31-days-of-hammerHammer’s 1971 Countess Dracula isn’t a vampire movie. It’s actually a retelling of the Elizabeth Báthory legend. While she wasn’t a vampire she still needed blood. Lots and lots and lots of blood.

Ingrid Pitt stars as Countess Elizabeth Nádasdy. A vain elderly woman whose husband, the count, has just passed away. During the reading of the will Elizabeth discovers that she has to share the inheritance with her young daughter Ilona (Lesley-Anne Down).

That night Elizabeth, in a rage, smacks one of her serving girls in the face. She discovers that the blood from the girl restores her own face to it’s youthful appearance. Elizabeth’s lover Captain Dobi (Nigel Green) is summoned and discovers that Elizabeth has murdered the girl and bathed in her blood becoming younger. Elizabeth quickly starts romancing a young Lt. Imre Toth (Sandor Elès) who thinks that Elizabeth is her own daughter much to Dobi’s displeasure.

Countess DraculaThe blood bath transformation is only temporary and Elizabeth eventually transforms back to her older self, each time more disfigured than the last. She also discovers that the blood needs to virgin blood in order for her youthful appearance to return. Elizabeth tricks Lt. Toth into marrying her but her real daughter returns almost messing things up. Meanwhile the town police are searching for missing girls and discover a bunch of bodies in the Countess’ castle.

By the 1970’s Hammer was desperately trying to regain their audience from the 1960’s. In the 60’s they ruled the horror market, now there were a ton of imitators and the European market was flooding screens with more realistic , more gory and more sexy horror films. Hammer responded with The Vampire Lovers in 1970 which was a huge hit for them. The success of that film prompted two more sequels and this film.

Ingrid Pitt had starred in The Vampire Lovers as the evil vampire Carmilla and Hammer gave her another leading role with Countess Dracula. While not a vampire, the Countess does prey on young girls for their blood in a vain attempt at looks and immortality. The movie wasn’t a hit with audiences, most were probably expecting the movie to be a tie-in to Hammer’s Dracula movies but critics liked it and it’s actually a pretty good Hammer horror.