The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)

Dracula falls into a thorn bush
The Count ain’t happy!

SATANIC RITES was the eighth film in Hammer’s Dracula series and it was the seventh (and final) one to feature Christopher Lee as the undead Count. The film was the fourth one to star Peter Cushing as Van Helsing: he played the original Van Helsing twice and a descendent of Van Helsing twice in the Dracula series (and he played the original Van Helsing in 1974’s THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES too, which wasn’t part of the Lee series).

UK poster with artwork by Tom Chantrell

This film takes place two years after the events featured in DRACULA A.D. 1972 and deals with Van Helsing helping the Secret Service to discover why a group of elite members of the British establishment are performing satanic rituals at a large mansion. The trail leads to the mysterious property developer D. D. Denham, who turns out to be Dracula…

It's Dracula!
D.D.D… is Dracula!

As with DRACULA A.D 1972, I think this Dracula-in-contemporary-times flick is a fun viewing experience!

Let’s face it – THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA is an outlandish, pulpy yarn. It involves biker henchmen, the Secret Service, blood squib gunplay, a secret cabal of senior UK figures taking part in occult ceremonies, Scotland Yard, female vampires chained in a basement, death by fire sprinkler and Dracula planning to wipe out all of mankind with a weaponised strain of bubonic plague!

Black magic rites!
Black magic rites!
Sheepskin-waistcoated biker with a silencer!
Sheepskin-waistcoated biker with shades and a silencer!
Blood squibs!
Blood squibs!
Vamps in the cellar
Vamps in the cellar
A biker gets blasted!
A biker gets blasted!

Many Hammer fans dislike this eccentric mix of disparate elements, but I like this bizarre brew! Dracula’s demise is usually the butt of jokes because he ‘just falls into a thorn bush’, but I think the way the Count ends up with his own ‘crown’ of thorns (in this story the thorn bush is disliked by vampires due to its link with Christ’s crown of thorns) is effective visually and, anyway, it is actually Van Helsing who offs Dracula with a handy fence post.

Crown of thorns!
Crown of thorns!

With Joanna Lumley replacing Stephanie Beacham as Van Helsing’s granddaughter Jessica, Michael Coles returns as Scotland Yard’s Inspector Murray, seen previously in DRACULA A.D. 1972. Freddie (FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED) Jones plays a mentally unstable scientist, Valerie Van Ost is a Secret Service secretary who falls victim to Dracula and William Franklyn, famous in the UK for his lighthearted commercial voice-over work, is quite effective as Secret Service agent Torrence.

Dracula comes calling…
Secret Service secretary Jane becomes a vampire!
Secret Service secretary Jane becomes a vampire!
Joanna (THE NEW AVENGERS) Lumley is Van Helsing's granddaughter Jessica
Joanna (THE NEW AVENGERS) Lumley is Van Helsing’s granddaughter Jessica
Plague victim!
Plague victim!
Cushing has a cross!
Cushing has a cross!

About this movie’s copyright issues: Warner Brothers released the film under its original title in the UK, but they didn’t distribute it in the U.S. The film was eventually released in America years later as COUNT DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDE. In the 1980s the film was falsely believed to be in the public domain in America and released on video tape by several companies, using a transfer culled from a worn 35mm print. The rights reverted back to Hammer Films in the 1990s, however, and Anchor Bay acquired the video rights. THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA was then released officially on VHS and DVD. 

Original US poster
Original US poster

One thing I can say is that I’m really pleased Hammer didn’t go with its original title for the movie: DRACULA IS DEAD AND WELL AND LIVING IN LONDON (!)

Dracula gets killed yet again
Japanese poster
Japanese poster

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