In the crypts of an old castle, a red and black cape lies on the lid of a tomb. Beneath it is red dust. A bat hovers above the cape and lets fresh blood drip from its teeth and onto the cloak. Within seconds the dust begins to transform into bones, flesh forming around them, until - before the credits have even ended - Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) has been resurrected, complete with a blood-red glow in his eyes.

The bat's victim, a young lady, is carried to a local tavern by a worried villager. Upon viewing the two puncture marks in her neck, a priest blesses the girl's body. The landlord declares "We all know where the evil lies" and a group of angry men - ignoring the priest's pleas for calm - head for the Count's castle with weapons in hand.

After burning the castle down, the men return to the village church to comfort their loved ones. As they open the church door a vampire bat flies out and they discover their women dead in a surprisingly grisly, by Hammer's standards.

Next we meet the lovely Sarah (Jenny Hanley), who is celebrating her birthday with a group of guests including her boyfriend Simon (Dennis Waterman). The pair wonder where Simon's brother Paul could have got to. We learn that he's up to his usual tricks - bedding a local whore.

Arriving at the party late, Paul gives Sarah a picture frame as a gift and it becomes apparent that there is an attraction between the two. But somehow Paul ends up getting carried away on a horse-and-carriage (don't ask!), winding up alone and lost in the middle of the woods.

After trying his luck with another local wench, Paul finds his way to Dracula's castle in the hope of shelter for the night. First met by a comely brunette, the ladies' man must think his luck's finally in ... until, that is, he meets her master and his host, Count Dracula.

Now fully rejuvenated by copious amount of human blood, the Count prepares to continue his reign of terror over the hapless nearby villagers. But all that changes when Simon comes into town searching for his missing brother ...

Bloodier and raunchier than earlier Hammer efforts, this 1970 film marries the studio's trademark Gothic scenery and colourful period costumes with more nudity and cruelty than it's predecessors. It's still terribly tame by today's standards, of course, but a clear sign of a studio struggling to maintain its core values while moving with the times.

Speaking of core values, all the usual Hammer boxes are ticked here: melodramatic music; wonderfully entertaining over-acting; orderly, stiff-upper-lip male characters; dumb buxom females bursting out of tight corsets ... great stuff.

Sure, this isn't a patch on HORROR OF DRACULA (but what is?), but at least Lee gets more to do here than in DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS or DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE. In fact it's fair to say, there's a nut a dull moment during SCARS.

The 1.78:1 anamorphic presentation is very pleasing, with solid sharp images and only minor grain evident during darker scenes. The English mono audio is a satisfyingly clear and problem-free experience too. A great all-round job in terms of presentation.

The film can be accessed via 12 chapters.

The main extra is a brilliant commentary track from Lee, in conversation with director Roy Ward Baker and moderator Marcus Hearne. It's an extremely fluent chat, with intelligent questions from Hearne being met by Lee and Baker with not just enthusiasm but great memories to boot.

A stills gallery offers a wealth of material (theatrical posters, lobby cards, etc) and lasts 5 minutes.

Finally, the original theatrical trailer is shown in anamorphic 1.78:1, and looks great.

A worthy addition to the Hammer roster, ripe for rediscovery.

Review by Stu Willis

Released by Optimum
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review