|Sandor Eles and Ingrid Pitt|
After her husband dies, Countess Elisabeth (Ingrid Pitt) bemoans her fading beauty, but accidentally discovers that fresh blood acts to rejuvenate her skin. Before long she can impersonate her own daughter, Ilona (Lesley-Anne Down), whom the countess has imprisoned in a cottage when she shows up in town. Elisabeth begins a passionate affair with Imre Toth (Sandor Eles of And Soon the Darkness), and he proposes. But each time her beauty fades she turns into a more hideous hag, and she needs to continually bath in the blood of virgins. Sooner or later this will catch up with her ... Countess Dracula is loosely based on the life of the historical 16th century Hungarian figure Elisabeth Bathory, who apparently did murder and torture numerous servant girls, although other acts are shrouded in legend and there have been attempts to salvage her reputation and blame it all on men. (In one interview Ingrid Pitt claimed Bathory "was a wonderful mother. All this stuff they say about her I do not believe." Well ... ) Filtering her story through Hammer studios, you come up with an absorbing and very well-made Gothic horror tale that has handsome settings and excellent acting, especially from Nigel Green [The Face of Fu Manchu] as Elisabeth's long-time lover, Captain Dobi; Patience Collier as her generally loyal and complicit lady-in-waiting, Julie; Maurice Denham as the scholarly Fabio, who seems deceptively gentle; Eles; and others. It is hard to judge Pitt's performance because she was dubbed by British actress Olive Gregg, which seems strange since Pitt's Polish accent would not have been out of place and she was a competent actress -- in any case, she is quite effective in the lead. Countess Dracula reminds one of earlier films in which women killed to regain their youth and beauty such as The Leech Woman and The Wasp Woman. Harry Robertson's (aka Harry Robinson) score also adds to the picture's impact. Some viewers were disappointed that the film wasn't gorier and didn't have many more murders.
Verdict: Excellent Hammer horror production. ***.