Satanic Rites of Dracula, The (Blu-ray Review)
Release Date(s)1973 (November 13, 2018)
Studio(s)Hammer Films (Warner Archive Collection)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: D-
The Satanic Rites of Dracula was the last film in the Hammer Dracula series. It sat on the shelf for five years before being released in the United States in 1979 by Dynamite Films under the title Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride, but in a heavily cut version. A direct sequel to Dracula AD 1972, The Satanic Rites of Dracula is an odd tale in which Dracula (Christopher Lee), with the help of an evil cult, devises a plan to rid the world of humanity using a fatal virus. Meanwhile, Lorrimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), along with Scotland Yard, are determined to stop him.
Unfortunately, The Satanic Rites of Dracula is nowhere near as classic as the earlier Dracula sequel offerings. It attempts to mix crime and espionage with vampire horror in modern times, ultimately missing the gothic atmosphere of the previous films. It just doesn’t work that well, and it doesn't help that Terence Fisher, someone who knew how to make a frightening horror film, is also nowhere to be found.
The one thing that can't be taken away from the film though is the presence of its two main cast members. Christopher Lee stars as the devious Count for the seventh and final time in the series, while fellow actor Peter Cushing appears as another Van Helsing descendant. They manage to hand in excellent performances with Lee looking as menacing as ever. He also gets more dialogue as the character than he ever has before. The supporting cast, which includes Joanna Lumley and Michael Coles, also do credible jobs in their respective roles. Coles’ character also appears in Dracula A.D. 1972, making him the only actor outside of Lee and Cushing to reprise a role in the series.
After an extensive wait for this highly-anticipated release, Warner Archive Collection has unearthed The Satanic Rites of Dracula from its DVD coffin and presented it on Blu-ray and, beyond the shadow of a doubt, it's more than worth the wait. If you own any previous release of the film from any label, you can now retire it. The video quality completely outshines not just the DVD releases, but also the Snappy Video Blu-ray (which was a cut version anyway). Warner’s HD restoration of it is quite a revelation. The colors look astonishingly vivid, but there's also great depth and textures to both indoor and outdoor scenery. Skin tones look accurate, with close-ups revealing plenty of detail on the characters’ faces. Film grain is present, but not to the point where it distracts or overwhelms the image. There are a few scenes that appear blurry, but this could be due to the elements that were used or how it was shot. Clocking in at nearly 88 minutes, which is consistent with previous releases, this transfer is about as uncut as it gets.
An English 2.0 mono DTS-HD track is the sole audio option provided. The sound quality is superb with clear dialogue and good score reproduction, only becoming aggressive during suspenseful moments. Just as aggressive are the occasional screams and shrieks from both the vampires and would-be victims. No audio issues are detectable. Optional subtitles in English SDH are offered as well. The only extra included is the original U.K. theatrical trailer.
For many, The Satanic Rites of Dracula is an essential film to have in their Dracula or Hammer horror Blu-ray collection. The image on this Blu-ray release is remarkable, making for a great viewing experience. Highly recommended!
– David Steigman