So you've got Christopher Lee playing Dracula, an actor with one of the most amazing, most sinister voices in cinema history, so what do you do?
Make him play a wordless, lumbering drone!
Although it was Lee himself who refused to read the lines he was originally given, a rewrite would have probably been a better solution as the lack of lines really takes a lot away from the character. He is still somewhat threatening but just feels altogether pretty bland and lacks the presence and style of Bela Lugosi's original Dracula. Can you imagine if Saruman just walked around saying nothing in the Lord Of The Rings movies? People (and hobbits) would just give him weird looks and ignore him like some crazy hobo wizard. By showing a recap of Dracula (1958) at the beginning of the movie, Dracula: Prince Of Darkness really makes you miss that film which had the ever brilliant Peter Cushing as vampire hunter Van Helsing. The plot is typical: English tourists ignoring villagers' warnings of dodgy goings-on in the area find themselves in Dracula's castle, bad things happen, yada yada yada. Why anyone would want to go have a picnic in that particularly unsettling region is beyond me but hey, it's a Hammer film: these future victims just need to get to Dracula, nothing else matters.
For a Hammer film, this one looks pretty good and Dracula's rebirth is appropriately bloody. One of the tourists, who had been following Dracula's creepy servant Klove (yes, as in garlic... or karlic) around the castle, somehow falls onto a crucifix and his blood mixes together with Dracula's ashes to bring the vampire back to life with his clothes on and everything. I could explain this whole, seemingly nonsensical, chemical reaction but I won't bore you. It's all very scientific. Andrew Keir's tough priest effortlessly steals the show and gives us the film's one delightfully hammy character. He brings some much needed oomph to the proceedings and makes a good Van Helsing-style rival to face off against Dracula. Everything he says is dramatic as hell and should really be followed by booming thunder or, at least, an orchestra sting. The film's ending is even more ridiculous than you'd expect. Dracula doesn't die (again) because of sunlight or a wooden stake through the heart. That would make too much sense. Instead, he finds himself on an icy moat, the people trying to stop him shoot bullets into the ice and he sinks into the freezing water. Though, being dead, Dracula probably couldn't tell it was even freezing. Why would that kill a vampire, you say? It wouldn't.
It'll just be easier to find him in a block of ice in the next film rather than having to make up some new absurd reason as to why he's back again.
Overall, Dracula: Prince Of Darkness is not bad at all but there are better Christopher Lee-starring Dracula films out there. This one looks good, is appropriately atmospheric and has decent characters supporting an oddly mute Dracula.
Slightly underwhelming but worth a look.