Format: Amazon Streaming
Director: Peter Sasdy
I actually liked this Dracula a bit more than I expected. We're hitting 1970 by this time, Hammer was loosening up, and the characters feel a bit more three-dimensional around Dracula - which is welcome what with the lack of Peter Cushing.
Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) picks up during the events of the prior Dracula film, with Dracula impaled on a golden cross. A wayward English traveler comes upon the scene at that very moment, and, being an enterprising fellow, collects Dracula's cape, his clasp and his ring after the count is "dead". As well as putting some of his blood in a vial.
The interesting shift in this film, to me, is that the stuffy Englishmen who generally colonialize their way into trouble in prior films, assuming locals are speaking superstitious nonsense as they warn them off about Dracula are - this time - more modern horror victims. For this film, we head to England/ suburban London, and those who bring Dracula down upon themselves are gentlemen leading double-lives (and loving it), playing it up as gentlemen except when they hit the brothels (on Sundays, no less). They've made a pact to try to push their lives to secret extremes, and now that they've gotten away with their brothel time, they're even bored of that - and want to try some more dangerous stuff.
Enter a young, disgraced nobleman who likes to play with black masses and somehow has convinced the hookers to pay him, and you get three dads who are playing with fire.
Their glib hypocrisy paired with sheer hubris enters them into a dangerous underworld that they've been flirting with, but which overwhelms them and their small-minded world. If you're us at our house, we already kind of cheer for Dracula to start up the chaos, but the men in this movie are so reprehensible, you're actively cheering against them and waiting for Dracula to take their asses out.
Dracula, of course, is gonna Dracula, so his net is cast a bit wider than the central characters, and he begins targeting the young women in their families.
We've been talking a bit about the role of Christian symbolism and Christianity as an actual force in these films, and Taste the Blood Dracula doesn't just employ churches, the cross and the power of faith to take him out - this film acknowledges Dracula as a sort of anti-Christ. His blood is consumed from a communion goblet in a Black Mass, empowering not just communion with, but the return of the Prince of Darkness. There's also some occasional Christ/ Anti-Christ imagery of Dracula, in a crucifixion pose, etc...
In the end, the light of day and the power of the cross once again destroy the monster, showing Dracula's POV as visions of the worship performed in the abandoned church once upon a time, fills his eyes as he's cast down.
Really, I thought this one was a slight notch above, and Lee seems into it. I might actually suggest this as stand-alone viewing if you're trying to pick out a Hammer Dracula.
I understand this was supposed to be kind of the last gasp of Hammer, and they were supposedly pushing edgier content to keep afloat (see the near-contemporary Vampire Lovers) but sometimes those chances pay off, and I think this is one of those cases.