FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 13, 2009

Day 13: "Master, I did it! I summoned you!"

Dracula A.D. 1972 was Hammer Studios' attempt to revitalize their Dracula franchise and to take the Count out of musty castles and into hotpants-flavored modern times. Did that idea ever stand a chance of being successful? Eh, why not.

The prologue, set in 1872, pits Dracula (Christopher Lee) against Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) atop a speeding carriage. There's a crash and ol' Drac ends up with a heart that's so like a wheel, Shirley Muldowney weeps in jealousy. No, this isn't the way this film's predecessor Scars of Dracula ended, but man, continuity's for squares!

Anyway, the spoke is like a stake to the heart and Dracula croaks, leaving behind naught but a pile of dust and a bit of bling bling. A young fellow with sinister-looking sideburns scoops up Drac's ring and some ashes while Van Helsing looks on and dies.

Finally we get out of the gloomy 19th-century and into the swingin' 1970s! The city is hustlin' and bustlin', and the soundtrack is relentlessly hornalicious. Some crazy kids are having a party that's totally Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, complete with revelers in desperate need of Alberto Vo5 hot oil treatments, girls go-go dancing on tables, couples humping underneath tables, and wealthy elders looking on in shock. Dracula A.D. 1972 is instantly dated...beyond its title, even.

The cops are called in to break things up, and one group of partiers decide they need a fete that's "way way out". One of them, Johnny Alucard (no really, "Alucard"), suggests that what they need to satisfy their party urges is to hold a black mass in a church that's due for demolition. Seems logical. Everyone's on board except Jess Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham), who's warned by her grandfather (Peter Cushing, again) that the black arts are best left to...well, no one. If only he'd gone on to warn her about wearing horrendous wigs!

Jess quickly caves to peer pressure and the group heads off to the church where- guess what?- Van Helsing was buried in 1872! What a coinkidink. Johnny Alucard gets things underway with a "Dig the music, kids!"as he winds up the reel to reel and the weirdest, grooviest black mass ever begins.

There's writhing, making out, and Caroline Munro generally looking as sexariffic as always...but Johnny Alucard is taking this all very seriously. He's a descendant of that 19th-century fellow with the sinister-looking sideburns, see, and he's brought Dracula's ring and ashes to the affair, fully intending to invoke some demons as well as the Count himself.

A blood sacrifice is called for, and Caroline Munro volunteers; Alucard mixes his own blood with the vampire dust to create a gross sort of mac & cheese sauce of the damned. He pours it over Caroline Munro while everyone else splits, thinking Johnny has gone off the rails of all kinds of trains, crazy and otherwise.

Unfortunately for Johnny, the demons he called upon don't show...but You-Know-Who rises from the you-know-what and promptly sets about making up for 100 years of inactivity by putting the bite on Caroline Munro.

Count Dracula renews his centuries-long battle with the Van Helsings by launching a diabolical plan to turn Jess into a vampire- now wouldn't that be mud in ol' Professor VH's eye?

This penultimate film in Hammer's Dracula line is goofy, sure- from the dialogue to the clothing, the film was passe even before it was released. The music is perhaps the biggest offense- it may have been appropriate for the time period, but it's almost always incongruous with the on-screen action. Scenes that may have been creepy or may have packed a bit of a wallop are undermined by the incessant groovy action soundtrack, rendering the entire affair more than a little campy. Most of all, though, Dracula A.D. 1972 suffers from one massive, insurmountable setback: there's simply not enough Dracula! After his resurrection, the Count is all but relegated to a supporting role, only appearing for a few minutes of the run time. Peter Cushing is as reliable as ever, but even he is squandered as Van Helsing. Stephanie Beacham is suitably bosomed-out for a Hammer flick, but it's disappointing to see Caroline Munro offed so quickly. One highlight, however, is Christopher Neame- he's suitably over-the-top, clearly delighting in his role as the eeeevil Johnny Alucard.

