Directed by: Peter Sasdy
Starring: Ingrid Pitt, Nigel Green, Sandor Eles
“Have I changed so much?”
Its funny, that when it comes to writing this review, as it stands having only watched the film two days ago, I can barely remember hardly anything about it.
The film is set in, what I believe to be, the 17th century in Hungary following the life of Countess Elisabeth Bathory (Pitt). Now personally I’ve never known much about this person in history, so I decided to let the film show the story before I did any research on how faithful it was. In hindsight, this was a terrible idea. The film does an incredibly poor job at trying to tell the story without being incredibly confusing in character motivations and ideas as to what is going on.
As the film starts, we are introduced to our characters by way of having a will read to explain what characters get what items, and their reactions to the news. This allows us to see if they are either total scumbags or actual decent human beings. Unfortunately there is no grey area other than total scumbag or best person in the world.
For those like me who aren’t in the know, Elizabeth Bathory was a countess who bathed in the blood of virgins believing it to make her look younger. The film does a rendition of this story with her falling in love in her younger looking face, so she must keep up the charade and sacrifice virgins, to keep her mask on. First off, if that was her real plan how long could she possibly keep it up before anyone would actually notice? It’s a paper-thin idea that doesn’t hold up in the slightest.
The film is very intriguing and flows very well for about the first thirty minutes, but then realizes that it has another hour to fill and, as such, doesn’t really know what to do for the remaining fifty minutes until the climax shows up. But really the worst thing the film does is become incredibly forgettable, which sadly its is. I know Hammer films have a reputation for being classically awesome or campy but this film doesn’t fall into either one of those categories.
The films title itself really doesn’t come into play until the last minute of the film, really. I kept wondering when she would become this mythical beast, but alias, it never actually happens. False advertising?
I will say that I found the film to be quite violent for a PG rating that was until scenes of full female nudity appeared. Now, I’m not one to complain against nudity in the slightest but it just threw me completely off to find tons of boobs in a PG rated film. I’m guessing this was the PG rating before it became the sort of childish meaning that it has today, after all Jaws is rated PG too.
“Don’t you realize you get uglier each time you get old?”
The video is presented in a 1:66.1 aspect ratio and while a good effort, never really takes off. Colors are, for the most part, accurate and skin tones are good. Black levels are decent, but unfortunately this film is screaming for a restoration. What I mean by that is, nearly every shot has specks all over the place and in some transitions, there was some severe scratching on the film that had me rewinding and going frame by frame to make sure I actually saw it. I did notice a few shots that had heavy noise that really looked awful, but it was quickly fixed. Characters wearing makeup was extremely noticeable but that’s common among classic releases like this. It’s not a bad video presentation, but it could really deserve more.
“Look at me! I’m beautiful!”
Audio is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 sound mix that is actually very good. Now personally I’ve never been a huge fan of 2.0 mixes cause I prefer to have my dialogue centered, but it’s not a deal breaker. Around the thirty or so minute mark I did find myself getting used to the sound setup. Dialogue is clean and actually is kind of better than the video presentation. While the sound is never too crowded I did notice at times, due to so much happening on screen, that it all kind of sounded like one big mess and I think this was intentional.
Packaging and Bonus Features
“…Devil woman….countess Dracula…”
Packaging is actually great for having two different reversible covers one that’s more classic, and one that features a fully nude witch like woman. Depending on your preference you get to choose, which is always nice. Bonus Features on the other hand, are decent and do a ok job with having something for fans to have to enhance the experience. First up is an audio commentary Ingrid Pitt, director Peter Sasdy, screenwriter Jeremy Paul and author Jonathan Sothcott. I found their discussion to be quite reveling to the process to making the film very enlightening and gave some great pointers as to why they filmed sequences the way they did. Next up is a featurette about the cinematic life of Ingrid Pitt and her rolls she did. There is also a still gallery with behind the scenes shots and finally a theatrical trailer. A DVD copy is also included.