale of Elizabeth Bathory. Seeing as the idea that vampires rejuvenate when they drink blood has its roots in the legends surrounding Bathory, the title is fitting.
Indeed, the scariest moment comes right at the start, when a picture by István Csók depicting Bathory delighting in the awful torture of young women is shown over the opening credits:
But then, I suppose if I wanted a film that did do justice to such subject matter, I'd be watching Hostel 2. I don't have time for that sort of thing, so I've really no idea what I'm complaining about.
As Hammer films go, it's at least outstanding in that it's not set in some incarnation of nineteenth century Britain. Rather, it's set in seventeenth century Hungary; the result being a film that should be visually appealing to those who covet costume and facial hair.
Having been made in 1971, the film is anaemic by today's standards. It's more interested in courtesan intrigue than the mass murder of naked virgins. It's sleepy in tone, far from gripping, but I thought it had a similar sort of fairytale dreaminess as can be found in such cult fare as Valerie & Her Week of Wonders.
But that might just be because I was extremely tired when I watched it.
On DVD, it comes packaged with The Vampire Lovers in the US and with Twins of Evil and Vampire Circus in the UK.
I've not seen any of those, but I imagine that to watch either collection in one sitting would make for an excellent night of back-to-back viewing; even if the resulting few hours proved less than the sum of their parts.