Hammer Films, 1972
Directed by Alan Gibson

  

  
1872 London: Dracula and Van Helsing fight to the death atop a carriage drawn by madly galloping horses. A saturnine young gentleman gathers some of Dracula's ashes and secretes them near Van Helsing's grave. 

100 years later to the day, a group of bohemian London youth get more than they bargained for when they congregate at a desanctified church for a Black Mass ritual. What started out as a lark turns into a night of terror as their leader Johnny Alucard conjures up the Lord of the Undead from a nearby grave. Dracula is unleashed to pursue his vengeance against Van Helsing's descendants: Professor Lorimer Van Helsing and his daughter Jessica, for whom Dracula has planned a fate worse than death...

Shag-haired Inspector Murray of Scotland Yard, trying to stop a sudden spate of cultish murders, will be forced against his better judgment to consider Van Helsing's theory that vampirism is the cause of the slayings.

Virtues and Vices
Although the first of Hammer's Dracula series to boast a contemporary setting, this is easily the most dated entry in the series. The opening party scene has a Laugh-In quality to it, with bikini girls gyrating on a piano. However, the passage of three decades has lent the "mod" scenes a sort of Austin Powers camp appeal. A more serious drawback is the musical score, which sounds appropriate to a swinging 60's spy movie but lacks any trace of Gothic mood. 

On the plus side, this movie brought the return of the great Peter Cushing as Dracula's nemesis. Christopher Lee also gets more screen time and more lines than in some of the earlier movies.

Tangled Threads
Screenwriter Dan Houghton provided a back story for Dracula and Van Helsing that doesn't mesh easily with the other Hammer Dracula movies. In this version, a muttonchopped Lawrence Van Helsing expires after slaying Dracula in London in 1872, and Dracula is apparently out of commission until 1972. By contrast, in Horror of Dracula, the cleanshaven Doctor Van Helsing is living in Bavaria around the 1890's. In Brides of Dracula, Van Helsing's first initial appears to be J rather than L for Lawrence. In the later film Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, Van Helsing is shown still alive, though elderly, in 1904.

Even within Dracula A.D. 1972 itself, the continuity doesn't really fit. Jessica refers to Lawrence Van Helsing as her great-grandfather, and Lorimer Van Helsing as her grandfather. For this to be possible, Lorimer would have to have been born by 1872, which would make him at least 100 years old during the events of this movie. Peter Cushing was around 60 at the time of filming, but he could harldy be taken for a man of 100.

If you assume that Jessica was speaking loosely (she was a bit spooked at them time), then Lawrence Van Helsing could have been her great-great-grandfather. On this theory, the J. Van Helsing of Horror of Dracula and Brides of Dracula could be a son of Lawrence Van Helsing who emigrated to Bavaria. The initial J. could be for "Joseph" if this Van Helsing was named after Joseph Van Helsing, the father of Lawrence. From The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, we know that J. Van Helsing had a son named Leyland, who was in his twenties in 1904. Leyland could easily have been the father of the Lorimer Van Helsing who appears in Dracula A.D. 1972. Sadly, J. Van Helsing and Lorimer Van Helsing seem both to have outlived their wives.

As to Dracula himself, he led a strange series of overlapping incarnations. After being destroyed in London in 1872, he reappeared and was slain again five times in Bavaria in the 1890's. Then Dracula was revived again in London in 1972, apparently using a small amount of ashes that were set aside in 1872.

Interestingly, the Victorian gentleman who gathers Dracula's ashes in 1872 looks a lot like the latterday Johnny Alucard on 1972, except for darker hair and sideburns. Perhaps it is implied that the Victorian fellow was an ancestor of Johnny Alucard. Another coincidence is that Johnny Alucard and Lorimer Van Helsing have copies of the same Dracula portrait hanging in their homes; it appears again in The Satanic Rites of Dracula. It appears that the same Dracula obsession has passed through the generations in two separate family lines, though for very different reasons.

Transmission and Termination 
In this movie, Dracula kills several people without their apparently becoming vampires. At least, we hope they didn't, since in that case they are still unaccounted for by the end of the film. On the other hand, Dracula deliberately converts Alucard to vampirism, and the latter similarly converts Jessica's boyfriend. There's no explanation of why some become vampires and others merely corpses. Also unexplained is the demise of Jessica's vampire boyfriend, whom Van Helsing finds lying expired outside a tomb in broad daylight.

Van Helsing shows considerable resourcefulness by using a small vanity mirror to reflect sunlight toward Alucard and thus drive him from the room. Alucard, however, must surely rank as the most incompetent vampire in a Hammer film, as he largely kills himself by staggering into a bathtub and turning on the water by accident.  

Literary Echoes
Christopher Lee says he often suggested to the Hammer screenwriters that they give Dracula some of his actual lines from the original novel. In this movie, he seems to have almost gotten his way, when Dracula exclaims "You would play your brains against mine, against me who has commanded nations?" (See Dracula, Chapter XXI.)  Unfortunately, the characters are viewed in a long shot from above during this line, which almost seems to have been added as an afterthought, so the effect is not as intimidating as you might hope.

Dracula Revived and Demised (Spoilers)
Dracula is revived through the usual expedient of adding blood to his ashes, though in this case there's a lot of needless ceremonial hocus-pocus as well. We know it's needless because Dracula's dour manservant Klove accomplished the same end without any ceremony in Brides of Dracula.

Dracula's destruction is one of the best in the series. Van Helsing stabs the Count in the heart with a silver knife. However, after apparently expiring, the Count retains sufficient hypnotic control over Jessica to make her pull the knife out. Thereafter, Van Helsing startles Dracula by throwing holy water in his face, and the latter staggers into a pit full of wooden stakes. Even then, the creature continues to struggle while Van Helsing uses a shovel to push him further down onto a stake, until the bloodied shaft bursts forth from his back.

Continuation...
Along with Dracula himself, the characters of Lorimer Van Helsing, his granddaughter Jessica, and Inspector Murray continue in the sequel The Satanic Rites of Dracula.

Dracula A.D. 1972 VHS Video Tape: Click here for pricing and ordering information at Amazon.com. DVDs of this movie may be available occasionally from small vendors on eBay.com. Be sure to read the fine print and contact the vendor in advance if you have any questions about whether a video, VCD, or DVD will be playable on your equipment.



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