Barbara Shelley Comes Face to Face with 'Dracula: Prince of Darkness'
Here are 5 Things Fans Should Know About Dracula: Prince of Darkness.
Sir Christopher Lee returned to portray the charismatic count of Transylvania in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) for the first time since taking on the iconic role in 1958’s Horror of Dracula.
And while Lee endured a love/hate relationship playing the Carpathian Count over the years, the actor reluctantly tackled the role a total of 10 times for the Silver Screen. Three of those performances came outside of the purview of Hammer horror, but this list is dedicated to Hammer's first Dracula sequel to feature the return of Christopher Lee in the lead role.
Dialogue never played a crucial part in Christopher Lee’s portrayals as Count Dracula, but this film is the epitome of that contentious notion. Lee doesn’t utter a single word during Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ 90 minutes of run time! In interviews over the years, Lee said he was so unhappy with his lines that he protested and refused to say them during the filming process.
“I had read the script and refused to say any of the lines,” Lee said in an interview at the University College of Dublin.
Now, Here are 5 Things Fans Should Know About Dracula: Prince of Darkness.
5. Dracula: Speechless!
Screenwriter Jimmy Sangster insisted the original script was written without any dialogue for Dracula despite the grumblings of Christopher Lee. There was even a theory which circulated for a time suggesting Hammer could not afford Lee’s growing salary, so the studio decided to limit the Count’s screen time. Did this lead to the demise of Dracula’s dialogue? Regardless of whom you want to believe, Dracula is the strong, silent type in Prince of Darkness.
4. Double Duty for Dracula
Hammer Film Productions doubled down, so to speak, on the production and post-production aspects of Dracula: Prince of Darkness. First, the studio filmed the vampire flick back-to-back with another project titled Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966). In doing so, Hammer used many of the same sets, actors – including Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer – and crew members to shoot both motion pictures.
Second, Dracula: Prince of Darkness was featured in a double billing alongside the film The Plague of the Zombies (1966) when it screened in London.
3. Stunt Double Nearly Drowned
Dracula: Prince of Darkness introduced a new weakness which could kill the wicked baddie, but it nearly cost a stuntman his life. During the film, it was revealed running water could destroy Dracula. Apparently, leaving the faucets on at night not only prevents frozen pipes, but blood-sucking vampires, too.
All kidding aside, it was during the climactic battle scene in which Christopher Lee’s stunt double almost succumb to the icy waters on set. Stuntman Eddie Powell stepped in as the Count during the pivotal moment, as Dracula slipped into the watery grave, but Powell was trapped under the water himself and almost died!
2. Lee Loathed What Hammer Did to Stoker’s Character
Christopher Lee’s return to Hammer’s Dracula franchise was a stroke of genius on the part of producers, but Lee was more than a little reticent when it came to initially voicing his dislike for playing the iconic role. As mentioned above, a lot of speculation swirled around the lack of dialogue given to Lee in the Prince of Darkness script. And if you don’t count the opening flashback sequence, which revisits the ending of Horror of Dracula (1958), Count Dracula doesn’t appear on screen until the 45-minute mark of the film.
Dracula’s lack of character, and presence, began to affect Lee particularly when it came to signing on to play the character in the three films following Prince of Darkness. Indeed, the lack of meaningful character development led to Lee initially turning down Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Scars of Dracula (1970). Lee said in countless interviews he never got to play the real version of Count Dracula created by Bram Stoker, at least via Hammer Studios. This was a true disappointment to the late actor.
But Hammer guilted Lee into taking on the role over and over again because the studio claimed to have already sold the aforementioned films to the United States with Lee’s name attached to the projects. Hammer informed Lee if he didn’t return the company would have to lay off many of their workers. The tactic worked, since Lee was friends with many of the Dracula crew members. Fortunately for fans, Lee kept coming back for blood.
1. Faux Pas
Outside of the character of Dracula only appearing on screen for the last half of the movie, Dracula: Prince of Darkness had even more pressing issues which unfortunately survived all the way to the final cut of the film. One of the most appalling of these occurrences happens during the picture’s climatic confrontation.
Watch the skies above Dracula, and you will see the trail of a jet-engine plane staining the sky.
Another faux pas occurs in this same sequence when Dracula succumbs to the icy waters. Watch closely as the camera’s long-shot clearly reveals the pivots holding the ice up underneath Chris Lee.
Finally, watch the dead girl who is being carried during the opening funeral sequence. She is clearly breathing and quite heavily at that.