A Horror Film Legend Brings a Gothic Icon to Life

In a manner of speaking anyway. I was tempted to leave this film off the countdown because I struggle with whether or not it is indeed a vampire movie. But, the more I thought about it, the more I came to the realization that it really does belong. The legendary Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed of Hungary was accused of a slew of crimes involving the murder or countless servant girls. As the story goes, Countess Báthory bathed in the blood of her victims in order to maintain her youth. You could argue that Báthory wasn’t a vampire in the traditional sense, and you’d be right. And now you know why I struggled with this one.

25. Countess Dracula – 1971

As Hammer Studios did a decade earlier with Brides of Dracula and Universal did with Dracula’s Daughter in 1936, filmmakers sought to capitalize on the Dracula name to heighten awareness for their movies without actually, you know, putting Dracula in the movie. Venerable horror movie legend Ingrid Pitt plays Countess Elisabeth Nádasdy, which draws directly on the Countess Báthory legend. Written by Jeremy Paul, Alexander Paal, and Peter Sasdy (who also directed), Pitt’s Countess Elisabeth relies on her faithful right-hand man Captain Dobi, played by Nigel Green (Hercules in Jason and the Argonauts). She betrays Dobi with Imre Toth, played by Hungarian actor Sandor Elès (who also appeared in Hammer’s Evil of Frankenstein), and that doesn’t sit well with Dobi. The story ends predictably with Countess Elisabeth exposed, reverting to her real age, and having to pay for her crimes.

Pitt is no stranger to sensual horror and although some might point to The Vampire Lovers, she is probably at her best in this film. She has no problem with the nude bathing in blood scene, and her laissez-faire or even cavalier attitude toward doing whatever she likes and whatever she has to is evident throughout. Pitt’s characters are often ruthless, but her Countess Elisabeth is also pitiless.

As much as we like to revisit Hammer’s Dracula and Frankenstein franchises, and rightfully so, Hammer Studios spent much of the 1960s and 1970s mining Gothic horror history for material and Countess Dracula is one of the better entries.

31a./31b. Blacula/Scream Blacula Scream
30. The Lair of the White Worm
29. Son of Dracula
28. Vampire Circus
27. Innocent Blood

26. The Hunger

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