Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dracula AD 1972 (1972)

This movie opens with the climax of the previous movie, where Dracula (Christopher Lee) fights Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) aboard a runaway horse-drawn carriage. This is an exciting scene, with both actors quite literally throwing themselves into it. The scene finishes with Dracula vanquished, and the triumphant Van Helsing dying from his wounds.

The only problem is that this is not how the previous movie ended. It is, in fact, the climax to a movie that does not exist. Damn shame really.

Anyway, one of Dracula's disciples rides onto the scene, collects his belongings and dust, and buries these in the same cemetery where Van Helsing is interred.

We then advance one hundred years to a party where some dirty hippie gatecrashers are annoying the hell out of the posh society types while a godawful psychedelic blues band plays. We get to hear two complete songs, intercut with the "hilarious" antics of the hippies and the "priceless" reactions of the toffs. Meanwhile, a cadaverous-looking young man stalks around looking slightly out of place. He is played by the same actor as Dracula's disciple from the opening sequence. Could there be a connection?

Man, it was a wild scene. But if they wanted to go that route, it was their bag.

Mercifully, after way too much footage of the shitty band playing, the police are called and the hippies scatter. Several of them converge on a coffee shop called The Cavern (presumably no relation to the Liverpool club where The Beatles used to play). The corpse-looking weirdo, with the not at all suspicious name Johnny Alucard, convinces them that the thing to do next is to go to a condemned church and have a black mass.

Johnny Alucard

Is it a coincidence that one of the hippies is the great-granddaughter of Dr. Van Helsing? Johnny seems particularly keen on getting her to attend the ceremony, but when she is reluctant to be involved in a blood sacrifice, Laura (the gorgeous Caroline Munro) enthusiastically volunteers.

Draw your own conclusions as to what's happening here.

Everybody freaks out (though not in the way they'd planned) and runs away, apart from Johnny and Laura. Soon enough, Count Dracula rises from the grave and makes a snack of Laura while Johnny looks on eagerly.

Back at the coffee shop, everyone decides that the best thing to do is to pretend none of it has happened. When Johnny turns up and tells them he's just put Laura on a train to her hometown, they're a little suspicious but decide to let it slide. Before long Johnny has coerced Gaynor (Marsha Hunt, inspiration for the Rolling Stones song Brown Sugar) into coming back to his place for a joint before heading to the church for another midnight snack.

When the bodies start piling up, the police head to famed expert on the occult Lorimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), who is of course Jessica's grandfather. The chase is soon on to save Jessica from Dracula's revenge, as his mission is to punish the Van Helsing bloodline by using the young against the old. Hmmm, Dracula brought back from the dead, spending most of his time hanging out in a desecrated church, and using children against their parents (or grandparents).... Doesn't that sound like something I've seen before?

Bedroom eyes

This is a really dumb movie. It makes the fundamental mistake of keeping Dracula on the sidelines once again, as well as keeping him as an anacrhonism in modern times. In Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula went out of his way to familiarise himself with the modern world. Wouldn't an incarnation of Dracula who was able to make himself at home in the time he lived in be somewhat scarier than one who would probably be staked on sight if he dared venture out in public?

It also bears way too much resemblance to the tv shows of the time. The music is a big factor here, sounding a lot like the themes from various ITV shows. Then there's the fact that the hippie characters are somewhat anachronistic for 1972; the slang and fashion is already years out of date, as even a nerd like me notices. Compare this to the youth culture portrayed in the films of Roger Corman at the time (who was influence majorly by Hammer for his Edgar Allan Poe adaptations) and this looks pretty sad by comparison.

On the other hand it's really good to see Lee & Cushing matching wits again, even if only at the beginning and the end. (The music makes their final confrontation all the more surreal in this respect.) It's also a major step up from Scars of Dracula in every important respect.

Despite major script issues, the young cast acquits themselves nicely for the most part. Chrisopher Neame isn't bad as Alucard (it's amusing that Van Helsing has to go to quite a bit of effort before he realises what the name spells backwards) though he's no Ralph Bates, and Stephanie Beacham is fine as Jessica. The rest of the cast is a bit anonymous, but nobody is as terrible as Dennis Waterman in Scars.

Please Hammer don't hurt 'em

All in all this is a fun little movie. It's not as cringeworthy as I'd feared (apart from that party scene) but it's also not as "groovy" as I'd hoped.

Love that German title - Dracula Chases Mini-Girls

Tomorrow we have the final appearance of Christopher Lee as Dracula and the penultimate Hammer Dracula. Click back on over for The Satanic Rites of Dracula!

1 comment:

  1. I like Dracula AD 1972 and thought it was good to set it in the twentieth century, other Dracula movies have followed suit such as Dracula's Bride (Satanic sites 1974) and Dracula 2000. This was was one of Christopher Lee's greatest roles shame he has refused to do it again.