Terrific DVD package for lukewarm Hammer Dracula flick
Surfink | Racine, WI | 02/28/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For Scars of Dracula, Christopher Lee's 5th outing as the Count, Lee gets more screen time and dialogue than usual, but for most of its length SoD is only mildly diverting. The film has a drab, low-budget aura, and the script is composed mostly of recycled ideas. Roy Ward Baker (director of a number of fine genre movies, e.g. Quatermass and the Pit, Asylum, Vampire Lovers), was apparently shocked by the sadism of Anthony Hinds' screenplay, and cynically decided to give Hammer what they wanted, accounting for the even greater emphasis on bloody violence than usual for a Hammer production. Unfortunately, the overall results don't come close to Baker's usually high standard. The normally sumptuous Hammer sets are cluttery and chintzy-looking and Moray Grant's cinematography is flat and TV-like; the whole movie really looks too bright and clean to generate any real gothic atmosphere. The miniature of Dracula's castle is fairly convincing (until it's set on fire), but the splatter makeups are simply wretched, and the mechanical bat might be more effective were it not so overused and overlit. Dennis Waterman and Jenny Hanley generate little chemistry or charisma as the hero and heroine, and Patrick Troughton as Klove is just sort of there with no explanation whatsoever (though it's nice to see Michael Ripper in a bit larger part than usual as the innkeeper). Also on the plus side: a few effective action sequences and shocks, Hanley and Anouska Hempel are gorgeous, and Delia Lindsay reveals her derriere early in the film (the only bit of nudity in a movie that could've used more, if only to liven things up). Surprisingly, just when you think the movie's a goner, things pick up at the climax: Dracula's eyes glowing through his eyelids (a very eerie effect), a brief shot of Lee crawling up the castle wall as in Stoker's novel, and a rousing pyrotechnic finale. But it's pretty much a case of "too little too late." Scars really makes me appreciate the freshness and style of Freddie Francis' Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (so far MIA on DVD). While not as disastrous as some have described, Scars of Dracula just barely aces Prince of Darkness for least of the Hammer Draculas (up to that point anyway). Check out Anchor Bay's excellent Dr. Jekyll & Sister Hyde or Quatermass and the Pit DVDs to see what Roy Ward Baker can do with a well-written, original script and decent production values.
Hammer completists, Chris Lee fans, and Dracula/vampire cultists will no doubt want this for their movie collections anyway and for those hardy souls Anchor Bay once again delivers the goods. The source print for the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is virtually flawless, with excellent brightness, contrast, detail, and sharpness, and richly saturated, well-balanced color. There are virtually no noticeable physical defects. Extras include a very clean 1.85:1 letterboxed British release trailer, rather shabby-looking letterboxed American release combo trailer (with Horror of Frankenstein), poster/still gallery, talent bios for Lee and Baker, and an audio commentary by the star and director, moderated by Hammer historian Marcus Hearn. Erudite and opinionated, Lee tends to dominate the discussion, but all three contribute plenty of interesting information about the film and many other topics (mostly Hammer-related) as well. My copy of this DVD also came with a special `limited edition' bonus disc featuring a 1995 documentary "The Many Faces of Christopher Lee." Rather than the expected tired rehash of Lee's film appearances, the hour-long program is actually a pleasant surprise, as Christopher Lee literally invites us into his home, displays prized memorabilia and photos, relates personal anecdotes (on such wide-ranging subjects as his operatic ancestors, Bela Lugosi's ring, Rasputin, Vincent and Peter, and Fu Manchu), and even gives brief lessons on fencing and gunfighting, all interspersed with numerous clips from his films. The bonus disc also includes two lame music videos by some really cheesy lounge act co-featuring Mr. Lee (he duets on O Sole Mio/It's Now or Never in one). You'll probably view these once out of curiosity and never look at them again. In total another fine package from Anchor (unfortunately one that makes you wish the movie itself was as meticulously crafted). Three stars for the movie, five for the DVD."
A Must-Have for Christopher Lee fans!
A. Gammill | West Point, MS United States | 08/16/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Fans of Christopher Lee and/or Hammer Films, don't wait on this one. Get the "Limited Edition" and you'll be treated to a superb bonus disc, that includes an hour-long documentary hosted by the man himself, plus two MUSIC VIDEOS featuring Mr. Lee singing! A rare treat which makes the DVD worth buying. As for SCARS OF DRACULA, it's neither the best nor worst in the series. Widely reputed as the most violent Hammer Dracula, the film has not been viewed favorably (detractors include Lee himself---check him out on the commentary track!). But if you can avoid comparing the film to the studio's earlier, superior films (particularly those helmed by Terence Fisher), you might just find a decent horror movie waiting to be discovered. As expected from the nice folks at Anchor Bay, the picture and sound quality are top-notch, surpassing DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS (in my opinion). But the extras really overshadow the beautifully-transferred, but flawed film. Sink your teeth into this one, horror fans!"
"Open the door! I've something for you!"
Matthew Newland | Tropical Montreal, Quebec | 09/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Scars of Dracula" is a sort of 'odd man out' in the series of films released by Hammer Studios in that it has no place in the continuity (rather like the final film in the series, "Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires"). Basically, it re-writes the series as a sort of alternate "part one" ... therefore, it's a good place to start for anyone who hasn't seen any of these movies before.
