Countess Elisabeth Nádasdy finds out that she's splitting a rather large inhertiance with her daughter. Upon discovering that bathing in the blood of women will make her younger, she comes up with a plan to fool the locals that she is, in fact, her daughter - meanwhile she has made sure that her real daughter is being kept hidden by a lonely fool. But turning young doesn't just change her looks, it makes a young man fall in love with her (and she in him). Now she's torn between her old, real self and the new found glory of youth.
The history of the vampiric Elizabeth Báthory has been captured, reimagined and used in popular culture for centuries. Sometimes it's as loosely based on her as just giving a vampire her name, while some movies such as the 2009 movie "The Countess" brings more truth into the story. Hammer Films brought out their own take of the personality as early as in the '70s with this movie, "Countess Dracula". While based on the blood-bathing Countess, liberties have been taken but still there's a sincerity and care for the "source material" that makes this one of my most preferred adaptions of the Báthory story.
After the death of her husband, Countess Elisabeth Nádasdy inherits his castle and more - as long as she splits it evenly with her daughter. The daughter hasn't been home for a long time, but now she's ready to return to collect her inhertiance. The Countess is not happy with this, as she believes she deserves more - hell, all of it. But the Countess has found the fountain of youth - to bathe in the blood of virgin women. She makes sure that the daughter never arrives and instead she turns herself young and tricks the people of her surroundings that she is her returned daughter. All except for her steward and lover, Captain Dobi. What the Captain was not ready for, however, was that his now young mistress would fall in love with a much younger man, Lt. Imre Toth. Despite that, he and her maid helps her keep her youth by bringing more women so that she can keep the inheritance. But as the Countess jumps between old and young on a daily basis, her sanity is growing thin and she sets out to kill her daughter once she finally arrives.
I don't really see "Countess Dracula" as that much of a horror movie. It has the traits of one (the bathing in blood and killing women) but the movie is surprisingly heavily focused on the Countess, the changes in her relationships and the inevitable understanding that youth is a thing of the past. I guess this surprises me a bit because while I can appreciate Hammer movies quite a bit (though not all of them), I often feel they are tired stories. "Countess Dracula" brings in a good amount of truth to it, as well as keeping the gothic horror atmosphere that the studio holds so dear (and it fits, obviously).
Ingrid Pitt is excellent in her portrayal, despite her old "persona" being a hag and one I eventually got tired of. She is still outplaying the majority of actors in the movie, proving herself to be able to bring a solid nuance into the young and old versions of her Countess. Ingrid Pitt might not have been in a lot of horror movies, but she's worthy of notice after a movie like this. You could say she might not deserve as much praise as some that have been in dozen more horror movies (nor does she get more praise) but the quality here makes her performance well worth a watch.
I like that "Countess Dracula" takes many notes from the Elizabeth Báthory legend and actually keeps the movie from being just a tacky gothic horror. Sure, there's blood, nudity and horror but the movie's strength is the drama, fairy-tale level fantasy, romance and solid performance from the lead. It all makes "Countess Dracula" a Hammer movie to remember.