Wednesday, 3 May 2017

#TOOCOOLTUESDAY: BEHIND THE SCENES AS THE HAMMER PARTNERSHIP BOWS OUT


#TOOCOOLTUESDAY : Carrying on from our 'Satanic Rites' posts yesterday and prompted by several requests for more info on, this the last Christopher Lee / Peter Cushing Hammer Dracula film, we thought it would be interesting, to dig through our files and see what we could come up with, at short notice. Quite a bit, it turns out! So, here is a whip around the set at Elstree studios, with some rare images and the under pinning story of, Cushing and Lee's last stand off, as Vampire Hunter and the Lord of the Undead, Dracula.





ON NOVEMBER 13TH 1972, Peter Cushing began work  for Hammer films, on what would be , the last time he and Christopher Lee would lock horns, as Dracula and Van Helsing. In 'The Satanic Rites of Dracula' Cushing would be playing Lorrimer Van Helsing again, continuing the time-line from earlier in the year, when he had returned to fight the Undead Count in, Dracula AD 1972. During the shooting 'Satanic Rites' would be known to inquiring press and trade papers as 'Dracula is Dead and Well and Living In London', which needless to say, made Christopher Lee's eyebrows rise so high, as to permanently stick to to any castle ceiling. Well known for his less than enthusiastic opinion on the last four Hammer Dracula films, after Satanic was made and on release, Lee publically stated that the film was a non-event'.



PETER CUSHING'S FEE was £6,000, plus his accommodation at his favorite 'Brown's Hotel' in Mayfair, London. On top of this was a fee of £25 for his driver. Alan Gibson, barely out of his seat on directing and editing duties on Dracula AD 1972, returned. Michael Cole as Inspector Murray also returned, unfortunately Stephanie Beacham was unavailable to repeat her role as Jessica Van Helsing, so the role was taken by Joanna Lumley. There was also a reunion for Cushing with both Freddie Jones- Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed and William Franklyn - Fury At Smugglers Bay.



IN THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, Van Helsing is on call once again following a lead from Inspector Murray, when several well established figures are found to be involved in a black mass at a well heeled country estate called Pelham House. It turns out, one of the magic sect is an old friend of van Helsing's, a Nobel-prize winning bio chemist by the name of Professor Julian Keeley (Freddie Jones). Van Helsing is on the trail and visits Keeley, to find him terrified, exhausted and hysterical. On enqueuing as to his work, which has clearly pushed over the edge with pressure, Keeley reveals he has developed an 'accelerated strain of bacillus petis - the bubonic plague! 



SOON AFTER THIS the supernatural element of the plot kicks in, as Murray and Jessica stumble upon a nest of vampire girls in the cellar at Pelham House, and the feverish work that Keeley has been burning the night oil preparing has been sponsored by a reclusive tycoon called, D. D. Denham



IN A KEY SCENE Van Helsing meets and confronts Denham, and exposes him as none other than Dracula! After a clever bit of business, with the Count, Van Helsing is bundled off to Pelham House. Here on the 23rd day of the 11th month, the Sabat of the Undead, Dracula will release the deadly plague and fulfill the Biblical prophecy of Armageddon.


CUSHING'S SCREEN TIME as with Dracula AD 1972 is limited, but what there is, has been carefully managed and distributed to provide the story with Hammer high points of drama and suspense. There is a superb exchange between Cushing and the damaged and babbling, cow - faced Julian Keeley, played in the key that only Freddie Jones can play, and frighteningly play well. Prof Keeley is totally under Dracula's power, prompting lines like, 'Evil and violence are the only two measures that hold any power. And nothing is too vile, nothing too dreadful'. Keeley drools. 'You need to feel the thrill of disgust, the beauty of obscenity' 



AFTER VAN HELSING'S, laboured and obvious, deciphering of the 'secret' behind Alucard's surname in Dracula AD 1972, Cushing's check list of anti vampire precautions and lore, is kept to a bare minium, although the items that can repel Dracula have now added a new twist and and one epic addition. The stand off with Denham and Van Helsing is one of the key points in the whole film, and as Cushing draws the pistol loaded with the silver bullet, you feel he means it! Lee looks powerful and majestically attractive. It is to Lee credit that at no time does his performance reveal even a hint, of his disillusion with the role.



IT IS CUSHING who gets the perhaps the best line in the film when facing William Franklyn's disbelieving  Colonel  Torrence, who asks Van Helsing if they are dealing with 'hobgoblins, witches and things that go bump in the night'. 'Hobgoblins are fantasy creatures of the nursery. As for witches they certainly exist, although 90 per cent of them are charlatans. Things DO go bump in the night. Quite often!'


AGAIN CUSHING  was responsible for rewriting Van Helsing's lines. One line he was particularity bothered by was when Van Helsing says that the vampire lives in mortal dread of silver. 'This bothers me,' he wrote on the script 'because Dracula wears a ring of silver!', but the reference stayed in the script, unchanged.


CUSHING CLIPPED a biblical quotation from a newspaper and pasted it onto his script. It read, 'Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans XII, 21. 





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