Dracula A.D. 19721972

Director Alan Gibson
Screenplay Don Houghton
Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Stephanie Beacham, Christopher Neame, Michael Coles

Dracula A.D.1972 is one of those films that starts with a premise that actually might amount to something. Unfortunately, the idea is shot about half way through and we end up back in the box, with two old friends lumbering through another clunkfest of an ending.

We begin in 1872 with Van Helsing (Cushing) and the Count (Lee) rolling down the road in a horse and buggy action scene that will leave no one breathless. Both perish in a not so flaming wreckage. Dracula’s familiar Alucard (Neame) makes preparation for his leader’s rebirth.

One hundred years later, Van Helsing’s grandson, Lorrimer (Cushing again) and his own granddaughter (Beacham) are living in Chelsea. Lorrimer is respected author of creepy books, Jessica Van Helsing is hanging with the wrong crowd. This means she is hanging out with hipsters who crash the parties of old coots.

After the party is over, Jessica and the gang, which includes the previously mentioned (and no older looking Alucard go to an abandoned church You know. For a laugh. The sequence plays with some interest. Then everyone scatters. Does this mean Dracula is back, tanned and ready to wreak havoc in modern times? How cool would it be to have Christopher Lee, wandering about the town, charming everyone into exposing their necks?

This doesn’t happen. Instead we’re relegated to a series of ladies being lured to the old church, one at a time, until the descendant ends up on his altar. Once more, Cushing’s Van Helsing has conversations with officers who dote on his knowledge of all things dark and Dracula.

This is the kind of film that seems to aware of its ridiculous premise. The initial exposure to Jessica’s gang awkwardly taking over the party is one of the examples of the film industry trying to read the youth of its day. It is as effective as it usually is; meaning it’s lame and funny as hell.

It’s also the kind of story where someone can live for 100 years, not aging in the slightest, then ask a newly awakened Dracula for the secret to immortality.

Seeing Cushing in modern (for the time) clothing is a hoot. For a second there, we really think we’re going to get something cool. Then seeing him grapple with the much younger Neame, it becomes sadly farcical.

Later, when Dracula starts menacing Van Helsing in the old church, the absurdity hits a new high water mark the soundtrack blasts away with contemporary funk. Neither of the characters are dancing, and it is doubtful that they are feeling the joy of the music in the atmosphere of dinge and dearth of the old church.

By then, the movie has given up on telling a story. There is only one move. Wooden stakes, crosses, holy water and coffins. Then back for another round. It is a sad existence, when one has immortality, but chooses to stay home at night. He experienced nothing of the 100 years difference from the last time he was above ground.

(*1/2 out of *****)

From the Original Ebert Review:

“This isn’t a terrific rationale for another horror flick but, given Miss Beacham’s ability to heave, and her bosom to heave with, it will have to do. “

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