Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)



Dracula A.D. 1972 is a 1972 Hammer Horror film directed
by Alan Gibson, written by Don Houghton and starring
Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Stephanie Beacham.
Unlike earlier films in the Hammer Dracula series, Dracula
A.D. 1972 has a present-day (1970s) setting, in an attempt
to update the Dracula story for contemporary audiences —
Dracula is brought back to life in modern London and preys
on a group of young party-goers that includes the descendant
of his nemesis, Van Helsing.



It is the seventh Hammer film featuring Dracula, and the sixth
to star Christopher Lee in the title role. It also sees the return
of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing for the first time since 1960's
The Brides of Dracula. The film has a number of different titles,
including Dracula '72 (UK working title) and Dracula Chelsea '72
(UK working title), Dracula jagt Mini-Mädchen (Dracula Chases
the Mini-girls), its German title, and Dracula '73, the title it was
given when released a year later in France.



>>Production:

Following the success of the modern-day vampire film Count Yorga,
Vampire, Warner Bros commissioned two Hammer Dracula films set
in the present day, which were to become Dracula A.D. 1972 and
The Satanic Rites of Dracula. Dracula A.D. 1972 began production in
September 1971 as Dracula Today and was filmed in Chelsea and
Hertfordshire. The film was inspired by the events surrounding the
Highgate Vampire case.



While the two present-day Dracula films star both Lee and
Cushing, they do not correspond to the chronology established
in the Victorian/Edwardian era films; the first Hammer Dracula
film, Dracula, is set in the 1880s, whereas the flashback sequence
of the last battle between Van Helsing and Dracula in Dracula A.D.
1972 is set in 1872 - long before the first meeting of Van Helsing
and Dracula in the original film.



Dracula A.D. 1972 was marketed with the tagline "Past, present or
future, never count out the Count!". When it was released in the USA,
a brief clip was played before the film in which actor Barry Atwater
(the vampire Janos Skorzeny in The Night Stalker) rises from a coffin
and swears the entire audience in as members of the Count Dracula
Society.



It was followed by the final film in Hammer's Dracula series,
The Satanic Rites of Dracula, which similarly has a modern
setting and features some of the same characters.



>>Plot synopsis:

In a prologue set in 1872, Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) and
his sworn enemy Lawrence Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) battle on
the top of a runaway coach. It crashes and Dracula is impaled by
one of the wheels. Van Helsing dies from his wounds. At that
moment a follower of Dracula (Christopher Neame) arrives,
collects Dracula's remains and, a few days later, buries them
near Van Helsing's grave at St Bartolph's Church.



(This opening sequence was not in the previous film Scars of
Dracula, but is completely new and not part of the Hammer Horror
Dracula chronology up to this point.)



One hundred years later, we are introduced to a group of young
hippies that includes Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham),
granddaughter of Lorrimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), a
descendant of Dracula's old nemesis and an expert on the occult,
and Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame), who closely resembles
the disciple of Dracula seen in 1872. Alucard persuades Jessica
and the others to attend a black magic ceremony in the now
abandoned, deconsecrated St Bartolph's, where he performs a
bloody ritual involving one of their group, Laura Bellows (Caroline
Munro). Jessica and the others flee in horror, after which Dracula
is resurrected and kills Laura.



Laura’s body is discovered, drained of blood, and a police
investigation begins, headed by an Inspector Murray (Michael
Coles). Murray suspects an occult element and interviews Lorrimer
Van Helsing, who is shocked to learn the details of Laura’s death.
He realises that Johnny Alucard (whose name is Dracula written
backwards) is a disciple of Dracula, and that Dracula must have
returned.



In the meantime, Alucard brings another of Jessica’s friends,
Gaynor Keating (Marsha Hunt), to St Bartolph’s, where she is killed
by Dracula and Alucard is himself turned into a vampire. The vampire
Alucard kills a passer-by and lures Jessica’s boyfriend, Bob
(Philip Miller), to a café they frequent, where he turns him into a
vampire as well. While Lorrimer is out, Bob goes to the Van Helsing
house and persuades Jessica to come to the café, where he and
Alucard capture her and take her to Dracula.



