Jules picks up where he left off in October by running through some of the choice horror offerings from the fantastic Hammer back catalogue.
You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of Hammer” by CLICKING HERE.
Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Christoper Neame, Stephanie Beacham
Director: Alan Gibson
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with bringing Dracula into the modern era. With their gothic-set horrors rapidly feeling old hat (to an element of the public at least), you can totally understand Hammer’s thinking on a contemporary setting.
For Dracula AD 1972, the seventh film in the series, they pulled out all the stops too, reuniting Christopher Lee’s iconic vampire with the great Peter Cushing as the grandson of his Victorian-era nemesis.
You can’t go wrong, really. Well, yes. Sadly you can, on several occasions, but that’s not to say that this most derided of Dracula films is a disaster. There’s plenty to like here too.
1872- Dracula (Christopher Lee) and Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) have their final, fatal encounter that leaves both of them dead. At the Vampire hunters funeral, an acolyte of the Count buries some of his powdered remains nearby in the same graveyard.
100 years later, Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame), a descendent of that acolyte, conspires to bring his master back from the grave, allowing him to enact his revenge on the man who hounded him to his death. Soon, Dracula had his sights set on his enemy’s own descendent Jessica (Stephanie Beacham), with only her grandfather Lorrimer Van Helsing (Cushing again) to stand in his way.
First off the bat (sorry), Dracula AD 1972 has an excellent opening, coming in at the thrilling denouement of an unseen story with a battle on the roof of a coach. Just as Dracula appears with the coach’s wheel imbedded in his chest though (glorious), a funky jazz brass theme kicks in that wouldn’t have been out of place in the following year’s Blaxploitation-era Bond, Live And Let Die.
This is the main problem right at the outset, the tone is all wrong all too often. Any sense of horror or suspense has to compete with wah-wah guitars and funky trumpets.
The “spaced-out teenagers” hold it back too, though. You don’t buy them at all, as well as being nowhere near teenagers, they completely fail to convince as the cool and decadent young people they’re meant to be. What they come over with instead, is a committee of middle-ages square idea of teenage hipsters. Urgh.
That’s the main issues with it though, as apart from those (fairly substantial issues to be fair), Dracula AD is a lot of fun.
The Graveyard set is magnificent for one, as is the church and taking the incongruous music aside (again), Dracula’s resurrection is a powerful scene, with Laura (Caroline Munro) screaming for help as her friends all abandon her (as always, never trust a hippie!), while her resigned tears when Dracula walks in is a sad, bleak little moment. Lee looks great here too, regal, powerful and cold, full of animalistic lust at the sight of the doomed Laura.
It’s nice to see Lee getting some dialogue in here too and he delivers it with all the gravitas you’d expect, but it would have been nice if he’d shared more screen time with Cushing, who is his usual scene-stealing self, all quiet dignity and steely resolve. He’s a joy to watch as always, and his return as a Van Helsing adds a legitimacy to this at-times misfiring sequel.
There’s a nice idea here of Dracula slowly infecting or eliminating the people around his enemy’s great-granddaughter, even if they are often ham-fisted characters. Neame in particular has a strange arc, coming over as woefully irritating as a scenester, but surprisingly effective as a vampiric thrall.
For the most part it looks great too, with the vivid and vibrant modern world contrasting with the gloomy gothic church setting that Dracula doesn’t leave in the end, almost as if he doesn’t belong anywhere else, while his resurrection and eventual final demise are both excellently rendered.
Sure, it’s flawed. Deeply flawed, even. But if you can look past that, Dracula AD 1972 hurtles along at a frantic pace and is actually a considerable amount of fun. Is it a classic? Not by a long shot, but is it worthy of your time? Absolutely.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy