Countess Dracula (1971) – By Duane L. Martin

Elizabeth Nadasdy (Ingrid Pitt) is an aging Hungarian countess who has just lost her husband. At the reading of his will, she discovers that her husband not only divided most of his estate between her and a daughter that they sent away when she was six to protect her from the Turks, but he also left their entire stable of horses and a cottage to a young man named Lt. Imre Toth, the son of a general who was not only the count’s best friend but the pair had served together and the general had saved his life on more than one occasion.

The countess, being basically a horrible person, makes her servant girl burn her hand in a tub that was too hot, and then forces her to peel her a piece of fruit, during which the girl cuts herself badly. The enraged countess struggles with her and gets the girls blood on her, only to later find out that her blood at made the skin it touched look young and vibrant. Figuring out what had done it, she ultimately kills the girl and uses her blood to complete the transformation.

Now young and beautiful, she has Captain Dobi, the castle steward and her long time lover arrange to have her daughter kidnapped so she can assume her identity in an effort to seduce the young lieutenant, Imre Toth. Fortunately, Master Fabio the castle historian is smarter than anyone gives him credit for and soon he figures out what’s going on, but will he be able to warn the young lieutenant before it’s too late? As the countess kills more and more girls in her effort to stay young, will anyone be able to stop her? You’ll have to watch the film to find out.

This was a good film, as most Hammer films are, but it also suffered from something that I’ve come to notice in a variety of the films from that studio, and that’s that while watching it, I felt like I’d seen it all before. The more Hammer films you see, the more familiar they become, not only in their general appearance, but also in the performances and even the general nature of the stories. Now that’s not to say that this film doesn’t stand on its own, because it does that just fine, but at the same time, it didn’t feel all that original either.

For all the things in this film that worked well, there was one thing that just didn’t, and that was Ingrid Pitt. Not because of her performance, but because of her age. When she got young again, she took the place of her nineteen year old daughter, yet she was thirty-three years old when this film was made, which made the whole thing rather unbelievable. I wasn’t really sure how old she was at the time since I just now looked it up, but I knew while I was watching it that there was no way in hell she was anywhere close to nineteen. Now mind you, she was still quite beautiful, but no one with a pair of eyes would have ever mistaken her for a nineteen year old, which made the whole thing seem a bit ridiculous.

Something else that didn’t quite work was that she was stashing the bodies of the girls she killed around the castle. Now, I’ve never smelled a dead body, but from what I hear they have a very distinctive odor, and she only had one of the bodies of the ones she killed actually removed from the castle and dropped off in the middle of the forest.

Now, as you can see, the film had its problems, but don’t assume it was a bad film just because of that. This was actually quite a good film and another fine example of the work Hammer was doing at the time. The performances were good, the costuming and general look of the film was great and all in all it was an entertaining experience. Yeah there are some things that’ll nag at you here and there, but all in all it’s a good film. Now calling it Countess Dracula when there is in fact nothing even remotely relating to the whole Dracula legend was pretty ridiculous. It’s actually loosely based on the real life exploits of Elizabeth Bathory who killed young virgins and bathed in their blood in an effort to keep herself young and beautiful, so where the whole Dracula thing comes from I have no idea.

For special features, this new release from Synapse includes audio commentary with Ingrid Pitt, director Pete Sasdy, screenwriter Jeremy Paul and author Jonathan Sothcott, a featurette called Immortal Countess: The Cinematic Life of Ingrid Pitt, an archival audio interview with Ingrid Pitt, a stills gallery, the film’s theatrical trailer and reversible cover art.

Can I recommend it? Absolutely. Like I said, it’s another fine example of the films that Hammer were putting out back in the day, and despite any problems I mentioned, it really is quite a good film, and one that you’ll definitely want to add to your collection if you’re a Hammer fan.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out it’s page on the Synapse Films website here.