6/16/10

Retro Film Report #11: Dracula A.D. 1972


Mix equal parts Austin Powers and Bram Stoker and you get Dracula A.D. 1972 - a wonderful admixture of Hammer horror and Swingin' Shaggin' London. It's both groovy and Gothic, and highly entertaining. At times you'll think you're watching a blaxploitation flick - the soundtrack is funky and Drac is the ultimate pimp. At other times it's classicly Gothic, with dark castles and late night seances.  Indeed, Dracula A.D. 1972 has one foot in classic Hammer horror and the other in the funktastic 1970s, makes this a rare treat.





The film begins with a brief backstory: Drac is long ago dead, but his ashes and magic ring have been preserved. Flash to 1972 and a groovy happening shindig. The band Stone Ground is possibly the worst band I've ever heard (except, of course, Nickelback); the viewer is unfortunately subject to two, count'em TWO, full songs by this band.  (BTW Stoneground would become a much better band, Pablo Cruise, several years later)


But no one seems to mind the bad music- they're all too groovy and happening to care. The movie seems more like Laugh-In at this point than a horror movie.


Soon (but not soon enough), the party is broken up and a trendy group of youngsters make their way to The Cavern. Here, we are introduced to the equally creepy and effeminate Johnny Alucard (Dracula spelled backwards - groan). He's like Oscar Wilde, Legolas, Billy Corgan, and Alex from A Clockwork Orange rolled into one - if it's even possible to imagine that.


Johnny convinces these dim witted hippies to join him in a Black Mass at midnight. "It'll be a giggle!" One of the girls, Jess, should know better, considering she's a descendant of Van Helsing and her grandpa is a scholar of demonology. Oh, well. Kids these days and their Black Masses. Go figure.


Grandpa Helsing (Grand Moff Tarkin Peter Cushing) catches her looking at his black magic books.  She tells him it's all a bunch of crap. Gramps probably wanted to slap that smug expression right off her face, but instead the kindly old gentleman is polite and requests her company for dinner. She straight up rejects him.

Instead, she heads to an abandoned church where she takes part in some satanic ceremony hosted by Creepy Johnny.


Not surprisingly things start to get out of hand. Crazy Johnny starts spewing incantations, the wind starts blowing, and everyone ends up in a trance.  God forbid these kids just do jell-o shooters and whippets like all the nice kids do. No, they had to go and summon Count Dracula from hell. Good job, guys.


One of the girls, Laura (Caroline Munro), volunteers to lay up on the altar for the sacrifice. I'm no demonologist, but I'm thinkin' that's probably not a wise thing to do. I can only hope I've brought my own daughter up to have enough sense to not raise her hand when they're taking volunteers to lay upon a satanic altar. Life's about choices, people.


Surprise! Dracula rises from his grave and takes a bite out of poor foolish Laura. The rest of the crew are so panic stricken that they bolt before they even see Drac. To hell with Laura, we're outa here!

The next day they question Freaky Johnny about what happened last night. He plays it off like it was no big deal - they were just high on acid, that's all. Nevermind that Laura's not at the table - it's cool, man.



Upon the discovery of Laura's body, Scotland Yard is on the case.  They learn that she was killed in a particularly ghastly manner and call upon Grand Moff Tarkin for answers. Take a look at Peter Cushing's profile - you won't find a more "English looking" face.



Jess arrives home to discover Scotland Yard in her living room. Nothing particularly important happens here, but I just thought you needed to see Jess' headwear. Nice.


Meanwhile, Loco Johnny pays a visit to Dracula (Christopher Lee) begging and whining that he doesn't have super powers. He brought the Count back from hell, so doesn't he deserve something for his troubles? Dracula may appear demonic and evil, but, deep down, he has a heart of gold. Dracula grants his request.


Insane Johnny uses his newfound Drac powers to capture Jess. Unfortunately for him, his victory is short lived. Grand Moff Helsing shows up with a mirror and exposes him to sunlight. Yes, Dumbass Johnny is a vampire for a whopping 10 minutes before he's killed. He has to be the worst vampire ever.


Grandpa Helsing locates his lovely Jess in the old church. She's out cold, but he puts a crucifix around her neck. Which begs the question: Why the hell are people so scared of vampires, anyway? They have more weaknesses than any monster created. There's no freaking end to the number of things that can kill them or ward them off - garlic, any holy symbol, a stake through the heart, holy water, sunlight...... sunlight? The Boy in the Plastic Bubble has less allergies than this guy!


Well, it doesn't take long for Grandpa to vanquish Dracula via holy water and stake. But not before the audience gets a good long look at why Christopher Lee was the greatest Dracula till George Hamilton.  He exuded Dracula - he looked evil, you believed he was the Count. Screw Dumbledor Saruman, Lee will always be Dracula to me.


So, all in all the movie isn't by any means a classic, but it was still enjoyable. You had crazy hippies and Dracula - what more could you ask for? Admittedly, the movie is very low on blood, gore and T&A. Plus, it really wasn't scary..... I'd put the scare factor somewhere between Scooby Doo and Escape to Witch Mountain. Regardless, I'd still recommend it for those who appreciate a little kitch in their horror films.

8 comments:

  1. Ha! Great retrospective of a truly funky film. Thanks.

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  2. Woops. Just realized I've had "comments" disabled for the past 12 hours or so. My bad.

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  3. Alucard was used in the 1943 Son of Dracula starring Lon Chaney Jr.

    RetroHound.com

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  4. Peter O'Toole? I don't think so. I thought you were a 60's-70's horror fan.
    Great film though. I have watched it probably at least 20 times. Better than the last couple gothic Draculas that Hammer made before taking the count into then modern days.

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  5. Damn. I really should proofread my posts before I publish them. I am a 60s-70s horror fan,... I just happen to let my typing get ahead of my brain sometimes.

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  6. It's okay. I make way too many typos. I am just glad to see any post on any Hammer films.

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  7. Ordered it from the library. Should be here soon, CAN'T WAIT

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  8. This movie needed more Caroline Munro. That is one hott retro babe. She looked like she truly enjoyed getting fanged by the Count.

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