CONTAINS NO SPOILERS. WHAT'S TO SPOIL?
Print the legend. Don't print the boring, dull, pedantic truth, print the legend. Sadly the makers of this movie are more interested in either historical revisionism or setting the record straight, depending on your point of view, depicting Countess Erzebet Bathory (Anna Friel) not as the world's most prolific female serial killer of all time, with up to 650 victims, but an innocent victim of political machinations and scheming to obtain her considerable lands and treasures. Which is all very well, but if I rent a movie called Bathory, I expect there to be copious scenes of naked women and bathing in virgins' blood, and frankly there's little of the former and not a scrap of the latter. The DVD box claims it's "bathed in a Gothic atmosphere that tops every Dracula movie you've seen", which is completely untrue, and the subtitle Countess Of Blood doesn't actually appear on the screen.
Bathory, a Hungarian/Slovak/Czech/UK co-production, is divided into three parts, each detailing a different stage of her adult life: firstly the Countess' arranged marriage to Ferenc, a brutish warrior forever fighting in various wars, and her relationship with Caravaggio (for what it's worth, neither Bathory's nor Caravaggio Wikipedia entries mention each other). The second concerns the mysterious Darvulia who cures her after an accidental poisoning, and who might actually be a witch; while the final section details her lengthy feud with her neighbour Thurzo culminating in a shamelessly rigged show trial for serial murder.
The evil that men (and women) do lives after them.... Whatever the truth, the public image of Bathory is of Ingrid Pitt in Countess Dracula or Lucia Bose in Jorge Grau's The Legend Of Blood Castle (which I used to have on VHS years ago) rather than a hapless victim of slanders and greedy conspiracies, and the blood-bathing sequence in Hostel Part II will surely outlive any claims for her innocence, regardless of their credibility. As a film, meanwhile, it's okay: nicely shot, and if you can get with the plotting it's not uninteresting. But it's far too long at two and a quarter hours and it does drag, and the comedy relief sequences with a priest and a novice used as spies don't convince (especially as they appear to have invented microphones, roller skates, colour photography, the record player and the parachute).
By chance, this DVD has come out at around the same time as The Resident arrives in cinemas: a film which couldn't be less like Bathory but which was made by Hammer. It strikes me that a film about Elizabeth Bathory is precisely the kind of film Hammer should be making: it's a property they've done before (in Countess Dracula) and, with its period Eastern European setting and potential for blood and nudity, is much more what an audience would expect from A Hammer Production than a generic psycho-slasher flick. It would also be about 40 minutes shorter. But that's not what they wanted to make: they were mainly interested in rewriting the colourful legend into dull reality. Print the legend.