Tuesday, 9 June 2015
Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972, Alan Gibson)
"Dracula AD 1972" is often snarkily dismissed even by the most ardent Hammer fan as a low point of the Hammer Dracula cycle. Kitschy, camp and dated, it is admittedly a long way from the glorious dizzy heights of the original "Dracula" ("Horror of Dracula" to heathens) and "The Brides of Dracula" (Cushing's best performance as Van Helsing), but there's just something about this movie that - like a deformed and demented child locked in the attic - i find impossible not to love, even if i know i shouldn't.
The early '70s hippy slang may have been dated even by the time the film was released, and the gang of 'teenagers' are so blatantly in their late 20s / early 30s they put the cast of "Smallville" to shame, but amidst the psychedelic chicanery are some marvellous pieces of acting, characterisation and direction. Cushing gives it 100% as always, and even on autopilot Lee is mesmerising - he even gets an original line of Stoker Dracula dialogue in here: "You would play your brains against mine? Against me, who has commanded nations?". A young Stephanie Beacham is gorgeous as Van Helsing's damsel in distress granddaughter, and i will happily watch anything with the lovely Caroline Munro in it (seriously. I didn't sit through "Slaughter High" for my health, y'know). The standout performance, though, has to be Christopher Neame as Johnny Alucard. Brilliantly camp, preening like a peacock in a ruffled shirt and velvet jacket combo possibly looted from Jon Pertwee's locker at the BBC, Alucard is one of the greatest evil henchmen in screen history, all the way up to his memorable death by running water in a power shower. I fail to see the truth in the accusations that Hammer were running short of ideas by this point.
Pure brilliance, and - "The Satanic Rites of Dracula" notwithstanding - a fitting epitaph to Cushing and Lee's immortal battles as Van Helsing and Dracula. Requiescat in pace, ultima.