Though it may be for good for a laugh here and there, Dracula A.D. 1972 is really one solely for the Hammer-Dracula completists. After all, we'll sit through just about anything, so long as Christopher Lee bares the fangs and Peter Cushing bears the cross!


Nick said...

I will not hear a word against the shaggy rock stylings of Stoneground.

My favourite parts of 1972 are the policeman giving a cheeky grin to the hippies having it off under the banquet table, and the breakthrough moment when Van Helsing sits down with a pen and paper and works out the shocking truth behind Alucard's surname.

And of course the spectre of "ghastly, horrible, obscene murder".

Anonymous said...

I always got a kick out of the main title theme. You keep waiting for the voice to say: "Dracula A.D. 1972! A Quinn Martin production." As klunky as the music is within the film, it grooves pretty well as a soundtrack and is worth seeking out on CD.

Verdant Earl said...

Hard to believe that Caroline Munro was asked to play a teenager (in the beginning) in Slaughter High 14 years after this film was released.

And the "Alucard" thing was always a gas. ;)

GroovyDoom said...

My favorite part is when Prof. Van Helsing has to actually write out "ALUCARD" and "DRACULA" on a card, then diagram the letters to realize that it's "Dracula" spelled backwards.

Mister Moses said...

The film is really one of those films where well-thought out criticism doesn't get you anywhere; it's a bad idea poorly executed. Yet there's much fun to be had: the opening chase (what Hammer doesn't open in a day-for-night forest sequence?) and a good stake-by-wheel death; the party; the resurrection scene; and the fight in the very kitschy apartment at the end. I used to hate this film when I was a serious Dracula fan; now it's a family favourite...

Kmork said...

I used to have such a crush on Caroline Munro. I'm not sure why I'm divulging such information, except to state that I still have a crush on Caroline Munro!

Stacie Ponder said...

Ah ye..."ALUCARD"---"DRACULA". Wow, Van Helsing's a little slow on the uptake!

This movie is a lot of fun, and Stoneground is...well, I don't understand why they weren't heard from again (at least not by me). I just wanted more Dracula! And I'd hate for this to be someone's introduction to Hammer, as they might not come back. I'm thinking of the children, see...

The prologue was possibly the most egregious day-for-night...I don't think they bothered to try to hide it!

Burgundy LaRue said...

Ah, Stephanie Beacham's side mullet wig. WTF was someone smoking when they designed that dead poodle? I hope Ms. Beacham was paid extra for having to wear that foppy mop.

Clearly, Hammer was looking to crank out a couple more Dracula flicks before Christopher Lee really got too long in the tooth. The movie is 100% marshmallows-over-the-fire campy, but tons of fun.

Anonymous said...

You said, "This penultimate film in Hammer's Dracula line..." Um, not quite: The Satanic Rites of Dracula
Love your site. ;)

Anonymous said...

--Ah ye..."ALUCARD"---"DRACULA". --

I don't get it...

(okay, I do...but no one else wanted to play dumb for the sake of a joke)

Stacie Ponder said...

"You said, "This penultimate film in Hammer's Dracula line..." Um, not quite: The Satanic Rites of Dracula"

Personally, I've never counted 7 Golden Vampires when I think of Hammer Dracula flicks. It was a co-production with the Shaw Bros, and I'm also talking Christopher Lee as the Count.

Nick said...

"..and of course you know my good friends Dr. and Mrs. Nietsneknarf..."

Will Errickson said...

I was disappointed too to see the loverly Caroline Munro exit the film's proceedings so early. But the devilish look in her eyes as the Count bites her is a sheer delight.


Not a good film yet a fun one as you say.

But I have to say that Hammer Film's Dracula is one clumsy incarnation of evil isn't he?

He's always blundering out into frozen rivers, getting stuck by lightning or impaled by wagon wheels.

Maybe they should have made a film called ASTIGMATISM OF DRACULA.