Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

NOVEMBER 26, 2009


Now THIS is a Dracula movie (thank you Samantha for recommending it)! After so many ho-hum films that I have trouble discerning from one another, Dracula A.D. 1972 finally puts its own stamp on the legacy, by transporting Dracula to the then-modern times of 1970s London, where the "big daddy" is resurrected by a group of drug-addled hippies looking for something to do in between hitting up clubs and going to "Jazz Spectaculars".

Now, obviously the film is very dated, but not in the way that a Dreamworks animated film dates itself (i.e. lots of "current" pop culture references). It's dated in a good way, in that it accurately depicts the specific time it was made and thus works both as a film in its intended genre as well as a time capsule-y look back at a period that has past. If the film was made today, everything would be a parody; sort of like The Wedding Singer did for the 80s. But it's a genuine look (and an often funny one at that - the opening party scene rivals the boat party in Raw Force in sheer craziness), which makes it valid.

It also works as a Dracula movie, surprisingly enough. It all boils down to the same old shit (putting a girl under his spell, fucking with Van Helsing, etc), but the very different locale and stronger than usual emphasis on his influence on others makes it stand out without going too far off the beaten path. There is one thing about running water being one of his weaknesses - don't recall that from any other incarnation. I certainly liked how his minion wasn't some Renfield-ian weirdo, but a typically 70s handsome guy who wanted to dabble in the dark arts and got his friends mixed up in it (I got a very strong Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things vibe from some of these character scenes). Drac eventually gives in to his wish to be "turned", and we get to see how differently the two go about using their vampire powers. Usually if Drac turns someone, it's a woman, and she just settles for quickly trying to subdue Van Helsing and is then staked. But this guy, as a vampire, has his own series of vampire-related activities (which leads to a pretty good twist).

One thing I definitely didn't "dig" was the scene where Van Helsing (actually his grandson) has to literally spell out for the audience that "Johnny Alucard" (best name ever, by the way) spells "Dracula" backwards. We look over his shoulder and he has written down "ALUCARD", with "DRACUL" under it, and a series of lines connecting the letters. He then writes down the final "A". Now, obviously he has figured this out for himself in his head, so what the hell are we watching? Why is he writing it down? It's like when you figure out a math problem in your head and the teacher is like "show your work" and you gotta go back and spell it all out for some goddamn reason.

I wish there was more on the DVD, such as an interview or even text article about the film's screenwriter, Don Houghton, discussing his inspiration for this nutty concept. Or maybe one with Lee where he could talk about how it fits in with his long legacy of playing the character. Sadly, the only thing is a trailer, which has the rather odd line "1972: A LEAP YEAR in horror!" - huh?) and as usual spoils pretty much every kill. Oh well.

As usual, I am seeing these things all out of order. If I am following the filmography on IMDb correctly, this is their 7th film, of which I have only seen parts 1, 2, and 4. The opening of this film depicts a pretty rousing fight between Van Helsing and Dracula on top of a runaway wagon - I assume this fight occurred in one of the other movies (maybe even one I've seen - my memory is for shit). Hopefully I will see all of the ones I missed before I get any further into the "series". After this unique entry, I'm sure I can handle another traditional Dracula film without getting too bored (this is, after all, the 14th Dracula movie I've watched for HMAD, not counting off-title duplications like Nosferatu and Count Yorga). But in the meantime, if you know of any other "off" ones like this, by all means suggest them!

What say you?

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  1. I always had a soft-spot for the German title of this movie: "Dracula jagt Mini-Mädchen" (Dracula hunts Mini-Girls); that gave me the funniest mental picture as a child. :D

  2. Actually, that opening fight doesn't accur in any of the other Hammer Dracula's, which is a bit weird since they're usually pretty good when it comes to continuity and scenes from other films. Still the fight is exciting enough not to care and the movie itself is really enjoyable.

  3. Oddly enough I have this one on Laser Disc with Japanese subtitles that I picked up in a second hand shop years ago for peanuts. I really do not think it was on accident that Johnny Alucard's character, played by Christopher Neame (I don't think I have seen him in anything else) is a dead ringer for Malcolm McDowell who was in the hugely successful Clockwork Orange the year before. Personally I am disappointed that they killed off Caroline Munro's character so early in the film as she is definitely 70's British eye candy. I don't quite buy Stephanie Beacham's character as she seems to be a prude trying desperately to be hip (and, while I do realize it is 1972 and everything, what is up with that hair??? Mullet prototype???). Marsha Hunt, who was better known as a singer and best known as the inspiration for the Rolling Stone's "Brown Sugar", was also quite pleasing to the eyes in this one, but boy she cannot act her way out of a paper bag.

    The scene where Van Helsing is figuring out the Alucard/Dracula connection is quite humorous. Did they really thing this audience was going to be stoned enough to say "whoa, that is Dracula backwards" in a moment of hazy surprize (perhaps the same crowd who was undoubtedly shocked that Park Ranger Asmodeus in Equinox turned out to be satan. Who woulda thunk it?).

    Overall, a pleasing bit of camp from Hammer. Be sure to take note of the rare cameo from the San Fransisco band Stoneground and with additional music from Manfred Mann alum Mike Vickers.

    Of course 1973 saw a follow-up, the rather flaccid "The Satanic Rights Of Dracula". If of course has Cushing and Lee, although it also brings back Michael Coles as the inpector but replaces Beacham as Jessica Van Helsing with Joanna Lumley (?!?), who was best remembered from "The New Avengers" and most of all, "Absolutely Fabulous".

  4. I've seen all 9 Hammer/Dracula movies, and this one is a lot of fun. I heard bad things about it, but honestly, it needed something different.

    Another good one in the series is "Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires" -- it gets a lot of negative criticism but I personally think that it was a great way to end the series much in the same way that "Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell" ended the Hammer/Frankenstein cycle on a high note.

  5. Always loved the movie, especially with its German title "Dracula jagt Mini-Mädchen", as Old Folkie already pointed out. One of my favourites from the whole love of Hammer Horror.

  6. Way late in coming to this, but...

    If you're looking for another "unorthodox" Dracula movie, check out "The Satanic Rites of Dracula". I think I mentioned it in another one of your Hammer Dracula reviews, but it's definitely one of the most unorthodox Dracula movies out there. It's basically a Hammer Dracula movie crossed with a James Bond flick. Not particularly good, but it's very cheesy.

  7. I think I have that one on VHS from Anchor Bay's releases in the late 90s.... never watched it.


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