"Scars" opens unpromisingly, I must begin by saying, but a lame resurrection for Our Favorite Vampire is compensated by some unforgettable moments immediately following it ... there's the torching of Dracula's castle following his murder of a young girl by the frightened townspeople, who are then led by their priest to the church where they discover ... well, I can't really tell you, but you'll certainly never forget. Some time passes following this incident, and we're soon introduced to a pair of brothers, the nice Simon and the naughty Paul (who's given a most amusing introduction), our protagonists for the remainder of the feature. Paul finds himself, as a result of his high spiritedness, at Dracula's doorstep and up to his kneecaps in a sludge full of trouble, only to be followed soon afterward by Simon and the lovely girl both brothers are sweet on in an effort to save him.
Though the plot is rather thin, the film succeeds thanks to a number of striking images/scenes ... Drac gets a lot of lines, which is great because Christopher Lee has such a fantastic voice, there are some nice sets, particularly the bedroom where the stabbing occurs (love the red candles and curtains ... I want a room like that! and the stabbing, though unexplained in the movie, is certainly unforgettable). There are also some nice moments like Paul's escape from that bedroom to Dracula's resting place in a virtually inaccessible crypt hollowed into the side of the mountain ... the mere idea of being trapped there with no way out, knowing it would be just a matter of time till Dracula wakes up and having no where to hide is just awful. The sight of the former "Doctor Who" himself, Patrick Troughton, hacking up the corpse of Dracula's stabbing victim is hard to shake (I particularly like the way he whistles cheerfully to himself as he gets ready to do it, laying out his tools and setting down drop clothes in case any blood splatters). Memorable too are the sight of Dracula's iris's glowing red from beneath his closed eyelids, along with the sequence featuring him spiderclimbing up the cliffside (which we also got to see in Francis Ford Coppola's version in 1992 ... but this movie did it first!). The music is excellent, especially the violins we hear when Dracula mesmerizes his young female victims. The climax of the film too is pretty nifty, with the cross-stealing bat (helpful friends, eh?), and a final act of God that helps Simon to put a stop to the vampire's mischief at the end (this isn't a spoiler ... don't tell me you really expected Dracula to win!).
"Scars of Dracula" was the last of the Gothic Dracula films ... from the next film on, the films of the series would either be set in budget-saving modern-day England or turn of the century China (seriously!) It works very well as an introduction to the series, as I said already, as it basically re-writes the back-story, making any of the previous films irrelevant, and as it was the last of its kind it works also as a nice stand-alone Dracula tale.
The DVD I purchased here at Amazon back in 2001 boasted some great extras, all of which were greatly enjoyed by me. There are extensive biographies of both star Christopher Lee and director Roy Ward Baker (both containing a lot of "Scars" specific comments from both of them), trailers, nicely, NICELY animated menus a slideshow style photo gallery that lets the pictures float by automatically while some creepy music accompanies the images in the background, and a highly informative and critical commentary by both Mr. Lee himself and the director (who are not afraid to voice their dissatisfaction with parts of the film). But the best extra of all comes in the form of a bonus disk ... it's a retrospective look on the career of Christopher Lee, given to us by the man himself as he looks into the camera and tells us about the various roles he was privileged to play over the years. The best part comes at the end when he mentions his fellow horror film co-stars "Peter" and "Vincent". Very sweet.
"Scars of Dracula" is not a perfect movie (as several things are never explained and the bats still look fake), but it's a lot of fun, and the things it does right are done so well that they more than compensate for the things that aren't. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy today. This film and it's extras will keep you entertained for hours.
Carry on Carry on,
The Prince Returns!
Brad Baker | Atherton, Ca United States | 08/22/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Anchor Bay has just released Hammer Dracula film No. 5 on DVD. Christopher Lee starred in 15 Dracula epics, 7 for Hammer Films. Released in 1970, shortly after "Taste the Blood of Dracula", "Scars of Dracula" is violent and sadistic, with a rapid pace throughout. An attractive young couple spends the night at a gloomy old castle, and well...guess what! Right out of Bram Stoker, the Count crawls straight up the tower wall. But rubber bats and night and day scene jump cuts damage the final result. "Scars" was the first "R" rated Hammer release in the U.S.. A clear, crisp DVD from an excellent source, the print is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. "Scars" has an audio commentary with the director and Lee himself. The horror star looks back on his years at Hammer and plugs his new book. But there's treasure here! If you're a true Lee fan, you must have the extra DVD, "Many Faces of Christopher Lee(not available on all releases)". The 65 minute film, made by the BBC in 1995, is a masterful walk down the Christopher Lee career, and narrated by the star himself. It includes clips from many of his 250 film roles. Lee started in 1948, with a bit part as a spear carrier in "Hamlet", and will appear in the 2002 release of "Star Wars: Episode II-Attack of the Clones". In the documentary, he examines Dracula and Bela Lugosi, comedic moments from the Fu Manchu films, and memories of SNL and John Belushi. 2 videos are included; giving you scenes of Lee dancing and singing 3 songs. Towards the end, with a tear in his eye, he mentions the passing of 2 close actor/friends. They were both very noble human beings. They're names were Vincent and Peter..."
The Prince of Darkness returns!
J.S. Clements | Ramona, CA United States | 09/04/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Christopher Lee returns as the brutal and sadistic Count Dracula in this classic film. Scars of Dracula is believed by Hammer fans alike to be the most graphic and explicit film in the entire series. The level of violence and sex is a lot higher than in the previous Dracula movies. But don't let that stop you from buying this cult classic. I think that this film is the best in the series next to Horror of Dracula and contains some scenes that were straight from the novel, one of which has Dracula crawl down the wall of his castle. There is also a graphic scene which reflects Dracula as Vlad Tepes in which one of Dracula's victims is found impaled on the castle wall. If you are a Hammer/horror fan, do yourself a favor and buy SCARS OF DRACULA today."