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Though based on the real-life Hungarian virgin blood-bathing Countess
Elizabeth Bathory from the 16th/17th century, this film has rather little
to do with historical facts - but then again who watches a film with the
title Countess Dracula for its historical authencity ?
In this film, Countess Elizabeth (Ingrid Pitt), a woman in her fifities
of sixties by the looks of it, discovers rather by chance that bathing in
virgin's blood makes her looking young again - about twenty or so. So she
has her 19 year old daughter Ilona (Lesley-Anne Downe), who just arrives
from wherever and whom nobody around this area has seen since she was six,
incarcerated and takes her place ... and before you know it, she has
conquered the heart of young officer Imre Toth (Sandor Elès), the a bit
naive son of the best friend of her late husband - much to the dismay of
Captain Dobi (Nigel Green), who was the Countess' lover (in her old
incarnation) and who hoped to one day marry her ...
Then though, the Countess turns old again, and she realizes she needs
more virgin's blood, more and more, and out of love, Dobi provides her
with virgins, even though he knows she will always favour Imre over him.
On seeral occasions, he tries to discredit Imre, but to no avail. Then
though, the court's scholar Fabio (Maurice Denham) finds out the Countess'
little secret, and Dobi has to kill him ... and lets himself be caught by
Imre, in hopes to drive him away upon finding out the truth - but no such
luck, the Countess has found a way to force Imre not only to stay but to
marry her despite the fact that he now knows everything.
After the death of the scholar, the police searches the house and finds
the corpses of the dead virgins. This should have alerted the Countess,
but she decides to go through with the wedding nevertheless.
In the meantime, Imre finds Ilona, the real Ilona locked, in the tower
of the castle, and facilitates her escape, which is supposed to take place
during the wedding ceremony - but the wedding ceremony ends with a bang:
Without warning, the Countess turns old and ugly again, and when she spots
her daughter Ilona trying to get away, she attacks her with a knife in
front of all guests. When trying to disarm her, Imre is accidently stabbed
by the Countess instead of Ilona and ...
The Countess spends the rest of her life in a cell as an old hag,
waiting for the hangman.
In 1971, the classic Hammer period was definitely over and the
company's best films were more than a decade old. Furthermore traditional
gothics were by far not as much in demand as in the late 1950's/early
60's. So to reflect the more liberated times, Hammer made a rather
obvious decision and added sex to their formula - and one of their erotic
gothics from that period of time was Countess Dracula.
Unfortunately though, Countess Dracula is far from satisfying:
Sure, it features quite a bit of topless nudity and a very open attitude
towards sex, sure, the sets, costumes and props are of the usual high
standards, and sure, the actors are all flawless - however, it's the
film's story that's just dead boring, and that's quite an achievement
considering its basic premise: There is not one single shock in the whole
film, there is no build-up of tension to speak of, there are not even
isolated suspense scenes. The whole thing is just a rather tired
historical drama with some ridiculous supernatural elements tagged on.
That said, the film is not a total failure, if you love Hammer
gothics you will at least find some reasons to like it - just keep your
expectations rather low.