Blu-Ray Review: Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972).

Directed by Alan Gibson
Written by Don Houghton
Director Of Photography: Dick Bush
Film Editor: James Needs
Music by Michael Vickers

Cast: Christopher Lee (Count Dracula), Peter Cushing (Lorrimer Van Helsing/Lawrence Van Helsing), Stephanie Beacham (Jessica Van Helsing), Christopher Neame (Johnny Alucard), Marsha Hunt (Gaynor Keating), Caroline Munro (Laura Bellows), Janet Key (Anna Bryant)

__________

By 1972, Hammer Films was a bit of a train wreck. Where once they’d been a real innovator with their colorful, bloody takes on the horror classics, they were now chasing trends rather than creating them. Where they’d pushed the envelope a bit with sex and violence in the late 50s, the nudity and gore of the early 70s eliminated a huge part of their core audience — thanks to the R rating in the US and X certificate in the UK keeping kids out of the theaters. Seems like they couldn’t catch a break.

So when a picture like Count Yorga, Vampire (1970) made money by bringing the classic-type vampire into the modern day, doing the same with Christopher Lee must’ve sounded like it couldn’t miss. The result of that thinking is Dracula A.D. 1972 — and it does miss. But maybe not by as much as you remember.

It’s 1972 and some dude named Johnny Alucard is making the scene in London, crashing ritzy parties with his hipster entourage in search of kicks. As any of us could’ve told him, rich old people throw boring parties — and when Johnny figures this out, he figures it’s time for a Black Mass. They end up with Caroline Munro covered in blood and Dracula (Christopher Lee) back from the dead in a dilapidated old church — and wanting revenge on the modern-day descendants of Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). And as “movie luck” would have it, there’s a gorgeous young Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham), in Johnny’s gang.

Every once in a while — mainly whenever Cushing and Lee are on the screen — Dracula A.D. 1972 really gets something going. Those guys can carry a picture on their backs without breaking a sweat, and director Alan Gibson owes them a tremendous debt for their work here.

The period opening sequence is cool, somehow seeming less dated than the “modern” stuff. And the final Dracula/Van Helsing conflict is very strong. But you can’t help but notice the desperation burned into each frame of film. And it’s a real shame.

However, if you’re like me, Cushing and Lee in the same movie is about as good as it gets. So while the results are disappointing, the opportunity to spend some time with those two makes me return to Dracula A.D. 1972 every once in a while. And with it now looking splendid on Warner Archive’s new Blu-Ray, the experience is much improved. The color’s splendid and the sound’s nice and bright and crisp. This is one of those times when the improved picture and sound actually improves the movie itself. So while I’ve certainly given Dracula A.D. 1972 a hard time, it’s not hard to recommend this new Blu-Ray.

4 Comments

Filed under 1972, Caroline Munro, Christopher Lee, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Hammer Films, Peter Cushing, Warner Archive

4 responses to “Blu-Ray Review: Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972).

  1. Nick Beal

    Absolutely agree with your sentiment Toby that DRACULA AD 72 is way better (at least in part) than its reputation would suggest. Johnny Alucard and his ‘groovy’ acolytes belong in an Austin Powers spoof but the moment Lee and Cushing appear the screen lights up. The scene where Dracula is resurrected in the de-consecrated graveyard is powerful and intense and beautifully shot. The reconstituted Lee shot from below and appearing from the mist is a towering figure of baleful menace. However it’s Cushing who steals the picture. His speech where he describes the reality of Evil … “There is a Satan…” is extraordinary, as is his flight through the sleazy streets of seventies London on a mission to save his granddaughter (Beacham) from the clutches of the Count. Cushing’s Van Helsing exudes a refined yet dogged old-world decency and moral certainty that’s completely at odds with the times he finds himself in. It makes one wish that there were still actors like Cushing around today and maybe even a few Van Helsings….

    Like

    • Couldn’t agree more on Cushing, Nick. I was saving my Cusing/Van Helsing/morality stuff for either (Horror OF) Dracula or Dracula – Prince Of Darkness. He makes these movies for me. I think this moral stuff came easy to him, it IS him. So I’m always knocked out by how good he is as the moral opposite Dr. Frankenstein. He’s so good in F Must Be Destroyed — and a little something called Star Wars.

      Like

  2. john k

    When Lee started getting top billing over Cushing (and reportedly much
    bigger paychecks) the films quality started to slide.
    DRACULA AD 1972 still a fun romp.
    I was most interested to see Stoneground in the film and in particular
    Sal Valentino’s rendition of Floyd Chance’s Alligator Man.
    Valentino ran aground after The Beau Brummells and their classic country
    rock album Bradley’s Barn.
    I fondly remember The Greenbriar Boys rendition of Alligator Man with the
    legendary John Herald who Dylan described as “the white Stevie Wonder”
    Thru you tube I tracked down Valentino’s solo rendition of Alligator Man
    backed up by Ry Cooder and friends. This Warner Bros single is a total
    knockout and smokes the Stoneground version in the movie.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s