3 April 2005 | jeffyoung1
"Countess Dracula", inaccurate title for a Greek tragedy
Based on true history of Hungary's early 17th Century, Countess Elizabeth Bathory, Hammer Film's, "Countess Dracula" was meant to be entertaining historic horror, with no aspirations towards anything more or higher. In this entertainment aspect, regardless of lovely actress Ingrid Pitt's considerable feminine endowments, "Countess Dracula" succeeded. If one could fault Hammer Films for anything, it would be its blatant inaccurate film title, which was a transparent marketing ploy to capitalize on the studio's heretofore financially successful vampire horror films.
Nonetheless by reading all the subsequent readers' comments herein, one consistently encounters complaints on "Countess Dracula's" purported shortcomings in plot, acting talent, budget, sets quality, etc., as if the critics were evaluating a multi-million dollar budgeted aspiring blockbuster. Hammer Films execs wanted its viewers to come away entertained by this film. If you watched, "Countess Dracula" and came away entertained, amused, or disturbed then everyone got someone and should be happy.
I won't rehash old observations expounded upon in previous viewers' comments as I have similar ones so I will offer new comments.
One or two viewers previously commented on the horrible aging makeup of Ingrid Pitt/Countess Nodosheen. My new observation beyond this is that in real life, the countess would not have actually looked like an aging grandmother.
Bear in mind that back in circa 1600 AD, young women married at the age of 15 or 16 and quickly bore children soon after. If my history is correct, the real Countess Bathory married at age 16. Assuming bearing a child at age 17, by the time the 18-year old Lesley Anne-Downe/Ilona Nodosheen appears on scene, the movie's Countess Nodosheen should have been only 34 or 35 years old. It would have been possible for the early-thirties Countess Nadosheen to still have appeared relatively attractive. Don't forget that as a wealthy aristocrat the countess would have had a superior diet and nutrition compared to the peasants, would not have had to work outdoors at hard labor, and had access to far better medical service, albeit primitive as it would have been back then. You can imagine an attractive 34 year old woman today being sexually attracted to a handsome, 22-24 year old man, which the young lieutenant Imre Toth was supposed to be.
Sandor Eles, the ill-fated lieutenant Imre Toth, deserves much better treatment in his thankless role than the critics of this viewers' board gave him. His character was not afforded that much dimension to begin with because that is how the film's director envisioned it. Toth is a tragic, innocent victim, and was not meant to be the film's hero requiring cunning, nerves of steel, fighting talent, so forth. I actually felt great sympathy for the Toth character. In the film LT Toth is a real nice guy, of above average intelligence, but no genius, a typical young man filled with visions of military achievement and glory. There is no man who in the same position would not be able to resist the attentions and sexual blandishments of a beautiful woman. We would all fall into the same trap. That is why the Toth character elicits sympathy. He could be any one of us normal guys.
Another observation is in line. The rejuvenated Countess Nodosheen is supposed to look 18-19 years old. But in the film Ingrid Pitt looks older than Sandor Eles/Imre Toth. She looks more like a woman in her late 20's possibly already 30. I attribute that slip-up to the director. It's no fault of Ingrid Pitt. That's how Pitt looked like back in 1970.
One more observation. Did anyone notice that when Countess Nodosheen regained her youth temporarily, her disposition and temperament dramatically improved as well? As an old crone, the countess is dour and mean-spirited. Rejuvenated to around 18 years of age, the now pretty countess smiles a lot, laughs, tells jokes, and is generally much better company to be around. Only twice does the connivance of the elder countess resurface and then in a sexy, bitchy, "Dallas/Dynasty" sort of a way. The elder/younger countess transformation, reminiscent of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, seems to be reaching towards an allegory of good and evil co-existing within the same person.
In my opinion, this is where the inexplicable sympathy for the Ingrid Pitt/Countess Nodosheen character originates. If you watch "Countess Dracula" several times as I have done, you begin to perceive something of a Greek tragedy in the character, maybe MacBeth-like. An elderly aristocrat falls in love with a youthful man she knows she can never have, nor should have. But she circumvents her destiny and age by invoking black magic and murder. The results only ultimately mock her true age and bring misery and death to everyone around her.
Oddly, no one in "Countess Dracula" starts off evil. True, elderly Countess Nodosheen is selfish, mean-spirited, discourteous, and short-tempered, but she doesn't embark upon her amoral path of self-gratification, fornication, and murder until she accidentally discovers the "secret" of youth.
The excellent Nigel Green/Captain Dobi character doesn't start off evil, either, despite being a true SOB. Captain Dobi actually tries his best to dissuade the countess from her path of self-deceit and murder. He appears to truly love the elderly countess at her present age and appearance because they shared a love affair years ago. Captain Dobi predicts with grim accuracy the madness and obsession the countess would descent into should she insist on achieving and maintaining a false appearance of youthful beauty. Captain Dobi's love for the countess is unrequited and in the end betrayed. He allows himself to be dragged down into the same web of deceit and heinous murder.
The countess' trusted nurse/servant, Julie, a very nice, dedicated, and even 'good' character, descends into being an accomplice and an 'enabler'. Hence, the countess' final self-destruction ensnares all, good and bad, around her. Tell me that this doesn't bear some passing resemblance to a character Greek tragedy.