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
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.
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
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.
Dracula Revived and Demised (Spoilers)
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.
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Copyright (c) 2005 by Joseph Morales