Dracula: Prince of Darkness is a 1966 British vampire film directed by Terence Fisher. The film was photographed in Techniscope by Michael Reed, designed by Bernard Robinson and scored by James Bernard. It stars Christopher Lee as Dracula, Francis Matthews, and Barbara Shelley. It is the second Hammer film with Dracula as its main antagonist and the third Dracula Hammer film.
The story opens with the final scenes from Dracula (1958), showing Dracula’s death at the hands of Dr. Van Helsing accompanied by narration. Using a makeshift crucifix, Van Helsing forces the Count into the destructive rays of the sun. Eventually, Dracula is destroyed and he crumbles to dust in the sunlight. As the wind blows away his ashes, only the Count's ring remains...
Father Sandor arrives just in time to prevent locals from staking a woman's corpse through the heart and chastises the presiding priest for perpetuating the fear of vampirism. Sandor visits an inn and warns four English tourists – the Kents – not to visit Karlsbad; however, they ignore his advice.
As night approaches, the Kents find themselves dumped by their fear-stricken coach driver two kilometres from Karlsbad, in view of a castle. A driverless carriage takes them to the castle where they find a dining table set for four people and their bags unpacked in the bedrooms. A servant named Klove explains that his master, the late Count Dracula, ordered that the castle should always be ready to welcome strangers. After dinner the Kents settle in their rooms.
Later that night, Alan investigates a noise and follows Klove to the crypt where he is killed by Klove and his blood is mixed with Dracula's ashes, reviving Dracula. Klove entices Helen to the crypt where she becomes Dracula's first victim.
The next morning Charles and Diana can find no trace of Alan, Helen or Klove. Charles takes Diana to a woodsman’s hut and then he returns to the castle to search for Alan and Helen. Klove tricks Diana into returning to the castle. Charles finds Alan’s dismembered body in a trunk in the crypt. It is now dark and Dracula rises. Diana meets Helen, but Helen has become one of the undead and she attacks Diana. Dracula enters and warns her away from Diana. Charles struggles with Dracula until Diana realises her crucifix is an effective weapon against vampires. Charles improvises a larger cross and drives Dracula away. They escape the castle in a carriage, but lose control on the steep roads. The carriage crashes and Diana is unconscious. Charles carries her for several hours through the woods until they are rescued by Father Sandor, who takes them to his abbey. While waiting for Diana to awaken, Sandor tells Charles about Dracula.
Klove arrives at the monastery in a wagon carrying two coffins bearing Dracula and Helen. Klove is denied admission by the monks. Ludwig, a patient at the abbey, is in thrall to Dracula and invites the vampire inside. Helen convinces Diana to open the window for her, claiming that Dracula is controlling her. Diana does, and Helen bites her arm. Dracula drags Helen off as he wants Diana for himself. Charles bursts into the room and drives the vampires out. Sandor sterilises the bite with the heat from an oil lamp.
Sandor puts silver crucifixes in the two coffins to prevent the vampires returning to them. Helen is captured and staked. Sandor tells Charles that the Helen he knew is dead and that her current form is nothing but a monster now. Ludwig then lures Diana into Dracula’s presence, where she is hypnotised into removing her crucifix. Dracula coerces her to drink his blood from his bare chest, but Charles returns in time to prevent it, forcing Dracula to flee with the unconscious Diana.
Charles and Sandor arm themselves and follow on horseback. A shortcut allows them to get in front of Dracula's wagon and stop it. Charles shoots Klove but the horses gallop off to the castle. Diana is rescued, while Dracula's coffin is thrown onto the icy moat and Charles attempts to stake the vampire but is beaten back. Shots fired by both Diana and Sandor break the ice and the vampire sinks into the freezing waters.
In the final scene, the frozen body of the Prince of Darkness is seen sinking under the forming ice and further and further away into the icy depths...
- Christopher Lee as Count Dracula
- Barbara Shelley as Helen Kent
- Andrew Keir as Father Sandor
- Francis Matthews as Charles Kent
- Suzan Farmer as Diana Kent
- Charles Tingwell as Alan Kent
- Thorley Walters as Ludwig
- Philip Latham as Klove
- Walter Brown as Brother Mark
- Jack Lambert as Brother Peter
- George Woodbridge as Landlord
- Philip Ray as Priest
- Joyce Hemson as Mother
- John Maxim as Coach Driver
- Peter Cushing as Dr. Van Helsing (Uncredited. Archive footage only)
Dracula does not speak in the film, and is barely audible save for a few hisses. Christopher Lee said: "I didn’t speak in that picture. The reason was very simple. I read the script and saw the dialogue! I said to Hammer, if you think I’m going to say any of these lines, you’re very much mistaken." Screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, in his memoir Inside Hammer (Reynolds & Hearn, 2001), stated that "Vampires don't chat. So I didn't write him any dialogue. Chris[topher] Lee has claimed that he refused to speak the lines he was given...so you can take your pick as to why Christopher Lee didn't have any dialogue in the picture. Or you can take my word for it. I didn't write any."
The film was written into a novel by John Burke as part of his 1967 book The Second Hammer Horror Film Omnibus.
The film was made back-to-back with Rasputin, the Mad Monk, using many of the same sets and cast, including Lee, Shelley, Matthews and Farmer. Barbara Shelley later remembered accidentally swallowing one of her fangs in one scene, and having to drink salt water to bring it back up again because of the tight shooting schedule (as well as there being no spare set of fangs).
The film was released in some markets on a double feature with The Plague of the Zombies. Plastic vampire fangs and cardboard "zombie eyes" glasses were distributed to audience patrons as a gimmick.
Dracula: Prince of Darkness has been well received by critic. It currently holds an 83% approval rating on movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on twelve reviews.
The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films called it "perhaps the quintessential Hammer horror", but "contains little that audiences hadn't seen before."
On January 19th, 2012 Hammer Films announced on their restoration blog that StudioCanal UK would release a Region B Blu-ray Disc version of the film on March 5th, 2012. The announcement read: "the chilling DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, restored at Pinewood from 2-perf cut negative, scanned and restored in 2k. DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS will be presented in all its Techniscope glory, in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1." The Flicker Club in London screened the restored film on Febuary 24th, 2012 at a venue in the Old Vic Tunnels. The screening was preceded by a guest introduction by Marcus Hearn and a guest reading from Bram Stoker's Dracula by actor Stephen Tompkinson.