Ever since Scream Factory got their hands on the Hammer catalogue, they have been hammering out (ed. note: that pun is a terrible) a bunch of the titles. The ones that most people are looking forward to of course are the Christopher Lee Dracula films, and so far they have released three from the series (only two of them starred Lee). The first was Dracula: Prince of Darkness (Ryne’s review) and then The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Michael’s review). The next film to come out is the 1970 movie Scars of Dracula.
Scars of Dracula was seen as a reboot of the series. They weren’t sure if they were going to get Christopher Lee back in the role, so they wrote a script that gives Dracula a bit of a reboot, although the method of resurrection is reaching Freddy Krueger resurrection levels of insanity (a bat spits blood on Dracula’s ashes and presto-chango he has risen!). They were potentially going to go with a much younger, sexier Dracula, but once Lee agreed to sign on they scrapped that idea. Honestly, having only seen The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires and Prince of Darkness, I don’t see much change compared to what little I’ve garnered from reading about past films in the series.
In Scars of Dracula, once the master vampire comes back, the villagers raid his castle and try to burn it down. They give up way too easily and of course, Dracula survives the fire, waiting for some sad saps to show up so he can feast on them. It doesn’t take long for one sap by the name of Paul (Christopher Matthews) to end up at the castle. After he disappears, his brother Simon (Dennis Waterman) and his drop-dead gorgeous girlfriend Sarah (played by Jenny Hanley who is our site mascot) end up at the castle looking for him. Dracula soon begins his task of seducing Sarah. I tell you, all Dracula ever does is try to seduce hot women. The man’s game is on point and you gotta respect him for that. He knows what he wants and he goes for it.
In my insufficient experience with this series, I do have to say Scars of Dracula feels limited in scope. Dracula never leaves the castle, the setpieces are small and confined and nothing feels grandiose. At least this time around Lee gets some dialogue (Prince of Darkness has zero lines for Christopher Lee). Nevertheless, the nice thing about this being a Hammer production is that we get our fill of heaving bosoms, creepy stagecoaches, and copious amounts of the red stuff – one scene, in particular, involving bats and a church is rather gruesome. Also, if there is one reason (okay, there are two very big main reasons to see this film, so third reason) to check out Scars of Dracula, it would be for the scene of Dracula climbing up the outside of his castle. It’s effectively chilling to see.
StudioCanal released Scars of Dracula on Blu-ray back in October of 2017. The film’s aspect ratio was 1.66:1 and the overall result was solid. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information about exactly what was used for the video transfer. The reason I mention Studio Canal’s release is that Scream Factory uses the same transfer, although SF was kind enough to provide us with both the 1.85:1 (the disc’s default ratio) and 1.66:1 ratio. There is some dirt and debris present during certain scenes, but the overall quality, especially when it comes to the film grain, is splendid-looking. The Blu-ray’s video codec is MPEG 4, with an average bitrate of 32000 kbps (1.85:1 ratio). Audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono and I did not notice any strange sound issues during my viewing.
Scream Factory provides buyers with a brand new audio commentary with Constantine Nasr and Randall Larson. That is the only new feature, as the 18-minute feature Blood Rites was included on the StudioCanal release. That isn’t to say it isn’t worth watching, as actress Jenny Hanley provides plenty of fun anecdotes about the filming. The previous commentary with Christopher Lee, Roy Ward Baker and Marcus Hearn is also provided. Rounding everything out is a trailer and still gallery. Because of the new audio commentary, this makes Scream Factory’s Blu-ray the best release out there for Scars of Dracula in terms of features and video/audio quality.
NEW Audio commentary with Constantine Nasr and Randall Larson
Audio commentary with Christopher Lee, Roy Ward Baker, and Marcus Hearn
Blood Rites: Inside Scars of Dracula featurette (HD; 18:03)
Trailers (HD, not restored; 5:05)
Still gallery (No chapter breaks; 10:20)
Scars of Dracula feels confined and doesn't branch out enough to make it feel any different than the past several Hammer Dracula films. However, because it's still Hammer, we get the classic stuff we have come to love. We have beautiful damsels in distress, gothic setpieces, and a generous amount of blood. It might not be the best of the bunch, but it ranks high enough to think about picking up. And what's this? Scream Factory just happens to be the Blu-ray to buy, with new audio commentary and the still solid-looking StudioCanal transfer backing it up.