Wednesday, 23 January 2019


HERE IS A PETER CUSHING FILM, that has probably more column inches and photographs on all our PCASUK sites, than any other Cushing film. This is a weird situation, when you consider, that along with it's sequel,  HAMMER FILMS 'THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA' no other Cushing / Hammer film, causes a more wider divide in opinions among fans, than this one does! I think 'DRACULA AD 1972' as we have already explored in our previous Warner Brothers review of 'SATANIC' was a brave attempt by Hammer studios, to take one of their biggest box office draws, in another direction.

ACTING ALMOST as a reboot, to catch a new audience of teenagers, who might be more atrracted to a Prince of Darkness, who treads his deadly and terrifying path, among the 'fashion conscious and trendy dudes' of the psychedelic seventies, hot pants, flares, pot and glam-rock to boot! Sadly, this was one direction that left many hardcore fans out in the cold. 'AD 72' sadly isolated, what was left of the audiences who had attended all previous five Christopher Lee Dracula movies. But Hammer CEO Michael Carreras saw that the tried and tested concept could not last much longer, even though the previous outing of 'SCARS OF DRACULA' had grossed sizable takings, for both Hammer and Lee, when released with a reboot of the Hammer's other box office winner with 'The Horror of Frankenstein'. It was time for change. 

WHAT SCRIPT WRITER DON HOUGHTON, delivered and director Alan Gibson produced with both 'AD 1972' and 'SATANIC' were both pretty much on the mark, for what was needed for that change of direction. The fact that Robert Quarry had starred in AIP's 'COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE' a TWO YEARS previous, and coined an interesting box office return, must have also influenced their choices. And so, Warner Brothers commisioned both AD and SATANIC, from Hammer films. The problem was, as was the habit with Hammer at this time, BOTH films arrived a little late. By 1972, fashion, tastes and music had moved on, for what is offered as 'trend' in both films.  the target audience of the past DRACULA features, would never have the tastes or tolence for such concepts as long hair, 'free love', flapping flares and psycho-colours, bright enough to burn the sensitive eyes of any dark dwelling vampire!

FOR DECADES, both 'AD 1972' and 'SATANIC' have been viewed, or rather not seen as worthy of being included in the 'fan love' list, of Hammer's Dracula rota. But just like fickle way of clothing and music fashion, what is out today, often returns from the 'dead as a doe-doe state', to be greeted and revisted with either the welcome of a long lost friend or, as in this case, maybe a view that sees, if the well loved Dracula features are from an era and time long past, so are 'AD 1972' and 'SATANIC'. They are ALL from the box office trends, of another time? The fans of vampire films today are much more flexiable, with vampire television series and movies, that actually rely on the concept of bringing 'the vampire' along with the Prince of Darkness into penthouse dwellings, rather than castles and gothic crypts. So, you can see why BOTH films are now finally getting their time,  and it has taken the Warner Brothers REMASTERING of the films, to finally SEE what the audiences saw on the big screen back in the day. . . .  

THE SYNOPSIS: As mention at teh beginning of this review, DRACULA AD 1972, has been covered in several features, galleries and reviews over teh years on this site. But for those who have never read the features or seen the film, here is a brief synopsis, WITH some spoliers :

IN 1872, COUNT DRACULA, (Christopher Lee) and his 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. A century 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 and kills Laura. 

Laura's body is discovered, drained of blood, and a police investigation begins, headed by Inspector Murray (Michael Coles). Murray suspects an occult element and interviews Lorrimer Van Helsing, who is shocked to learn the details of Laura’s death. He realises that Johnny Alucard (whose name is Dracula written backwards) is a disciple of Dracula, and that the Count must have returned. In the meantime, Alucard brings another of Jessica’s friends, Gaynor Keating (Marsha Hunt), to St. Bartolph's, where she is killed by Dracula and Alucard willingly has himself turned into a vampire. The vampiric Alucard kills a passerby and lures Jessica’s boyfriend, Bob (Philip Miller), to a café they frequent, where he turns him into a vampire as well. While Lorrimer is out, Bob goes to the Van Helsing house and persuades Jessica to come to the café, where he and Alucard capture her and take her to Dracula.

AIDED BY ONE OF JESSICA'S FRIENDS, Lorrimer tracks Alucard to his flat and battles him. Alucard accidentally kills himself with the running water in the bathroom shower. At St. Bartolph's, Lorrimer finds Bob's dead body, slain by sunlight before he could reach his resting place, and Jessica in a trance, with Dracula planning to take his revenge on the Van Helsing family by turning her into a vampire. Lorrimer sets a trap for Dracula by placing a pit of stakes underneath the graveyard and waits for him to return at nightfall. The two have a struggle in which Lorrimer attempts to kill Dracula with a silver knife, but the knife is pulled out by Jessica, still under Dracula’s command. As the pair go outside, Lorrimer throws holy water at Dracula, which burns his hands and causes him to fall into the pit of stakes that Van Helsing had previously prepared. Realising Dracula is still barely alive, Lorrimer uses a shovel to push Dracula into the stakes even further. Dracula dies, his body crumbling into ashes, and his spell over Jessica is broken. As Jessica embraces her grandfather, the title "Rest in Final Peace" is shown.

CONSIDERING DRACULA AD 1972, is now almost 47 years old, the film technically has never looked better! Since 2005, Warner has had a quite good quality region free DVD on the market, a big step up from a VHS version. It is THIS dvd that has fed the fans of the film for over the last 15 years. Then, a few years ago a German Blu-ray based on the same transfer created for the 2005 DVD was released in multiple regions. The team at the Warner Archive Collection actually reviewed that transfer and rejected it as unusable to use in this blu ray transfer. Thankfully, a 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray was produced from a NEW 2K scan by Warner's MPI facility, of a recently manufactured interpositive. Amazingly what we have for the DRACULA AD 1972 blu ray release are images that are indeed comparable to FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, 'Dracula Has Risen From The Grave', 'Taste The Blood Of Dracula' and 'The Mummy' in the previously released Hammer Horror Classics collection Warner Brothers release. The colour correcting for this release was achieve  by using the Ektrachrome publicity transparencies as a reference. All age-related damage has been repaired . . .  by hand, frame by frame, taking out what must have been thousnads of dust, scratch and dirt frames, over the films 96 minute duration. All details, blacks and densities are all quite defined and superior to anything we would have seen of this film previously, and the film's grain pattern has been finely rendered. The compression at Warner's Archive Collection is customarily presented at a high rate of just under 35 Mbps, which completes the film's 1080p resurrection. DRACULA AD 1972 mono soundtrack has been taken from the magnetic master and encoded in lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0. Word has it that the soundtrack was in an impressive shape and thankfully, required minimal cleanup. The dialogue is clearly rendered, the basic sound effects too. Again, on this blu ray, I heard some subtle sound effects, I had not heard before! Both actual DRACULA death scenes now carry detail and subtleties you may not have been able to see before on the dvd's. 

SO TO WRAP, the remastering is way beyond what many expected for DRACULA AD 1972. What has been for sometime the least loved of the Hammer Dracula saga, shows up in very grand style, presenting what it has always been ..  Something different, stepping out beyond what was respected but had become predictable, embellished by it's two outstanding actors, to push the drama and action to a new level, for a new audience. Today, the thrill is still there, and is now wonderfully remastered, presented in such quite superb picture quality, spookily it offers the chance of again for a NEW audience to see and experience, what has been for sometime.... such fab frightening fun! 


1 comment:

  1. Great movie. Great movie. Great Dracula and Van Helsing, as always. I love it.


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