Published on 08 Nov 2010 | over 7 years ago
It was only a matter of time before Christopher Lee's Dracula visited Swinging London, arriving fashionably late for the party in 1972. The action in DRACULA A.D. 1972 starts with a prologue set in the 1800s: Lee's Dracula is shown in battle with his nemesis Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). He is accidentally dispatched with a carriage-wheel spoke. The vampire's ashes and fancy ring are handed down to a young Londoner named Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame) who looks as though he's seen A Clockwork Orange too many times. Proposing that his hippie posse look for new kicks ("yet as old as time"), he holds a Black Mass and summons you-know-who. Peter Cushing joins Lee yet again; luscious Stephanie Beacham, in an amazing shag haircut and purple velvet, and nearly 25 years before her participation in THE COLBYS as the villain Sable, is Cushing's granddaughter Jessica. She considers grandpa's scientific interests "way out," but then again, their last name is Van Helsing. The time-period switch makes the grooviness seem laughable, although otherwise this is an acceptable outing, especially for Lee's suave, overtly sexual take on the role. It was his penultimate entry in the Hammer Dracula series.
DRACULA A.D. 1972, starring Christopher Lee as the titular vampire, is undoubtedly one bizarre film. As the title indicates, the main body of the film brings Dracula into the 1970s, where he battles Van Helsing's descendant (also played by Cushing). The film tries to blend traditional vampiric horror with 70s style youth culture: thus the elements of sex (discretely), drugs, and rock 'n' roll permeate the film. To early 21st century viewers, the swingin' music, outrageous mod clothes, hairdos, and wannabe hip slang ("Weird, man. Way out") of the young cast may come off as more campy than anything else, but it does make the film fun.
Lee is compelling as Dracula: articulate and elegant, yet feral. Unfortunately, his screen time is sparse; his amounts to little more than a small supporting role. The real star of the film is Cushing as the 20th century Van Helsing. The classy Cushing projects real intelligence and ability as his character. He brings total conviction to every scene, and has solid chemistry with Beacham (although I think his hands come a little too close to her bosom in a couple of scenes--watch it, "Grandpa"!). "Dracula A.D. 1972" may be far from the best of the many Dracula films, but Cushing and Lee make it worthwhile.
This vampire flick admittedly contains some awkward moments, most notably the absurd and insulting scene in which the brilliant Prof. Van Helsing has to write the name 'Alucard' down on paper and study it before making the all-too-terribly-obvious connection to his family's arch-nemesis, but these are nit-picks. It's a beautifully-photographed, slickly-produced and generally well-acted piece, featuring both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee at the height of their game. The '70s pop soundtrack, much-maligned, is actually quite effective and suits the movie. It's fast-paced, entertaining fun, and isn't that all any genre film really needs to be?
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