The Satanic Rites of Dracula has been distributed under sundry titles including Dracula: The Satanic Rites & Count Dracula & His Vampire Bride.
It is the sequal to Dracula A.D. 1972 also directed by the talentless Alan Gibson more in the style of a kitschy old Avengers episodes or a worse than average Dr. Who episode rather than a Hammer horror film.
In a story vastly more nonsensical than most Hammer horror films, Dracula lives in a mansion that is something of a British occult clubhouse where members do Satanic rituals of the type pretty much invented by novelist Dennis Wheatley (who did not associate these rituals with Dracula however), killing & reviving beautiful maidens over a pentagram before feeding them to Dracula & tossing them in the basement full of vampire girls.
Dracula himself is hidden in secret rooms (we never see those however) providing the thin excuse for why Peter Cushing isn't in the film much until the end.
Van Helsing & a couple bumbling members of Scotland Yard discover the basement full of vampire brides. They escape back to the station & do nothing about it.
When another character informed of the matter becomes irate that nobody sent in the big guns to clean up the nest, Van Helsing says nonchallantly that it would not do any good because by the time anyone got there there'd no longer be any evidence of vampires or satanic rites.
But in fact it's all still there for the rest of the film since they couldn't afford one more set. So the real reason they did nothing sensible upon discovering the vampires was because it was still too soon for the film to be over. It has the feeling of a film with no script, just made up before each day's shoot.
Several of Dracula's minions form a motorcycle gang tricked out in sheepskin vests that seem to have been used as costumes solely because they were cheap at some close-out sale at Fashion Barn; I vaguely recall the two weeks when those were a youth fashion, but they sure never provided an air of horror, just of laughability.
This was the last of a half-dozen films which featured Christopher Lee as Dracula, the last two being sub-stupid. Good as Lee could be in other roles, he generally failed to convey much personality as Dracula, though Lee himself had physical presence sufficient to overcome the goofiness of the red-lined black cape.
In this one, alas, he tries far less than in any other installment. Lee himself condemned the last couple of Dracula films he was in for failing to adhere to any part of the established legend.
You can certainly tell he's not happy to be in this one, but he probably filmed his scant scenes in a day or two so it was only a small waste of time.
Peter Cushing as Professor Larimer Van Helsing, a stringer for Scotland Yard, is in better form, though it's all wasted on a particularly unrewarding script.
He visits one of the satanists (who should be renamed Draculaists since Satan isn't involved), who is a corrupted or mind-controlled or god knows what (the scriptwiter sure didn't know) Nobel Prize winner (Freddie Jones) who has just finished inventing the Super Black Plague.
With this super-bacterium Dracula plans to destroy the world, to benefit not even himself since he'll no longer have victims from whom to suck blood, though it apparently isn't a consciously nihilistic plan since he intends simultaneously to keep producing new brides to deposit in the basement.
Van Helsing mentions to Dracula that there seems to be a certain lapse of logic to the nonsensical plot but Dracula just looks shiftily back & forth as though to say, "By gum, I never thought of that," & no explanation for the foolish plot is ever attempted.
The Super Black Plague is unleashed but it only kills one person before everything is burned up in a fire so as world-destroying threats go, it wasn't much.
Then Van Helsing leads a very clumsy Dracula outdoors into a hawthorn patch wherein he thrashes around with his comical cape stuck on thorns, then falls over with his foot caught on a root or twig.
For you see, there's a brand new vampire rule was made up just for this film. Hawthorn branches are the best things with which to foil vampires.
Never mind that the hawthorns were on the Dracula club's property & his minions would've long before chopped them down if they were so magically horrible to Dracula. Never mind that we've had plenty of longshots of the mansion in the middle of nowhere, & there was no hawthorn hedge shown until the last scene when an ending -- any old ending -- had to be drummed up.
So Dracula is stuck in the thorns, hissing more like a mindless zombie than Dracula, while Van Helsing rather casually fetches a handy stick from a strategically placed short length of rustic fence (there is always in this film a stick handy, vampires keep them about just to make things easier for vampire hunters).
He pokes one of the fence slats right into his hissing clumsy foe who was so easy to pierce even Aunt Bee could've poked him to death, & it's hip-hip hooray, world saved!
Well, if that stupid ending had been the average quality of the whole film it would've been a much better if still awful film. Unfortunately the dumb ending is pretty good compared to what led up to it.
One has to make a big effort to remember some Hammer films that were actually pretty good. Otherwise nostalgic viewers of a film as bad as this one could be led to suppose the vaunted Studio of our youthful bad taste could only have excited the most witless of children rather than the precocious eccentrics we thought our young selves to be. Dracula: The Satanic Rites is so shitty it becomes obvious why the beloved studio did soonafter blither itself into extinction.
Continue to next vampire film:
Rise: Blood Hunter (2003)
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