Dracula AD 1972 (1972)

1 star out of 4. Rubbish.

This is the one I dreaded returning to. It’s just awful. The title is the entire film. Dracula is destroyed in 1872 and returns a century later.

But instead of doing anything remotely interesting or worthwhile with this radical departure from the vampire legend, Hammer does their typical stupid revenge plot. And this time all of it is lifted from various parts of their own Dracula films, and done so monotonously that one simply has no care in in finishing this mess.

The film opens with the only really exciting sequence, a final battle between Dracula and Van Helsing (Peter Cushing back in one his best roles after 12 years.) atop a runaway carriage. Both are thrown when the coach crashes and Van Helsing staggers awake to find Dracula conveniently run through by a broken carriage wheel. He uses all of his strength to break off the wheel and form a wooden stake which destroys Dracula. Van Helsing then crumples to the ground not noticing the shadowy figure that appears to gather Dracula’s ashes…

This same person buries the ashes outside the churchyard where Van Helsing is being buried. We dolly into the tombstone and then pan over to a pile of rubble. We then pan up to the blue sky and the titles begin: DRACULA (and then a jet appears and the first cue of the absolutely awful 70’s funky score) AD 1972. And you then know for sure this will be absolutely horrid.

I wasn’t kidding.

The only saving grace of this trash is Peter Cushing. You wonder why it took Hammer twelve years to put him in a Dracula film again. His presence is so sorely needed to keep the proceedings actually interesting, because Dracula will only be in the film for  a combined total of ten to fifteen minutes. Here he plays the descendant of Van Helsing, who just happens to also be an expert on the occult. His granddaughter runs around with a group of hippies who have an odd pastime: they like to gatecrash houses until the police arrive.

This is the opening sequence of the modern-day London setting. Random twenty somethings are dancing about (badly) in a traditional English drawing room. There’s this truly awful band in the background as the kids do all sorts of uninteresting random things. The adults all stand back in their formal wear, completely exasperated by the doings of this traveling band of youths. And this single scene goes on for nearly ten minutes. It’s enough to make you want to leave then and there, but this reviewer has braved the atrocities a second time to bring you a detailed look at the horrors of bad Hammer.

The ringleader of this little group is on Johnny Alucard (that doesn’t suggest anything does it?) who voices the consensus that things are getting a bit stale. So he proposes to perform a Black Mass inside an old abandoned church because that’s the groovy thing to do these days. No one really raises any more than an eyebrow at this suggestion.

So they all meet up at this church that night for a night of fun! They begin the ceremonies looking like a bunch of stoned hippies when Alucard begins actually performing a ritual. The fact that this is the same actor who played the mysterious man in the opening already tells you where this is going. Alucard then attempts to resurrect Dracula by slitting open his hand in a moment that exactly recalls the far superior Taste the Blood of Dracula.

The kids flee, Dracula rises again, he kills a girl and that’s it. Haven’t seen that before have we? They wonder why she has disappeared, and then the police find her body. one of the detectives seeks Van Helsing’s advice as this murder resembles something of the occult. Alucard is granted vampiric life and some of the other kids are killed and vampified as well. All of this leads to a final showdown between Lee’s Dracula and Cushing’s Van Helsing for the first time since 1958.

Of course this isn’t done very well either so the entire climax of the film is wasted. Dracula spends his little screen time standing in this old church for no apparent reason and lusting after Van Helsing’s granddaughter. Why it takes people so long to realize just where Dracula is located is beyond me. It isn’t as if they don’t know where the abandoned church is! The girl’s body was found there and they know the Black Mass was held there, so why does Van Helsing only discover this location at the end of the film? Then again, it took him a whole night to realize Alucard is Dracula spelled backwards.

It is reestablished here that running water can kill a vampire. This leads to an interesting end for the battle between Alucard and Van Helsing in the former’s apartment. Yes, Alucard drowns in his shower. That’s how bad this gets. You didn’t believe me did you?

Dracula never even has anything to do with 70’s London, so why the change in locale? Simply because this was an attempt by Hammer to reconnect with young audiences to drum up ticket sales. And it fails horribly. Still, it is hard to fault when Cushing is involved. He throws himself so wholeheartedly into the story that you can honestly still believe in it somehow. This combined with the usual Hammer quality of production is the only reason why anyone should even dream of watching this.

Unfortunately there are actually fans of this film, which I still cannot believe that there are any:

Go figure.

Like many film series, the awful later entries are usually the ones best represented on home video. Warner’s bare bones DVD is nearly flawless. The single layer 1.85:1 anamorphic image is fantastic, and the Dolby 2.0 sound clearly gives you that completely unnecessary funky score. Also available packaged with Horror of Dracula, Has Risen from the Grave and Taste the Blood for considerably less.

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Filed under 1 star, Film, Hammer Films

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