Lorrimer discovers Jessica is missing, tracks down Alucard’s flat and
kills him. He finds Bob's dead body and discovers Jessica in a trance
at St Bartolph’s, where Dracula plans to take his revenge on the Van
Helsing family by turning her into a vampire. Van Helsing sets a trap
for Dracula and waits for him to return at nightfall. After a struggle,
Dracula is killed by a stake through the heart and Lorrimer rescues
Jessica.



>>Reception:

Critical reaction to Dracula AD 1972 has been mixed. Upon the
film's release, Roger Ebert gave the film only one star out of four.
Dennis Prince of DVD Verdict said, "Dracula A.D. 1972 is definitely
one of the weakest installments in Hammer's horror catalog and
will likely only have strong appeal to Dracula completists." Eccentric
Cinema wrote, " One can have a fun time with this movie — mostly
because of its faults. It's cheese all right, professionally made
cheese that's much better acted and staged than it really has any
right to be."



The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review called the
film "a major disappointment" and "the low-point of the whole
Hammer Dracula series" despite "minor positive aspects". George
R. Reis of DVD Drive-In wrote, "Considered a low point in Hammer’s
roster, Dracula A.D. 1972 is hardly that. ... The film has a number of
things going for it. ... Cushing’s exceptional Van Helsing pretty much
carries the film. ... Christopher Neame is charismatically evil as
Johnny Alucard [and] his stirring fight scene with Van Helsing is a
highlight. ... How can Hammer fans not like this stuff?"



>>Cast:

-Christopher Lee as Count Dracula
-Peter Cushing as Lorrimer Van Helsing/Lawrence Van Helsing
-Stephanie Beacham as Jessica Van Helsing
-Christopher Neame as Johnny Alucard
-Michael Coles as Inspector Murray
-Marsha Hunt as Gaynor Keating
-Caroline Munro as Laura Bellows
-Janet Key as Anna Bryant
-William Ellis as Joe Mitcham
-Philip Miller as Bob
-Michael Kitchen as Greg
-David Andrews as Detective Sergeant
-Lally Bowers as Matron Party Hostess
-Constance Luttrell as Mrs. Donnelly
-Michael Daly as Charles
-Artro Morris as Police Surgeon
-Jo Richardson as Crying Matron
-Penny Brahms as Hippy Girl
-Flanagan as Go Go Dancer (uncredited)
-Brian John Smith as Hippy Boy
-Stoneground as Themselves

Four actors from the James Bond franchise appear in this film.
Christopher Lee, who played Francisco Scaramanga in The Man
with the Golden Gun, appears as Count Dracula. Caroline Munro,
who played Naomi in The Spy Who Loved Me, appears as Dracula's
first victim Laura Bellows. Michael Kitchen, who portrayed Bill Tanner
in GoldenEye and The World Is Not Enough, appears as Greg. Finally,
Christopher Neame, who played corrupt MI6 agent Fallon in Licence
to Kill, appears as Dracula's servant, Johnny Alucard.

>>Soundtrack:



The soundtrack was composed by former Manfred Mann member
Mike Vickers, and is in a funky, 'blaxploitation' style that reflects
the early 1970s setting of the film. It was not released commercially
prior to a long-awaited CD release in 2009. The film also features
two songs, 'Alligator Man' and 'You Better Come Through', by the
American band Stoneground, who were a late replacement for The
Faces. The Black Mass segment uses the track 'Black Mass: an Electric
Storm in Hell' by the pioneering electronic group White Noise. The
Black Mass scene with Christopher Neames' dialogue was also sampled
by Orbital For 'Satan - Live' and 'Tension'.

2 comments:

Will Errickson said...

This was a good movie but I wish it had more Caroline Munro in it!

MANDRA said...

You have every reason Will. Caroline Munro is a goddess!