A Christopher Lee Quartet: Scream and Scream Again, Count Dracula, Cuadecuc vampir, and Umbracle

March 25, 2016 | By

It’s Good Friday, a day of spiritual stuff, so why not counterbalance the somber day of observance with things weird (or weirder)?

There’s no doubt genre actors like Christopher Lee worked their buns off, sometimes appearing in multiple projects within a single year, and 1970 was a bit unusual for the actor in being tied to two unique horror films plus a pair of experimental works that few outside of ardent fans knew existed.

ScreamAndScreamAgain_BRLet’s start off with what fans even in 1970 felt was a cheat: the pairing of horror icons Vincent Price, Lee, and Peter Cushing in Scream and Scream Again. One actor shares no screen with the others, while two meet in the last reel. Gordon Hessler’s direction pretty much saves this oddity from being wholly written off, and while its coterie of admirers have grown over the years – I’ve warmed up a bit to what I wrote off as a weird dud – it’s still a flawed horror-sci-fi hybrid that’s uncharacteristic for Hammer & its brethren and AIP. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray is packed with substantive extras, making this a must-have for genre fans.

CountDracula1970_BRLee also starred in Jess Franco’s Count Dracula, which the director pitched to the star as a faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel. It has some merits and a highly unusual cast – Herbert Lom as Van Helsing, Klaus Kinski as Renfield, Maria Rohm as Lucy, and Soledad Miranda as Mina – but whenever producer Harry Alan Towers’ name is attached to a film, you know the quality can be questionable.

Severin’s Blu-ray is superb, packing key extras from the 2007 Dark Sky DVD with new and some rare archival goodies, but the real gem is an experimental documentary by Spain’s Pere Portabello.

Titled Cuadecuc, vampire (1971), it’s arguably more interesting than Franco’s feature film, and connoisseurs of experimental cinema should give this 67 mins. gem their attention, as this is apparently the first and only of his works on Blu.

While not directly tied to Franco’s film, Portabello also directed Lee and bit player Jeannine Mestre in a related feature called Umbracle (1970) that’s visually and aurally similar, but more overtly political. Lee plays a recurring character whose scenes are intercut between assorted interviews and montages (one quite graphic), and while this and vampir were archived on a region-free 7 disc set released a few years ago, there’s no wide release of Umbracle, hence my sourcing the film from YouTube.

So that’s four very distinct films with which Lee was involved in one year: a hybrid, a classic, and two experimental pieces unlike anything he’d ever done before or since.

He also sings in German and French in one of them with much vigor.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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