Countess Dracula tells the 'true' story of the Elizabeth Balthory, a hungarian aristocrat who existed in 16/17th century murdering peasant girls at leisure. This spectacle of gothic horror (from the stable of Hammer Studios) glams up the myth that Balthory bathed in their human blood to retain her youth.
Ingrid Pitt makes a welcome return to Hammer after her splendid turn in 1970's The Vampire Lovers. Once again Pitt plays the dominant female using her charms to seduce and kill. Pitt displays an edgy sense of carnality and has (because of these two films) become an icon - which is of no surprise. Her confidence is illuminating, making these movies forever watchable.
In reality Elizabeth Balthory was much more evil than in Countess Dracula. For fun she would torture and murder peasant girls from the villages; she totted up 605 victims before she was eventually stopped. The idea of her bathing in her victim's blood to acquire immortal youth is a fiction, albeit a darn good one. The locals had found heaps of bodies in the fields, they noted that the bodies had lost much blood which is when they suspected 'vampires'. Thus we have Countess Dracula.
The Countess isn't a vampire in the classic sense, however her desire to steal her victim's blood is still at the dreadful heart of this tale. There is a gorgeous climactic scene, when the young hero strides into the Countess's bedchamber and tears down a curtain, revealing Ingrid Pitt, naked, bathing in blood (with a big sponge), her golden hair flowing about her. One imagines the real Balthory to be a dirty, probably unattractive aristocrat with the look of cold depravity. Ingrid Pitt is the opposite of this, a picture of glamour; which makes this an invaluable Hammer History Lesson, souped up for our visual pleasure.
Of course, the Countess isn't always glamorous. Ingrid Pitt, a lot of the time, is old and arthritic. The film's central theme is what price some will pay for the precious jewel of youth. The Countess covets her own daughter's lifestyle of being betrothed to a hunky officer. Her plan is a) have her daughter kidnapped, b) bathe in human blood and acquire youth, c) pretend to be the daughter, d) score with the daughter's fiance... A completely treacherous plan carried out with relish.
Quite silly in parts, but utterly enjoyable. A great british horror romp that demands repeated viewings.