The Many Deaths of Hammer’s Dracula!
The Many Deaths of Hammer’s Dracula
Hammer Horror turned vampire killing into an art, as they took count Dracula and proceeded to kill him over and over, each time using one of the vampire trappings to effect. Dracula rarely found a wooden steak being hammered into his heart. Instead, he was dispatched in more creative ways, whilst his underlings underwent this more traditional death.
From 1959 to 1974, Hammer films killed Dracula 8 times, and whilst the stories of his resurrections are quite spectacular, today we are looking at his graphic demises. The Many Deaths of Hammer’s Dracula.
Sunlight – The Horrors of Dracula (1959)
Hammer’s first step into the Dracula mythos saw The Count die in a more traditional manner; exposure to sunlight. The very first example of this motif of destruction, came from the 1922 silent film Nosferatu, which was loosely based on Stoker’s Novel. The association become more widely known in 1931, when Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula was unable to walk around in the day. It resurfaced 1959, when Peter Cushing dramatically pulls open the drapes, exposing Christopher Lee to the deadly rays of the sun.
Following a dramatic chase, Dracula returns to his castle near Klausenberg, mere minutes before sunrise. He attempts to bury Mina alive outside the crypts but is caught by Van Helsing and Arthur. Heading Inside the castle, Van Helsing and the Count struggle. Van Helsing tears open the curtain, drenching Dracula in sunlight. Writhing in pain, with his skin burning away, Dracula crumbles into dust, leaving nothing but his ring.
Drowning – Prince of darkness (1966)
An interesting point from Stoker’s Novel, is the revelation that vampires can only cross running water at low or high tide. They key here being the salt content of the sea. Salt has often been used for ritual purification and was traditional used in the Roman Catholic rite of Holy water. It’s the religious connotations of salt that keep a Vampire at bay. Like many of the Trappings, they have evolved over the years, and in 1966, we saw Dracula drown in his own moat.
A Climactic chase on horseback, results with Dracula’s coffin being thrown onto the icy moat of his Castle. The Count springs out of his coffin and attacks Charles, who is trying to drive a stake through his heart. Diana and Sandor shoot and break the ice at Dracula’s feet. Trapped and losing balance on the slippery ice, Dracula sinks into the freezing waters.
Impaled on a Cross – Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968)
It was not until Hammer’s third film that we finally saw Dracula staked through the heart. The delivery of this mortal blow, however, was somewhat more dramatic than your standard “steaking”. Dracula Has Risen from the Grave has one of the more ridiculous story lines, but one of the better endings, that see’s Christopher Lee grappling with Barry Andrews in a final battle over Veronica Carlson’s Maria.
Arriving back at his Castle, Dracula orders Maria to remove the cross from the door. She throws it over the parapet into the ravine below, where it lodges in the ground. Paul and Dracula fight, grappling on the on the edge of the parapet. The Count is thrown over the side, becoming impaled on the upright cross. The priest, who was previously enslaved under Dracula’s influence, snaps out of his trance and recites the Lord’s Prayer. Dracula dies, dissolving into dust!
Churched to Death – Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
If you’re going to set up home, it’s probably best not to do it someplace that could kill you! Taste the Blood of Dracula throws out any common logic and sees Dracula settling down in an abandoned church. With so many holy items and places within a church, it’s hard to understand how a Vampire could survive inside a holy sanctum, even if it’s been desecrated by a Black Mass. It’s inside the church that Christopher Lee is confronted by Anthony Corlan’s Paul in a bid to save his sweetheart Alice, played by Linda Hayden. Untimely, it’s the excessive exposure to the holy environment that kills Dracula
Paul makes his way to the abandoned church, clearing the altar of Black Mass instruments, replacing them with the proper materials. Dracula appears and confronts Paul with Alice enslaved at his side. Exposed to a cross, The Count climbs to the Balcony. He starts to throw objects at the couple below, before smashing into a stained glass window depicting a cross. He suddenly sees the changed surroundings and hears the Lord’s Prayer recited in Latin. Dazzled and overwhelmed by the power of the newly re-sanctified church, Dracula falls down to the altar below. He writhes in pain, before dissolving into dust!
Burned Alive (and a bit of a tumble) – Scars of Dracula (1970)
Hammers fifth Dracula film sees Castle Dracula once again open for business, with Dennis Waterman taking on the cloaked menace. In one of the more visually stunning and action packed deaths, Christopher Lee (and Christopher Lee’s stunt double ..ahem) is struck by lightning and bursts in to flames. Whilst we don’t actually see The Counts death, we are all sure that a flaming death dive of a cliff should be enough to finish him off.
Confronting Dracula on the castle battlements as a storm approaches, Paul throws a heavy spike at him. The spike pierces The Count on the wrong side, and he pulls the spike from his body. Raising the spike to hit Paul, the spike is suddenly struck by lightning. Dracula is engulfed in flames. Staggering in agony, the Count collapses and topples over the castle’s edge. He falls to the ground below, to his fiery death.
Spike Through the Heart – Dracula A.D. (1972)
In one of the more silly death scenes, Dracula A.D sees Christopher Lee stumble into a trap laid by Peter Cushing. Not only is this the fourth time Dracula has fallen to his death, but the trap was so obvious, that he even discovers it, before falling into it. With a little helping hand from a spade, Cushing’s Van Helsing dispatches Dracula with a well-placed spike to the heart.
Van Helsing sets a trap for Dracula at St Bartolph’s Church. Falling to the ground and revealing the trap, Van Helsing thinks quickly. He grabs a bottle of holy water and sprays it into The Counts face. Screaming in pain, Dracula slips at the edge of the pit and falls onto the spikes. He is impaled through his heart and dies, dissolving into dust.
Bush Wacked – The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973)
One of the crazier and unknown vampire trappings is the hawthorn, which is either a tree or quick growing thorny shrub. It’s a member of the rose family, and as we know from Bram stokers Novel, roses can keep vampires at bay. Serbian and Croatian folklore take this even further, where hawthorn is particularly deadly to vampires, and stakes used for their slaying must be made from the wood of the thorn tree. In The Satanic Rites of Dracula, the hawthorn is used too effect, trapping Christopher Lee so that Peter Cushing can finish the Job.
Dracula foolishly chases Van Helsing into the woods, where he is lured into a hawthorn bush, where he is entangled. Weakened by the hawthorns, The Count struggles to get free, giving Van Helsing time to grabs a fence post and drives it through his heart. Blooded, weak and impaled, Dracula disintegrates into a pile of ash.
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)
The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires is the ninth and final film in the Hammer Dracula series (however Dracula did not appear in the 1960 film The Brides of Dracula, just in case you’re counting!) and the first to see Dracula played by a different actor. John Forbes-Robertson took on the black and red cloak (though the actor’s voice is dubbed by David de Keyser) and he took a traditional way out, stabbed through the heart with a spear, by Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing.
Van Helsing and Dracula grapple with one another in the temple of the vampires. In the ensuing struggle, Van Helsing succeeds in stabbing Dracula with a spear through the heart. Defeated, the Count collapses onto one of the altars and gradually decays to bones. The spear that killed him collapses, smashing the vampire’s skull, leaving nothing but dust. Van Helsing sighs with relief as the nightmare of Count Dracula is finally over.