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.