Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 19th, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: UK, 1971
Director: Peter Sasdy
Writers: Jeremy Paul, Alexander Paal, Peter Sasdy, Gabriel Ronap, Valentine Penrose
Cast: Ingrid Pitt, Nigel Green, Sandor Elès, Maurice Denham, Patience Collier, Peter Jeffrey, Lesley-Anne Down
BluRay released: May 6th, 2014
Approximate running time: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Synapse Films
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95
Countess Dracula was directed by Peter Sasdy who’s other Hammer Films include, Taste the Blood of Dracula and Hands of the Ripper. Key Collaborators on Countess Dracula include composer Harry Robertson (Twins of Evil) and cinematographer Kenneth Talbot (Nothing but the Night, The Devil Within Her).
Content wise the most obvious inspiration behind this film’s plot comes from the real life atrocities that were committed by a Hungarian countess named Elizabeth Báthory. Inspirations aside this film like the majority of Hammer Films post 1960’s output has a healthy dose of bloodshed and some well placed moments of nudity.
Also structurally though it is easy to see where the plot is heading towards, especially when one picks up on the Elizabeth Báthory connection to the story at hand. And yet where such predictability could easily hamper a film, this is not the case as things move along at a brisk pace. Another reason why the plot works as well as it does is because it is driven by its protagonist’s obsession, which is effortlessly reinforced by its leading lady Ingrid Pitt’s (Where Eagles Dare, The Vampire Lovers) spellbinding performance.
From a visual stand point Peter Sasdy’s direction is first rate. A few of this film’s standout moments being a scene where the Countess beauty literally disappears while she is in an embrace with Lt. Imre Toth and a scene where Captain Dobi reveales to Lt. Imre Toth what the countess has been up to. This scene also feature full frontal nudity from Pitt who’s flesh is covered in blood. Another strength of this film is its solid set designs.
Besides Pitt’s aforementioned performance the rest of the cast are also very good in their respective roles, especially Nigel Green (The Ipcress File) in the role of Captain Dobi the Castle Steward, a character who has waited for years for his chance to be with the countess and Maurice Denham (The Purple Plain) in the role of Master Fabio, the castle’s historian who finds himself at odds with the countess. Performance wise this film’s weakest link being Sandor Elès in the role of Lt. Imre Toth, the man who is being seduced by the countess. Ultimately Countess Dracula is a resilient film that continues to draw viewers into its web of seduction.
Countess Dracula comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Black and contrast levels look very good throughout, details look sharp, colors look nicely saturated and flesh tones look accurate. There are no issues with DNR or compression. Overall it is safe to say that this is a best this film has look to date on home video.
This release comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD Mono mix English. The scores sounds robust, dialog comes through with crystal clear clarity, everything sounds balanced and the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented. Also included with this release are removable English SDH subtitles.
Extras include trailer for the film, reversible cover art, a stills gallery, a 8 and ½ minutes audio interview with actress Ingrid Pitt, a featurette titled ‘Immortal Countess: The Cinematic Life of Ingrid Pitt’ (10 minutes 47 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and an audio commentary with actress Ingrid Pitt, director Peter Sasdy, Screenwriter Jeremy Paul And author Jonathan Sothcott.
The audio interview with Pit gives a brief overview the various projects that she has appeared in., while the audio commentary with Pitt is easily the most informative extra included with this release. Unfortunately for Pitt fans her involvement is minimal as director Peter Sasdy and screenwriter Jeremy Paul dominate the majority of this track. With that being said they do a superb job detailing the various aspects of this production. Besides the two extras that Pitt was directly involved in, there is a featurette about her career that includes comments from her biographer Robert Cotter and Hammer films historian Ted Newsom. Overall Countess Dracula gets a first rate release from Synapse Films, highly recommended.
Note: Also included with this combo release is a DVD counterpart.