Countess Dracula (1971)

Ingrid Pitt, Nigel Green, Sandor Elès, Maurice Denham
In medieval Europe aging Countess Elisabeth rules harshly with the help of lover Captain Dobi. Finding that washing in the blood of young girls makes her young again she gets Dobi to start ...
  • 20th Century Fox Company:
  • PG Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 11 Oct 1972 Released:
  • N/A DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Jeremy Paul (screenplay), Alexander Paal (story), Writer:
  • Peter Sasdy Director:
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A Literal Blood Bath5/10

Shocking, poetic, well-done story loosely based on the legend of Countess Bathory of Hungary who, it is said, bathed in the blood of young virginal women for the purposes of rejuvenating her skin. Ingrid Pitt plays the countess in all her ugly old age and her fresh nubile new skin. Actually, Pitt does a very good job in a very difficult role of playing two women incredibly apart in age that are supposed to be the same woman. The direction is done by Peter Sasdy, probably the best of Hammer's latter directors, who did a very good job with Taste the Blood of Dracula and Hands of the Ripper. Sasdy knows how to use his camera and can be quite lyrical with it. Some of the scenes are very fresh and inventive. One that stands out is where Pitt returns to her ugliness and all the action of her inner turmoil is seen through some broken lattice. Quite good! Too bad that Hammer had by this time gone to that inferior film stock. This would have been simply gorgeous had it been done five years earlier. Also, by this time, Hammer had to rely on more blood and violence and more exposed bosoms. Countess Dracula is at times quite bloody, with the pinnacle I think being the scene where Pitt is actually caught unawares bathing in blood and massaging her nude bodice with a blood-soaked sponge. Nonetheless the violence really does not detract too much from a pretty good story and execution of it. Nor does the nudity, albeit it rather unnecessary(Andrea Lawrence is quite "charming" in her role as a serving pun intended). The rest of the cast is very good with Nigel Green really giving a nice performance as a jealous lover and Maurice Denham excelling as a dotty old man. The film stands as a testament to the extremes some people will go through to recapture what was past, and their self-centered, self-serving drive to remain beautiful and young. Is it topical today? You bet ya!
Ingrid Pitt is the stuff of dreams - and nightmares5/10

The tale of Countess Bathory who, horrified by her own ageing, discovers taking a bath in a virgin's blood will restore her lost youth and get her noticed by dashing Sandor Eles. Fortunately for the countess, her estate positively heaves with buxom maidens. Director Peter Sasdy may have let the brilliant Ingrid Pitt run a little wilder amongst the drab sets with the roles of Bathory young and old, but her joy at hamming it up helps place this as one of the better later Hammer productions. Nigel Green and Maurice Denham give twitching support.
"Good latter day Hammer much in the Terence Fisher style."5/10
This Hammer horror made during the company's swansong years is based on the real life tale of the Hungarian Countess Bathory who bathed in the blood of young virgins in order to preserve her youth. Here the character has been renamed the Countess Nadasdy and is excellently portrayed by Ingrid Pitt. Director Peter Sasdy (who was Hungarian) manages to extract some period detail (not the pleasant kind) from the Jeremy Paul script such as the treatment of peasants by the aristocracy and he is aided by the rich lighting of Cinematographer Ken Talbot. Sasdy was without doubt one of the best Hammer or British horror film directors alongside Terence Fisher, Roy Ward Baker, Freddie Francis and John Gilling. Indeed Sasdy was the only other director than Terence Fisher who was able to relate the attitudes of society and the eerie atmospheric poetry to the vampire myth. While this is no criticism against Sasdy, it would of been interesting to see how Terence Fisher would have approached the film. The material would have given him many opportunities to place emphasis on character and setting, which was the main features of his style. Other delights include the able support from the always reliable Nigel Green who plays a faithful servant who supplies Pitt with suitable victims and Maurice Denham is fun as the ill-fated inquisitive librarian Master Fabio. The film has now been reissued on DVD with "Twins Of Evil" and "Vampire Circus" by Carlton as a box set entitled, "Hammer House Of Horror: The Vampire Collection".
"Countess Dracula", inaccurate title for a Greek tragedy6/10
Based on true history of Hungary's early 17th Century, Countess Elizabeth Bathory, Hammer Film's, "Countess Dracula" was meant to be entertaining historic horror, with no aspirations towards anything more or higher. In this entertainment aspect, regardless of lovely actress Ingrid Pitt's considerable feminine endowments, "Countess Dracula" succeeded. If one could fault Hammer Films for anything, it would be its blatant inaccurate film title, which was a transparent marketing ploy to capitalize on the studio's heretofore financially successful vampire horror films.

Nonetheless by reading all the subsequent readers' comments herein, one consistently encounters complaints on "Countess Dracula's" purported shortcomings in plot, acting talent, budget, sets quality, etc., as if the critics were evaluating a multi-million dollar budgeted aspiring blockbuster. Hammer Films execs wanted its viewers to come away entertained by this film. If you watched, "Countess Dracula" and came away entertained, amused, or disturbed then everyone got someone and should be happy.

I won't rehash old observations expounded upon in previous viewers' comments as I have similar ones so I will offer new comments.

One or two viewers previously commented on the horrible aging makeup of Ingrid Pitt/Countess Nodosheen. My new observation beyond this is that in real life, the countess would not have actually looked like an aging grandmother.

