Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dracula A.D. [1972]

(1972) ***

"Past, present or future, never count out the Count!"

(advertising tagline for Dracula A.D. [1972])

In Christopher Lee’s 6th outing as Dracula the action begins in the 1800s with Dracula and Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) in a fight to the death on a runaway carriage. In the end Van Helsing triumphs, driving part of the wooden carriage wheel into Dracula’s heart (you’d think at this point Dracula would be taking better precautions when venturing out, like perhaps investing in some chain mail or something?). Fade out.

That’s right bitches, we’re in a major motion picture, we’re Stoneground!

Fade in. It’s now the “future”, 1972 to be exact. The story picks up with a group of psychedelic hippies crashing a stuffy soirée. Grooving to the hip sounds of the rock group Stoneground, the hippies make a spectacle of themselves while their elders look on in disgust. Stoneground, by the way, is heavily featured playing not one but two songs including a tune called “Alligator Man”. Perhaps believing to be destined for greatness, Stoneground to my knowledge has never been heard from again. As the merrymaking hippies become increasingly unruly, the Bobbies soon show up ejecting them from the event.

The next day the hippies are hanging out at their favorite gathering place, a coffee joint called The Cavern. Bored with their usual shenanigans, hippie leader Johnny Alucard convinces his buddies to follow him to an old church for, “a date with the devil; a bacchanal with Beelzebub”. The church is slated for demolition so they won’t have to worry about the coppers. Convinced that fucking with Satan is a cherry of an idea, the hippies happily participate in a black mass. Jessica, whose grandfather is Lorimer Van Helsing, initially questions the logic of fooling with the dark arts, yet is ultimately convinced to partake after her friends make her feel like a chicken.

Hey, this isn’t fun this sucks!

Okay, stay with me here, this is a bit difficult to describe. What the hippies don’t know is that Johnny has an ulterior motive. The old church contains the graves of both Dracula and his archenemy Van Helsing. When Van Helsing finally defeated Dracula back in the day, a descendent of Johnny witnessed the event, which included Dracula turning to dust and dropping his ring. This descendent of Johnny picked up the ring and some of Drac’s ashes and both have been passed on to Johnny as a creepy family heirloom. After a long ceremony Dracula is brought back to life and Johnny is all too willing to sacrifice one of his hippie chick friends as an initial offering.

As bloodless corpses begin popping up all over London, Scotland Yard seeks the aid of Lorimer Van Helsing, who looks exactly like his descendent! In his hilarious review of this film last year, JSP mocked Van Helsing’s sleuthing skills as he slowly figures out that Johnny Alucard has a connection to Dracula.

Hmmm, D R A C…My God!

While Dracula spends his scant screen time hanging out in the old church waiting for more fresh meat, Van Helsing begins his quest to settle an old score that has been going on for the better part of a century.

Dracula A.D. [1972] was an obvious attempt to modernize the iconic character for a newer hipper generation. With its “chicken walkin’” music [whisper it slowly to know what I’m talking about here] and psychedelic motif, the results are, well weird. I think the classic Universal monsters work well partly because their stories take place long ago. Dracula, for example, is much creepier when he is residing in his towering Transylvania castle in the 1800s than when he is hanging out in “modern” London. Take Dracula away from his time period and he seems a bit silly. It would be like placing Robocop on the Santa Maria or Ishmael on a modern warship.

"Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you overestimate their chances."

The title, “Dracula A.D. [1972]” is unfortunate as it immediately dates the film. Sure, in 1972 audiences must’ve been saying, “Wow, this story is taking place right now!” However, by 1973 the same people would be saying, “Oh yeah, that story took place last year, what have you done for me lately?” By now they’re saying, “Jesus, that Dracula adventure took place 35 years ago!” I might have called it “21st Century Dracula” or something similar. Although the film is actually pretty fun, overcoming most of my usual Hammer film complaints, the audience is ultimately ripped off. Sure Dracula and Van Helsing show up, but they receive very little screen time. Dracula spends his few scenes skulking about the ruins of an old church and Van Helsing sits at his desk in his office for most of the picture.

Lee and Cushing would appear together in their roles one final time in The Satanic Rights of Dracula (1974). They both participated in separate Dracula adventures in the late 70s.


Octopunk said...

Ha! I totally agree with you about reinstating classic vampires. When I read the book Vampire LeStat and it got to the contemporary part, I couldn't believe how cheesy the formerly cool vampires' fashion choices were.

Still, anyone who preys on the stupidity of hippies can't be all bad. I have yet to plumb the rich depths of the Lee/Cushing horror tradition. Fortunately, many years of Horrorthon stretch before us.

JPX said...

"Fortunately, many years of Horrorthon stretch before us."

I still laugh when I think about your friend? Co-worker? who wondered if you would run out of movies to watch for this contest. I'm beginning to see that there is close to an infinite amount of horror that awaits for many future Thons!