Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

Dracula A.D. 1972 is the second Hammer Film I’ve watched in the past two days that opens with a man getting knocked off a horse-drawn carriage. I understand wanting to recycle bits and pieces of your best vampire film, Taste the Blood of Dracula, but I always thought the idea was to slip said pieces in slyly, rather than wholesale dumping.

Instead we get Dracula (Christopher Lee) and Van Helsing (a returning Peter Cushing!) locked in mortal combat atop a speeding carriage. Helsing takes a big vampire shove off first, crashing into the weeds before Dracula lets loose a hilarious “OH!” as his carriage careens into a tree. Helsing wakes up to find Christopher Lee doing his best to hold the carriage axle under his arm to give the illusion of impalement. It’s a losing battle.

All this after I started yesterday’s selection praising Hammer for their great titles! While Dracula A.D. 1972 is certainly better House of Dracula, it’s still vastly inferior to Dracula Has Risen from the Grave. Only dodging the numerical shame of something generic such as Dracula II by a hair.

As the title suggests, after the carriage crash, the film jumps 100 years into the future. Where we meet Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame) and his gang of friends, who crash parties while looking for the latest “happenings.” They’re all “far out;” “digging the music” as they do. Naturally it’s Johnny who uncovers the next big hit: a black mass.

No one notices that Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham) and Johnny Alucard share the names of famous mortal enemies. Or that Johnny’s place is adorned with Dracula posters; a fact that ought to raise a red flag when he suggests summoning spirits. Luckily, Jessica is too smart to allow herself to participate in the resurrection ritual. Unfortunately Jessica’s friend Laura (Caroline Munro) is not.

Even with all of it’s recycled parts (Dracula is again resurrected by mixing his ashes with human blood), Hammer’s Dracula is still spot on. After Dracula rises, Johnny kneels at his feet, announcing proudly that “[he] has summoned [Dracula]!” Dracula, in turn, just glares down and mutters, “it was my will.” Check and mate Johnny.

Now I understand the hippies believed in a lot of crazy things. They seemed to believe folk music was listenable, for instance. But even I have trouble accepting that they’d buy into black magic, no matter what drugs they were taking. I once knew a man we dubbed “Evil Mike.” He would claim to have done everything: drugs, crimes, he even admitted to being a “witch.” (Never mind the fact that male magic users would be “warlocks;” Mike was soon dubbed “Evil Michelle” to make up for the error.) No one ever bought into his lies though. We’d laugh, look around uncomfortably as he continued talking, and mock him behind his back. And this general disbelief in “magic” took place a short 30 years after this film premiered.

Sadly, one aspect of Taste the Blood of Dracula that was not reused was its fast-moving script. No joke, it takes Jessica’s grandfather, Lawrence Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), a Professor of Anthropology, an hour to figure out that “Alucard” is “Dracula” backwards. Clearly Professor Van Helsing teaches at a state college.

The movie should’ve just faded out from that scene, next showing our inevitable vampire masters leading the pitiful human hordes to their early demises. It’s no wonder Hammer left Cushing out of the last two Dracula films; the man’s clearly not too bright…

I was going to make a comment here about how chintzy Dracula is with spreading vampirism around London, but after seeing what Johnny does with his powers, I’m beginning to understand. Dracula turns Johnny into a vampire so that Alucard can actually make good on his duty of capturing Jessica. Johnny, in turn, transforms all his friends into vampires.

It’s amazing how modernity will change your perception of a film. When set in the 1800s, Van Helsing explaining the fine art of vampire combat to the police is completely believable. What else would they believe? Fast forward a 100 years, and Van Helsing’s conversations are viewed in a different light. It’s laughable to hear the modern Van Helsing tell the police inspector that the recent rash of murders have been caused by a vampire. And the crazy cop buys it!

The sweet funk soundtrack washes any such confusion right out of your mind though.

Modernity, however, cuts both ways. As Dracula meets his end in a Viet Cong inspired punji stick booby trap, after being hit with a holy water grenade. Johnny Alucard ends up drowning in his own bathtub; clearly regretting springing for the glass ceiling in his flat’s bathroom.

Probably should’ve remodeled the room before begging Dracula to be turned…

—More Christopher Lee as the Count? YES Please!—

Horror of Dracula

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave

Taste the Blood of Dracula


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