"Darkness Tolls" is actually a trio of classic horror movies, all of which star horror icon Christopher Lee. Of the three, my least favorite is Hammer Studios' "The Satanic Rites of Dracula" (1974, color) which marks Lee's last performance as Dracula, and is a sequel to Dracula A.D. 1972. If I'm not mistaken, the movie also has the alternate title of "Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride". Unfortunately, the movie is marred by an underwhelming script, and poor picture quality, the only saving grace being the pairing of horror greats Lee and Cushing (as Van Helsing). Set in 70s London, Cushing discovers that a reincarnated Dracula (thanks to satanic rites) is out to avenge himself on humanity, and has some interesting plans for Cushing's granddaughter (played by a young Joanna Lumley). Grainy picture quality aside, the dialogue is uninspired, and the story just failed to engage me, plus I am rather partial to the older, period Dracula movies, which were more atmospheric and reflected true Gothic horror.
"Horror Express" (1973, color) is quite a gem. Lee plays Prof. Alexander Saxton, an ambitious anthropologist who boards the Trans-Siberian Railway with an unusual object, a rare fossil that is kept hidden away in a crate, intriguing Dr. Wells (Peter Cushing), Saxton's professional rival. The bodies soon start piling up, all of whom have one thing in common - their eyes have all turned milky in color, and there's a red-eyed monster running around the train. Wells and Saxton soon discover what the creature is capable of, and try to put a stop to the horror. Apart from the bonus of watching Cushing and Lee together, viewers get treated to an appearance by Telly Savalas as a Cossack captain. This is a creepy period horror movie, high on atmosphere, and plenty of action. Definitely a must-watch for fans of classic horror. I'm actually planning to purchase the remastered version of this film which was released in April 2009.
"Horror Hotel" is also known by another title "City of the Dead", a 1960 B&W feature that is actually quite noteworthy and deserves more recognition. Though this movie is sparse in terms of effects, it more than makes up for this lack by turning up the atmosphere - and the result is an authentic Gothic tale of witchcraft in New England. A young college student who is studying the occult, Nan Barlow (Venetia Stephenson), decides to explore the small New England town of Whitewood, on the urging of her college professor, Alan Driscoll (Christopher Lee). She arrives in Whitewood, where she puts up (again at the behest of her professor), at the rather sinister Raven Inn, which is run by Mrs Newless (Patricia Jessel). The girl is rather naive and seems oblivious to the sinister undertones present in the inn and also in the village. Nan goes to the village bookstore on one of her excursions and meets Patricia Russell (Betta St John) who kindly lends her an old book on witchcraft. Patricia is also the granddaughter of the village Reverend, and when Nan goes missing, Patricia goes in search of Nan's family, to return a personal item that comes into her possession. She meets Nan's brother Richard (Denis Lotis) and Nan's boyfriend before returning to Whitewood just before the Witches' Sabbath, finding that her life may be in grave peril. The story moves on at a quick pace towards a climactic and quite unexpected ending.
Unfortunately, though "Horror Hotel" is an engaging horror classic, I found the picture quality to be quite bad on this particular DVD. Instead, I would recommend the VCI Entertainment release (2001) which was of better quality. On the whole, my favorite of the three was "Horror Express", followed by "Horror Hotel", and I have to admit I did not much care for "Satanic Rites of Dracula".