Dracula A.D. 1972 – UK, 1972

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‘Past, present or future, never count out the Count!’

Dracula A.D. 1972 is a British supernatural horror film, directed by Alan Gibson (Crescendo; Goodbye Gemini) and produced by Hammer Film Productions. It was written by Don Houghton. It stars Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Stephanie Beacham and Christopher Neame (Lust for a Vampire; Transformations; Species III).

Unlike earlier films in Hammer’s Dracula series, Dracula A.D. 1972 had a contemporary setting, in an attempt to update the Dracula story for modern audiences. The Count is brought back to life in modern London and preys on a group of young party-goers, that includes the descendant of his nemesis, Van Helsing.

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It is the seventh Hammer film featuring Dracula, and the sixth to star Christopher Lee in the title role. It also sees the return of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing for the first time since The Brides of Dracula in 1960, and is the first to feature both Lee and Cushing in their respective roles since 1958’s Dracula.

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Following the success of the modern-day vampire film Count Yorga, Vampire, Warner Bros commissioned two Hammer Dracula films set in the present day, which were to become Dracula A.D. 1972 and The Satanic Rites of Dracula. The film was apparently inspired by the events surrounding the Highgate Vampire case. Production began in September 1971 as Dracula Today.

The soundtrack was composed by former Manfred Mann member Mike Vickers, and is in a funky, ‘blaxploitation’ style that reflects the early 1970s setting of the film. It was not released commercially prior to a long-awaited CD release in 2009. The film also features two songs, “Alligator Man” and “You Better Come Through for Me” by the American band Stoneground, who were a late replacement for The Faces. The Black Mass segment uses the track “Black Mass: An Electric Storm in Hell” by the pioneering electronic group White Noise. The Black Mass scene with Christopher Neame’s dialogue was also sampled by Orbital for “Satan Live” and “Tension”.

In March 2016, Death Waltz Recordings issued Mike Vickers’ soundtrack as a 1000-only limited edition psychedelic splatter vinyl release.

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Dracula A.D. 1972 was marketed with the taglines “Past, present or future, never count out the Count!” and “Welcome back, Drac!” When it was released in the USA, a brief clip titled Horroritual was played before the film in which actor Barry Atwater (the vampire Janos Skorzeny in The Night Stalker) rises from a coffin and swears the entire audience in as members of the Count Dracula Society.

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Plot:

In 1872, Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) and his arch-nemesis Lawrence Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) battle on the top of a runaway coach. The carriage crashes and Dracula is partly impaled by one of the wheels. In the struggle, Van Helsing manages to fully push the wheel into the vampire’s chest, staking him. This done, Van Helsing collapses and dies from his own wounds. At that moment a follower of Dracula (Christopher Neame) arrives, collects Dracula’s remains and, a few days later, buries them near Van Helsing’s grave at St Bartolph’s Church…

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One hundred years later, a new generation of Britons appear who move the tale along: in this case, a group of young hippies that includes Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham), granddaughter of Lorrimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), an occult expert and descendant of Dracula’s old nemesis, and Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame), who closely resembles the disciple of Dracula seen in 1872.

Alucard persuades Jessica and the others to attend a black magic ceremony in the now abandoned, deconsecrated St Bartolph’s, where he performs a bloody ritual involving one of their group, Laura Bellows (Caroline Munro). Jessica and the others flee in horror, after which Dracula is resurrected…

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Reviews:

“Considered a low point in Hammer’s roster, Dracula A.D. 1972 is hardly that. Some blame Don Hougton’s script which leaves Dracula confined to a gothic church, or Michael Vicker’s “wah-wah” and horn tinged music score (which is quite lively and suits the film well), the fact that the movie is dated, or the very limited screen time Dracula has. But the film has a number of things going for it, and even though Lee was disenchanted with having the character in a modern setting, he gives it his all…” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In

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“One can have a fun time with this movie — mostly because of its faults. It’s cheese all right, professionally made cheese that’s much better acted and staged than it really has any right to be.” Eccentric Cinema

“Lee’s barely in Dracula A.D. 1972. When he does turn up he looks more grumpy than menacing. Cushing’s as great as always, though – he’s particularly good at communicating lonely old Lorrimer’s sadness at not being able to connect with his granddaughter. Jessica’s a thin character with some appalling dialogue (‘Weird man, way out – I mean spooks, hobgoblins, all that jazz’) and could easily have been very annoying, but Beacham managers to work wonders with the character…” Jumble Sale Frenzy!

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Offline reading:

The Art of Hammer by Marcus Hearn – Buy from Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema by Jonathan Rigby (2002). Reynolds & Hearn, London, UK

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Hammer Glamour by Marcus Hearn – Buy from Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

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The Hammer Story by Marcus Hearn, Alan Barnes – Buy from Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

The Hammer Vault by Marcus Hearn – Buy from Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

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Dracula A.D. 1972

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Cast and characters:

  • Christopher Lee … Count Dracula
  • Peter Cushing … Lorrimer Van Helsing / Lawrence Van Helsing
  • Stephanie Beacham … Jessica Van Helsing
  • Christopher Neame … Johnny Alucard
  • Marsha Hunt … Gaynor Keating
  • Caroline Munro … Laura Bellows
  • Janet Key … Anna Bryant
  • Michael Kitchen … Greg
  • Lally Bowers … Matron Party Hostess
  • Flanagan … Go Go Dancer (uncredited)
  • Stoneground … Themselves [rock band]
  • Michael Coles … Inspector Murray
  • William Ellis … Joe Mitcham
  • Philip Miller … Bob
  • David Andrews … Detective Sergeant
  • Constance Luttrell … Mrs. Donnelly
  • Michael Daly … Charles
  • Artro Morris … Police Surgeon
  • Jo Richardson … Crying Matron
  • Brian John Smith … Hippy Boy
  • Penny Brahms as Hippy Girl

Filming locations:

La Bersagliera – 372 Kings Road, Chelsea, London, England
Tykes Water Lake, Aldenham Country Park, Hertfordshire, England
Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England

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