Scars of Dracula Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Written by Anthony Hinds (as John Elder)
1970, 95 minutes, Rated R
Released on September 10th, 2019

Christopher Lee as Dracula
Dennis Waterman as Simon
Jenny Hanley as Sarah
Christopher Matthews as Paul
Patrick Troughton as Klove
Michael Gwynn as Priest
Michael Ripper as Landlord



Count Dracula has been vanquished and life in the village is back to normal – until an oversized bat hovers over Dracula’s remains and spits blood on them. The vampire is once again resurrected and he is not happy. The villagers set fire to his castle and in response he sends his bat companion to kill all of their women. Dracula is not messing around this time. When a young man from a nearby town goes missing after visiting the castle, his brother Simon and girlfriend Sarah visit the village to investigate. The locals want nothing to do with their questions and send them packing. Making their way to the castle, Simon and Sarah meet Dracula’s servant Klove, a hideous man who immediately falls for Sarah, but whose master has other intentions. It falls on Simon and the guidance of a local priest to protect Sarah and destroy the evil vampire forever.

Hammer Films cranked out Dracula movies for fifteen years starting in 1958 with The Horror of Dracula; most of them starring Christopher Lee (Horror Express). Peter Cushing (The Vampire Lovers) frequently appeared as his foil, Dr. Van Helsing, and in each film the two would inevitably battle to the death. You can’t keep a good vampire down and soon another adventure was set into motion. In 1970, the studio released their fifth movie in the franchise, this time without Cushing, but Lee returned in Scars of Dracula. Director Roy Ward Baker (Quatermass and the Pit) keeps things moving at a decent pace and creates a rich Gothic atmosphere that helps generate tension. Lee receives more screen time than in some of the previous efforts and is given some choice dialogue. He delivers another powerful performance and dominates every scene in which he appears.

This entry is a bit scattershot when it comes to plot, taking some material from Bram Stoker’s novel while borrowing classic moments from previous vampire films. Screenwriter Anthony Hinds (Dracula: Prince of Darkness), credited as John Elder, delivers a more sadistic spin on the material, with Dracula taking time out from seducing and biting women to violently stabbing them to death and torturing his assistant by burning his back with a heated sword. Times had changed since the series began and audiences demanded more graphic content in terms of blood and violence. This was the first film in the series to be released in the States with an R rating.


Scars of Dracula went into production during a tumultuous time at Hammer, when the studio had just lost their American distribution partners and funding was tight. The film suffers from low production values and occasionally looks cheap. Some of the special effects are pretty good, but the prominently featured bat creature is downright hokey. Christopher Lee has been outspoken about his dissatisfaction with the scripts for many of the Dracula pictures, stating that they would better serve the character by sticking closer to Stoker’s novel. Hinds’ script incorporates some classic elements but strays in tone and feels rushed.

The film faced steep opposition from the BBFC board of censors who objected to much of the graphic content, including a shot of blood smeared on a woman’s breasts. Scars of Dracula opened to scathing reviews and audience dissatisfaction, but did not manage to kill the franchise. This marked a turning point within Hammer Films, as many of the old guard retired and a new push for material appealing to younger, hipper audiences began. Christopher Lee and Roy Ward Baker continued working for the studio, adapting their talents as necessary with Lee reprising the role of Dracula two more times for films with contemporary settings. This is probably the weakest entry in the franchise, but I find parts of it deeply entertaining. Hammer completists will want to add this title to their collection, but casual viewers may want to catch it streaming.


Video and Audio:

Presented in both the original 1.66:1 and slightly opened up 1.85:1 aspect ratios, the picture is sharp and full of bright colors and plenty of small-object detail. This is likely the same solid transfer used for the 2017 UK Blu-ray release.

A DTS-HD MA 2.0 preserves the original mono recording and gets the job done. Dialogue levels are clean and free from hiss or other distortion. Music and sound effects are well-balanced and never intrusive.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.


Special Features:

A newly recorded audio commentary by film historian Constantine Nasr takes an honest look at the troubled picture. He is not a fan of this movie, as he finds it hopelessly disappointing and cheap. He dives into the behind-the-scenes troubles that plagued the production and, while a fan of both Lee and Baker, condemns this picture as a lesser effort. He reads from original shooting scripts, pointing out changes in tone and dialogue. Nasr is joined briefly by music historian Randall Larson, who comments on composer James Bernard’s driving score.

A vintage audio commentary featuring Christopher Lee and Roy Ward Baker allows the two old friends the opportunity to look back at their work and share some entertaining production stories. Lee hasn’t always been nice to this picture in the past, but has kind words here – claiming to have never seen it. Baker reflects on his history with Hammer Films and the two share their views of how the industry has changed over the years. The discussion is laid back and conversational, but features occasional gaps of silence as they watch the movie.

Blood Rites: Inside Scars of Dracula (18 minutes) takes a look back at the film and how it fits within the franchise. Hammer Films historians detail the history of the production and the troubles that plagued the shoot. Actress Jenny Hanley (Sarah) shares her memories of filming and has fond memories of her director and co-stars.

Two theatrical trailers are present, one promoting this picture alone and another pairing it as a double-feature release with Horror of Frankenstein.

A still gallery plays as a silent slideshow (10 minutes), featuring both color and black-and-white promotional images, lobby cards and international poster art.



Movie: Cover
Overall: 3.5 Star Rating

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
Other articles by this writer



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