Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
What’s It About: The seventh Hammer Dracula production and the sixth time the immortal Christopher Lee has donned the cape as the evil count. This sequel also reunites Lee with Peter Cushing playing his legendary adversary Van Helsing. The movie opens with a thrilling and exciting coach chase scene in which Dracula and Van Helsing are duking it out. Actually its not much of a chase as Van Helsing is driving the coach at break-neck speed with no one behind him but Dracula in the coach trying to get out to get Van Helsing. I’m also confused as to why Dracula just doesn’t jump off the coach to live and fight another day. I guess he just really had it with Van Helsing and wanted to kill him so bad. Anyway, all nitpicking aside these two are a prime example of arch-enemies and this scene is epic compared to most Dracula/Van Helsing fights.
Van Helsing is thrown off the coach in the nick of time just as the coach hits a tree and Dracula somehow gets a wheel impaled in his chest. The logistics of how a wheel that’s on the bottom of the coach breaks in half and then impales a person that was on top of the coach when it crashed is a bit confusing but hey, there’s just so many times an audience can see a simple wooden stake in a vampire’s heart, am I right? The wooden wheel was just way cooler. But the wheel must not have dug deep in his chest enough to kill Drac and he still has some fight left in him. Not for long as Van Helsing sticks the wheel deeper into his heart and Dracula dies in a slow cross-dissolve of decomposition and Van Helsing, exhausted from
this tired franchise the fight also dies.
WAIT! There’s more!
Meanwhile a young man on horseback was following the coach and witnesses the melee and deaths of the adversaries. We soon find out that he is a disciple (or huge fan) of Dracula’s and collects some of the count’s ashes in a convenient glass vile he had tucked away in his coat for just an occasion should arise and also takes Dracula’s ring. Soon after at Van Helsing’s funeral the disciple goes to the church graveyard and pours the ashes not far from Van Helsing’s grave. Pan camera from Van Helsing’s tombstone from 1872 to an Airplane in flight circa 1972.
*Why the A.D. in the title exactly? Dracula has, to the best of my Draculian knowledge has never existed in B.C. so why the emphasis on A.D. 1972? The film was made in 1972 so I can’t imagine an imbecile member of a Hammer Films focus group saying he/she was confused and that it was B.C. 1972. Although that would’ve more awesome to have Dracula fight Celtic clans or druids by Stonehenge.*
I believe this is the first time Dracula has ever been on film in the modern timeframe. Its always been the gothic Victorian setting for most, if not all Dracula films, since thats what Stoker’s novel set Dracula in. So kudos to Hammer for “rebooting” their Dracula franchise and making it 100 years into the modern era. So we are in swinging London now and at a posh party for some stuck-up snobby rich London family. However, there’s a rock band laying down some funky jams and some fun, free-wheeling youngsters have crashed the party, eating all the food, scaring the snobs, making out under the dining room table, dancing dirty and painting on the mirrors?! It must take a lot to upset a Brit because the band plays TWO complete songs before the cops show up and scare away the kids. In fact how did this 10-piece band set up, sound check and start to play before anyone noticed that this party need not require a rock n’ roll band? I’m sure it was some sort of excuse to have rock n’ roll in a Dracula movie and feature one of the hottest bands of the time—Stoneground! The band was originally set as The Faces featuring little known singer Rod Stewart.
So now we really meet the gang of youngsters. There’s about 7 of them but only four need mention; Jessica Van Helsing (granddaughter of Lorrimer Van Helsing, a direct descendant of Dracula’s nemesis), her boyfriend Bob, Laura (Caroline Munro, star of Star Crash) and Johnny Alucard (subtle). Johnny is the strange one of the gang, whereas the others are hippies, mods or whatever the cool kids of early 70s London are called, Johnny is only interested in the occult and black magick. Turns out he is a descendant of the young man who took Dracula’s ring in the 1872 scene. He is also in possession of more Dracula ash.
Johnny, convinces the group to enact a black mass for shits and giggles. Actually his plan is to resurrect Dracula but the rest of the group think its all a gag. That night they all sneak into an abandoned, desolate church (Before you ask, yes its the same one Van Helsing and Dracula are resting in peace) and watch Johnny make a fool of himself. Especially the part when he deliberately slices his hand open and pours his blood into a goblet filled with Dracula’s ashes and dumps it on Laura. The rest of the gang flee in fright and Laura becomes Dracula’s first meal.
The rest of the film meanders into boring exposition as the police find the bodies of some of the gang that Johnny has been setting up for Dracula to feed on. Police also seek help from occult expert Lorrimer Van Helsing, who realizes that Dracula must be alive again and must stop him. Jessica is a prime target for Johnny and newly converted disciple, Bob, to offer to Dracula.
Finally by the final 15 minutes we have the confrontations. First Van Helsing vs. Johnny in his apartment with a poorly planned wall-to-wall sky light. advantage Van Helsing. Then off to the church to meet Drac and save his granddaughter. With some time left of daylight, Van Helsing sets up some booby-traps for the Transylvanian. He places a crucifix necklace onto Jessica and digs a grave with a bunch of wooden stakes in it. Dracula arrives and tries to bite Jessica but is crucifix-blocked! What follows next is a chase scene/fight with a very groovy soundtrack. The music was close to the funky kind of grooves typically found in Grindhouse features and Blaxploitation films. A bit out of place here. Van Helsing lures Dracula out by the grave trap, throws holy water in his face and Dracula falls heart-first onto a wooden stake. Dead again until the next sequel.
Is It Actually Scary: I think the last time Dracula was ever scary was in Nosferatu in 1922.
Scariest Moment: Hard to choose from so many…
How Much Gore: Quite a bit actually. The black mass scene with Johnny’s goblet was teeming with blood and the death of Dracula featured a nice gory stake through the back shot while Van Helsing pushed Dracula further onto the stake with a shovel. Wood impales him with nice technicolor red blood spurting out. Not too shabby.
Dumbest Moments: Not the smartest Dracula movie but also not much to call dumb either. SAVE for the scene in which “occult” expert Van Helsing finally realizes that Alucard is Dracula spelled backwards. And to make it more dumb he has to write A L U C A R D and then D R A C U L A underneath it and draws lines down connecting the reversing letters. I think even the audience knows what Alucard is by 1972.
Any Nudity: Just some cleavage and hot pants.
Overall: Like I said this is the seventh Hammer Dracula film and its wheels are getting worn. Despite them up-grading the count to the modern era this is still a lackluster and forgettable Dracula movie. It may have been a bigger deal in 1972 but by today’s standards its a bit lacking. The modern setting doesn’t even mean much to the plot and especially Dracula who never leaves the old church. We never see him prowl the streets of the West End or lurk in Leicester Square. It would’ve been great to see Drac touring around in a double-decker bus. However, seeing Lee and Cushing play their iconic and memorable characters is always a delight even if the rest of the film is flimsy. Even if Lee is only seen on screen a handful of minutes. Lee makes one more Dracula film after this before hanging up the cape and starring in his greatest horror role as Lord Summerisle in The Wicker Man. The beginning’s coach fight is worth seeing as well as Caroline Munro’s bust.
Score: 6 Wooden Stakes (out of 10)