“There is evil in the world. There are dark, awful things.”
Hammer gets groovy with Dracula A.D. 1972. The film was Hammer’s attempt at modernizing the classic Dracula theme that the company did so well with in a Gothic setting. The updated version still featured the two masters of Hammer horror, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, in the roles that put them on the map. Lee donned his cape as the dreaded Count Dracula and Cushing slid comfortably back into his role of Van Helsing albeit as a grandfather this go round.
The film opens in 1872 with Dracula and Lawrence Van Helsing battling one another atop a horse carriage. As they fight, we also see a young man on a horse following the duo. The battle come to a head whenever the horses pulling the carriage get loose and the buggy crashes, mortally wounding Van Helsing and Dracula. As Dracula’s body dissolves, the young man collects the count’s ring and some of his ashes. The film then jumps ahead to 1972 and we are introduced to a swinging group of young twenty-somethings. Among them are Jessica Van Helsing, the granddaughter of Lorrimer Van Helsing, an anthropologist and occult specialist who often assists law enforcement on special cases that involve possible witchcraft or occult elements.
An enigmatic member of the young group named Johnny Alucard convinces the rest of them to join him for a black mass-styled ritual at St. Bartolph’s, a deconsecrated church that also happens to be where Lawrence Van Helsing is buried (and some of Dracula’s ashes were buried as well). The ritual occurs one hundred years to the day after the death of Van Helsing and Count Dracula. The group becomes intensely frightened by the ritual, especially whenever Alucard “baptizes” one member of the group, Laura, with blood. The young adults run out of the abandoned church. They leave Laura, who has become hysterical, and Johnny behind. Soon enough, Johnny removes a stake from the ground in the cemetery and Count Dracula arises. He drains Laura of her life. On the next day, Johnny attempts to convince his friends that the entire ritual was a joke, but when Laura’s body is found and Lorrimer Van Helsing’s services are requested by Inspector Murray, things become very, very serious. More of Jessica’s friends die, some become vampires, and Van Helsing goes on the hunt. Does he save Jessica? Will any of the youngsters survive? Find out in Dracula A.D. 1972!
Despite a somewhat awkward title and some very dated music, this film is one of my favorite Lee/Cushing Hammer films. Lee chews his way through each and every scene and Cushing bleeds cool at every turn. Christopher Neame, who plays Dracula’s disciple in both the past and in 1972, is full of charisma. He was perfectly cast as Johnny Alucard. Stephanie Beacham does a fine job as Jessica Van Helsing. Michael Coles is excellent as Inspector Murray, a role he would reprise in The Satanic Rites of Dracula along with Cushing and Lee. While Jessica would also appear in that film, she would be played by Joanna Lumley instead of Beacham.
The majority of Hammer fans seem to dislike this film or find it to be too silly to be a truly good movie. It’s my opinion that those folks are wrong. This is an enjoyable Count Dracula/Van Helsing film that stands on the strength of the performances of Cushing, Lee, and Neame. Oh, and Tim Burton is a fan so there’s that!
Thanks for checking out my post. Tomorrow is the final day of Thirty-One Days O’Horror! Let me know what you think about this film or any other film that I’ve reviewed in the comments section.