Dracula: Prince of Darkness review (Blu-ray)

Two brothers and their wives, travelling in the countryside, find themselves overnight guests at Castle Dracula ... where not is all as it seems, and a certain legendary vampire returns from the grave.

StudioCanal and Hammer have joined forces to restore, remaster and re-release some of the British horror greats, and this first one out the door is a doozy. Hailing from 1966, it's a sequel to Horror of Dracula, and Lee's first time back in his most famous role in seven years.

Dracula: PoD opens with Drac's classic death scene from HoD. Cut to 10 years later, and our four weary travellers are welcomed to Castle Dracula by Klove, faithful servant to the evil one. Later that night, Alan Kent (Tingwell)  is sacrificed to bring about Dracula's resurrection; and his wife, Helen (Shelley), is turned. So his brother, Charles (Matthews), has to enlist the help of local village priest Father Sandor (Keir) to take the Count down and save his own wife, Diana (Farmer).

Forget your glittery Twilight vamps, or the broodiness of Angel; Lee played the vampire as a smooth, charming animal, all glowy-red eyes and fangy grimace, and never utters a word of dialogue. There's blood and campiness galore, plus a hint of lesbianism (which, for 1966, must have been truly shocking). It's certainly not Hammer's best film, but as Dracula movies go, it ticks all the right boxes. And for this critic especially, it's great to see Aussie legend Tingwell hamming it up gloriously.

The restoration of this film is an absolute credit to Hammer and StudioCanal. The film looks new and pristine; the colours are crisp, rich and vivid. Visually it's stunning, although sadly, there seems to be a bit of an audio-synch issue on a coiuple of scenes. Let's hope that small glitch doesn't happen with the futurue restorations of Hammer's impressive back catalogue.

EXTRAS ★★★★ An audio commentary with stars Lee, Farmer, Matthews and Shelley; the featurette Back to Black: The making of Dracula Prince of Darkness (29:34);an episode from The World of hammer TV series, narrated by Oliver Reed, that looks back at Lee's career with Hammer (24:48); some behind-the-scenes 8mm footage from the film's production (4:39); a restoration comparison (3:57); two trailers; the poriginal US titles; and the UK theatrical titles.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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