28 January 2022

52 for '22: Dracula A.D. 1972

Movie: Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
Method: HBOMax

Not the only sucking in this movie!

Why Did I Watch This?

You know, I feel like as I go on this question is going to be harder and harder to answer. Listen, I have tried to get more into the Hammer horror films of the '50s, '60s, and 70s, and I have seen a couple like The Horror of Frankenstein (1970), but I'm always looking to expand my cultural knowledge. I follow @HorrorHammer1 on Twitter and watch Chris Lee and Peter Cushing clips all the time. They're both in this. It was leaving HBOMax at the end of January so I had to strike!

What Did I Know?

I know that Lee played Dracula quite a few times and Cushing played Van Helsing quite a few times. Just from the campy title, my guess was that this would be set in the modern day. Err...uh...1972. That's probably bout it.

How Was It?

In many ways it's exactly as you'd expect. It's not quite a B movie but definitely trends that line. Cushing and Lee deliver of course, but they aren't really in the film for long stretches, which is unfortunately. The film opens on Dracula's death in 1872 in a terrible wagon accident. I had figured this was a clip from some Hammer film I hadn't seen, but...apparently it has no connection anywhere and it literally just starts mid-carriage chase. The plot is then that a toadie of Drac's steals his ashes and commits a blasphemous ritual 100 years to the day later so that Dracula can get revenge on the Van Helsing descendants.

But that's not all. There is an extended party scene to open the film, which seems to just be a weird showcase for the band, Stoneground. They play two full songs as a bunch of hippies dance and freak out some stodgy British upper class twits. This may sound jarring, but that's only because it definitely is. It again just starts in media res without any context. In some ways this is freeing and I guess we can figure it out. It's a party, it doesn't have to make sense.

The modern-day descendent of the toadie, who seems like a Renfield-type, then gathers his friends for a Black Mass. He frames it as a lark, and it's an interesting study in how we can get folks to go along with massive evil if it just feels like a joke. From there, Dracula rises again, Van Helsing eventually figures it out because all these dead people with bite marks on their neck start showing up, and then he uses a shovel to push Dracula on to a bed full of stakes. It's fun for the whole family.

The big twist here seems to be that it's set in the then-modern age. Which is somehow fifty years ago. This obviously impacts the characters and general trends, updating from the Victorian era, but it never really pushes the story in a unique way. Not like Blade Trinity (2004) or any other great updated film. Dracula just kind of stays in his desecreated church and Van Helsing solves it like any other detective in the ancient era would. I mean...it's fine, it's still entertaining and there is lots of blood, but there's ultimately no fish-out-of-water or surprising conflict for either of them to overcome. Plus, they're both barely in this. It mostly seems to deal with Jessica Van Helsing trying to fend off modern Renfield, who is like, a good friend but DEFINITELY straight up evil. It's...a little bizarre.

I had fun with this, it drags a bit, the cinematography and shot choices are baffling at times, but it's really the acting of two horror legends that elevates the material.

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