Bear in mind that back in circa 1600 AD, young women married at the age of 15 or 16 and quickly bore children soon after. If my history is correct, the real Countess Bathory married at age 16. Assuming bearing a child at age 17, by the time the 18-year old Lesley Anne-Downe/Ilona Nodosheen appears on scene, the movie's Countess Nodosheen should have been only 34 or 35 years old. It would have been possible for the early-thirties Countess Nadosheen to still have appeared relatively attractive. Don't forget that as a wealthy aristocrat the countess would have had a superior diet and nutrition compared to the peasants, would not have had to work outdoors at hard labor, and had access to far better medical service, albeit primitive as it would have been back then. You can imagine an attractive 34 year old woman today being sexually attracted to a handsome, 22-24 year old man, which the young lieutenant Imre Toth was supposed to be.

Sandor Eles, the ill-fated lieutenant Imre Toth, deserves much better treatment in his thankless role than the critics of this viewers' board gave him. His character was not afforded that much dimension to begin with because that is how the film's director envisioned it. Toth is a tragic, innocent victim, and was not meant to be the film's hero requiring cunning, nerves of steel, fighting talent, so forth. I actually felt great sympathy for the Toth character. In the film LT Toth is a real nice guy, of above average intelligence, but no genius, a typical young man filled with visions of military achievement and glory. There is no man who in the same position would not be able to resist the attentions and sexual blandishments of a beautiful woman. We would all fall into the same trap. That is why the Toth character elicits sympathy. He could be any one of us normal guys.

Another observation is in line. The rejuvenated Countess Nodosheen is supposed to look 18-19 years old. But in the film Ingrid Pitt looks older than Sandor Eles/Imre Toth. She looks more like a woman in her late 20's possibly already 30. I attribute that slip-up to the director. It's no fault of Ingrid Pitt. That's how Pitt looked like back in 1970.

One more observation. Did anyone notice that when Countess Nodosheen regained her youth temporarily, her disposition and temperament dramatically improved as well? As an old crone, the countess is dour and mean-spirited. Rejuvenated to around 18 years of age, the now pretty countess smiles a lot, laughs, tells jokes, and is generally much better company to be around. Only twice does the connivance of the elder countess resurface and then in a sexy, bitchy, "Dallas/Dynasty" sort of a way. The elder/younger countess transformation, reminiscent of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, seems to be reaching towards an allegory of good and evil co-existing within the same person.

In my opinion, this is where the inexplicable sympathy for the Ingrid Pitt/Countess Nodosheen character originates. If you watch "Countess Dracula" several times as I have done, you begin to perceive something of a Greek tragedy in the character, maybe MacBeth-like. An elderly aristocrat falls in love with a youthful man she knows she can never have, nor should have. But she circumvents her destiny and age by invoking black magic and murder. The results only ultimately mock her true age and bring misery and death to everyone around her.

Oddly, no one in "Countess Dracula" starts off evil. True, elderly Countess Nodosheen is selfish, mean-spirited, discourteous, and short-tempered, but she doesn't embark upon her amoral path of self-gratification, fornication, and murder until she accidentally discovers the "secret" of youth.

The excellent Nigel Green/Captain Dobi character doesn't start off evil, either, despite being a true SOB. Captain Dobi actually tries his best to dissuade the countess from her path of self-deceit and murder. He appears to truly love the elderly countess at her present age and appearance because they shared a love affair years ago. Captain Dobi predicts with grim accuracy the madness and obsession the countess would descent into should she insist on achieving and maintaining a false appearance of youthful beauty. Captain Dobi's love for the countess is unrequited and in the end betrayed. He allows himself to be dragged down into the same web of deceit and heinous murder.

The countess' trusted nurse/servant, Julie, a very nice, dedicated, and even 'good' character, descends into being an accomplice and an 'enabler'. Hence, the countess' final self-destruction ensnares all, good and bad, around her. Tell me that this doesn't bear some passing resemblance to a character Greek tragedy.
Ingrid Pitt's signature role in atypical Hammer horror6/10
"Countess Dracula"

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Mono

The title is a cheat (no fangs here, I'm afraid), but Peter Sasdy's atypical Hammer horror takes its cue from historical fact in an effort to distinguish itself from the studio's regular formula, casting Ingrid Pitt (only recently established as a horror icon at the time, through her appearances in THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD) as an ageing Countess in 16th century Hungary who discovers that her youth is restored by the blood of virgin girls. She subsequently embarks on a reign of terror whilst pursuing a young Army officer (Sandor Eles) who is unaware of her murderous activities. Philip Harrison's low budget set designs are grim and evocative (Harrison later decamped to Hollywood, where he worked on the likes of NICK OF TIME, THE CORE and many others), and Pitt is astonishingly good in the role of a dissolute noblewoman who uses her voluptuous beauty as a weapon in her selfish pursuit of personal gratification. But Jeremy Paul's complex script makes an anti-hero of its central character, revelling in Pitt's villainy whilst petitioning audience sympathy for the consequences of her sickening deceit (she keeps reverting to old age, each time looking worse than before, requiring more victims, more blood), and the dichotomy is crudely resolved during a melodramatic climax in which Pitt's secret is revealed at the worst possible moment.

In key character roles, Nigel Green and Maurice Denham are every bit as good as Pitt, though Eles and Lesley-Anne Down (as the daughter whom the Countess impersonates whilst romancing the younger man) are pretty nondescript as the underwritten juvenile leads. Prudes may disapprove of Pitt's glorious nude scenes (drool! slobber!), and timid viewers may want to cover their eyes during some brief but potent episodes of violence, including an extraordinary moment involving a lethal hat-pin which somehow managed to scrape past the British censor unscathed in 1970! The film is based on the real-life crimes of Elisabeth Bathory, a villainess whose bloodthirsty escapades would seem a natural subject for cinematic exploitation, but "Countess Dracula" is one of only a handful of movies to take inspiration from her dreadful misdeeds, including IMMORAL TALES (1974) and EL RETORNO DEL HOMBRE LOBO (1980).