|Christopher Lee as Dracula|
Dracula (Christopher Lee) is alive and well and masquerading as the Howard Hughes-like millionaire recluse Denham. When his nemesis, Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), learns that Dracula has joined together a group of prominent men into a satanic cult, and that one of them, Professor Keeley (Freddie Jones of Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) has grown cultures of bubonic plague -- the "Black Death' -- he postulates that Dracula wants to end all life on earth and realize final peace. By Van Helsing's side are his granddaughter Jessica (Joanna Lumley) and Inspector Murray (Michael Coles), who break into a sinister estate from which the cult operates and find themselves in a cellar full of slavering vampire women! The Satanic Rites Of Dracula, which takes place in modern times, is one of the better latter-day Hammer Dracula offerings, with both Lee and Cushing expert in their portrayals, and with top-notch supporting performances as well. This is bolstered by an intriguing plot line, although the use of nasty motorcycle thugs as the cult's assassins and the like is a notion that doesn't always work too well. As much as I love Bela Lugosi, I think Lee makes the more commanding Dracula. This was Lee's last appearance as the traditional Dracula in a Hammer film, although he also played the Lord of the Undead in the 1976 comedy Dracula and Son. Alan Gibson also directed the thriller Crescendo.
Verdict: Pretty terrific Hammer flick. ***.