Countess Dracula (UK 1970)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/16/16
Cast: Ingrid Pitt, Nigel Green

A loose adaptation of the Elizabeth Bathory story, featuring Ingrid Pitt as an aging Hungarian countess whose husband has just recently died. A young soldier named Imre inherits the late general's stable and horses, and the countess takes a lascivious interest in his youthful vigor and boyish good looks. Reluctantly aided by the jealous Captain Dobi (delightful Nigel Green), the countess becomes young again by bathing in the blood of virgin girls, and successfully seduces Imre with her wicked charms. Of course, the effect quickly wears off, and the countess requires an increasing number of virgin sacrifices to maintain her illusion of youth. Suspicions about the missing girls grow as the countess becomes more ruthless and mentally unstable. When her devilry is finally exposed, she and her accomplices are sentenced to the gallows.

The film is exceedingly slow and tedious, but Ingrid Pitt delivers a consistently strong and powerful performance. She's given a lot of screen time and dominates every scene that she's in with an impressive range of emotional intensity, vulnerability, and raw sensuality. She is both sexy and cruel, and men are helpless around her. Her aging makeup is quite effective, but it's her performance that sells it. Nigel Green is fantastic as the charismatic, but doomed Captain Dobi. He alone has the strength to stand up to the countess, but he's also a self-loathing slave to her will. The chemistry between them is the only real spark that the film has. It's a good looking production and the costuming is superb, but the direction seems overly languid and the presentation is surprisingly tame for a Hammer film. It's more of a historical drama than a horror film, which I found disappointing.