Hallowe’en Horror Fest AD 1972

Dracula AD 1972 (1972)

1872: Count Dracula is locked in mortal combat with arch enemy, Lawrence Van Helsing.  The Count (Christopher Lee) is destroyed, though Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) also perishes from his wounds.  A disciple of the vampire collects some of the ashes, and Dracula’s ring; burying them at the site of a church.

1972: A group of young London groovers are persuaded to take part in a satanic mass “for kicks”.  Amongst the group is Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham), grand daughter of Lorrimer Van Helsing (Cushing again) and descendent of the original vampire slayer.  Little do they know that one member of the group, Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame), is himself a disciple of Dracula – and intends to resurrect the Count.  dracula_ad_1972_poster_06

Following a bloody ritual in a deconsecrated church, Dracula (Lee) is revived, and he begins to plan his revenge against the House of Van Helsing…

With this film Hammer attempted to drag their Gothic horror films into the modern era.  So in Dracula AD 1972, we’re presented with a Dracula in (then) modern day swinging London, complete with cars, rock’n’roll bands and hip young kids out for a good time.  It’s for this reason that the film is most often derided as silly, if not damn near sacrilegious.

The young hippies are given a look and slang that most surely must have been out of place by 1972.  Viewed now, the dialogue is sometimes hilarious.

Despite the harsh opinions held by many about Dracula AD 1972, I love it.  As a confirmed fan of all things from the seventies, I find it outrageously good fun to see Dracula in this anachronistic setting.  What we lose with the lack of traditional Gothic period setting, we gain in a campy, retro London with funky Blaxploitation style music and cool sets.Yes, the kids’ dialogue is ridiculous, but it’s also great fun if the audience just accepts it.

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My VHS and DVD copies

As a glimpse of an imaginary 1970’s London, I find this film really enjoyable.  Part Hammer and part The Sweeney, if you will.  That it was an inspiration for Tim Burton on Dark Shadows is well documented, and hopefully means that Dracula AD 1972 is finally getting some recognition for it’s attempt to inject new blood (haha!) into the Count.

There are some bloody moments, but nothing too shocking for a modern audience.  What we do get is a great performance by Peter Cushing, who really embodies his role as occult expert with authority.  Lee, too, is imposing and majestic as Dracula, truly menacing and physically powerful.  It would’ve been great though to see the Count stalking around London for victims at night more, certainly a missed opportunity.

The youngsters give it a good go despite the atrocious (or funny) lines – Beacham and Neame are both great.  Plus Michael Coles as the Inspector gives us a character that is actually believable.

My personal favourite element of this film though is the wonderful, bewitching Caroline Munro.  Here Ms Munro appears in one of her most iconic roles as Laura Bellows, and she has never looked lovelier.  Good performance too, though it would’ve been great to see Caroline resurrected as a Bride of Dracula.

So despite some utter ridiculousness and a couple of wasted opportunities, I can only recommend Dracula AD 1972 as not only one of my favourite Hammer films, but one of my favourite films ever.  Cool soundtrack, too.

“Dig the music, kids!”

10/10 for me

9/10 for everyone else

Hallowe’en Horror Fest Shadows

Dark Shadows (2012)

Tim Burton and – who else? – Johnny Depp bring us Dark Shadows, based on the cult late ’60’s TV show of the same name.  It’s a mix of horror, comedy and drama that is happy to lurk in Gothic darkness, but also offers a campy humour. dark

Barnabas Collins (Depp), heir to the wealthy Collins clan fortune, makes the mistake of spurning the love of Angelique (Eva Green).  Angelique happens to be a witch who curses Barnabas to become a vampire.  After being imprisoned for 200 years, Collins is awoken and finds himself in the year 1972.  A man – or vampire – considerably out of his time, Barnabas returns to the family home with the intention of restoring the Collins family to both wealth and harmony.  Aided by matriarch Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), Barnabas faces Angelique once more; whilst also attempting to help his family and win the love of his life.

Does that sound like fun to you?  It did to me.  Which is why I’m surprised that some people didn’t dig this retro gem.  The mixing of genres may have confused some audiences, but to me Dark Shadows is a delightfully ghoulish confection in the spirit of the Addams Family and The Munsters.

I enjoyed the comedy elements, and there’s enough blood to tick the horror box.  Most of all though, I love the 1970’s setting – obviously inspired (again) by Hammer, there are cool cars and an exceptional soundtrack.  Alice Cooper even has a cameo as himself, for goodness sake – playing two classic Coop tracks!

Great cast, cool atmosphere – it all adds up to a winner in my book.

9/10