The story of Elizabeth Bathory is easily one of the most important for the horror genre, and there's no studio more qualified to tackle said story than the legendary Hammer studios...but unfortunately, the resulting film is not as great as it could have been. Hammer had their golden period from the late fifties until the end of the sixties, and I dare say that if this film was released during that period, it would have been one of their classics. By the seventies, the studio had began to take influence from the lurid Euro horror films that were gaining popularity, and this resulted in Hammer losing it's innocence; which if you ask me, was what made them great in the first place. However, Countess Dracula is still one of Hammer's most inspiring films and benefits from a typically ludicrous plot line. We follow the Countess who, by chance, discovers that the blood of virgins restores her youth. After becoming young again, she pretends to be her own daughter and begins courting the son of a soldier; much to the annoyance of her present lover. However, nothing lasts forever; and bathing in the blood of virgins is something the Countess must continue to do if she is to retain her vanity
As mentioned, the way that the plot is handled isn't very good. The film plays out like a drama rather than a horror movie and there is barely any tension or suspense to found throughout the whole picture. It seems that director Peter Sasdy (who also made the very decent Taste the Blood of Dracula for Hammer) thought that the implications of the plot would be enough to carry it; and while this is true to an extent, the film does become a little too dreary at times. Another disappointing element of the film is that, despite the fact that it's about a woman who bathes in blood; we never actually get to see this taking place. I was really hoping to see the beautiful Ingrid Pitt relaxing in a bath of blood, but no! I don't know, perhaps it would have been a little too graphic. The lead actress really does make the film her own, however and delivers a powerhouse performance that proves her worthy of the title of Hammer's best leading lady. The way that the film carries off the plot is really good, also, and we are allowed into the head of all three central figures. On the whole, I can't say that this is one of Hammer's best films, but despite its faults; I really enjoyed it.