Dracula A.D. 1972 (United Kingdom)

(I dedicate this post to Peter Cushing, who always maintained his dignity even when his hands were full.) Moving on…no prizes for guessing which year this baby was released. T’was a leap year in horror. A vintage year for being a vampire trapped in St Bartolph’s churchyard, London. Although it feels slapdash, with its day-as-night shots, total lack of continuity and sloppy script, this film succeeds as a comic masterpiece. A bit like the Beatles disastrous Let It Be sessions, Hammer’s Dracula run-at-the-top was also nigh. Right nigh. And there was little Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee could do to stop the rot except to throw as much middle aged, Anglo-Saxon gravitas at the latest concotion they had found themselves roped into.

It’s difficult to describe the amount of pleasure that can be gained through Christopher Neame’s outrageous performance as Johnny Alucard (Van Helsing’s solving of the anagram is one of many magnificent unintentionally comic moments, worthy of Tom Baker at his most insincere). Some of the hilarious dialogue comes from Mr Van Helsing himself, Peter Cushing: “Foul, ghastly, horrible, obscene murder!” No wonder he keeps rubbing his temples.

Some of it comes from Jessica Van Helsing (the sultry Stephanie Beacham): “Where’s the hole?” “Bob, she was not that smashed!” Johnny Alucard, as he puts on a record: “They were all high when they recorded this” Gaynor, unimpressed: “Aren’t they always?” And then there’s the most timid police sergeant in British cinema history: “It’s going to be a bit heavy going, sir, don’t you think? Trying to interview a bunch of kids while there’s a party going on?” Yeah, I’m quaking too at the thought of middle class 25 year olds gittin’ down n dirty.

I quite enjoyed Stoneground’s little performance that kicks things off, although this is completely overshadowed by the suitably tuneful and melodramatic soundtrack by Michael Vickers. It is constantly enjoyable and funky to listen to, separate from the film, this is one Hammer’s best musical scores. Maybe the best! Now, how can I defend Dracula A.D.1972 from all those knockers? Seriously, this motion picture attracts the biggest, baddest, most fulsome, massive, humongous, jumbo-sized knockers anywhere on the internet. Its so unfair.

              (This pair are not representative of the usual Dracula A.D 1972 critics.)

This is an outrageously entertaining movie. Unlike every other Hammer Dracula, except for the first, this one zips along; these films are usually notorious for their snail-like pace. But it also helps that the whole thing is visually beautiful, especially when compared to the low-budget Scars of Dracula and the badly photographed Satanic Rites Of Dracula. The return of Peter Cushing in itself takes the film to a higher level than the previous sequels, thanks to his inimitably credible style of acting. The hip young guns, it must be said, are also a bit long in the fang with teen years little more than a distant memory, one would imagine.

Neame acts like he’s in some sort of demented Gothic pantomime without a director, giving one of the most over-the-top and eye-poppingly histrionic performances ever seen in a film of this type. Vincent Price would have been compelled to relinquish his crown of ham in an instant to this guy, knighting him on the spot. The sequence wherein Cushing offs him in the shower, and the process leading up to it, is a slice of pure cinematic genius and simply has to be experienced to be…well, experienced. Okay, so if none of that makes you want to see it and fall on your knees in worship at the altar of its’ very special merits, there are other plus points.

The opening confrontation between Van Helsing and Dracula, ending with the latter impaled on a broken carriage-wheel and the former breathing his last, is an immediate blast from the off. The nostalgic early seventies London atmosphere the film manages to generate is eerily unique – it instills a sensation of having been there even if you hadn’t been. The final confrontation, between the ageing modern day descendant of Van Helsing and the time-compromised Count, results in genuine feelings of both pathos and exhilaration. In the end, it’s a feel-good movie that didn’t intend to be from a time when the term “feel-good movie” didn’t exist. Its better than Prozac or Xanax. Believe me. OK, now you can fall to your knees.

(How to die like a bitch…and remember the magic words – Requiescat in pace ultima!)

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Comments

  1. Absolutely hit the nail on the head here. This film is a fantastic unintentional comedy (from the dated hippy slang-fest alone) and the score is, in my opinion, the best that Hammer has ever produced.

    Michael Vickers, hit it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely! 🙂

    Like

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