Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 30, 2018)
14 years after Hammer Film Productions paired Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing for 1958ís Dracula, the two continued to pursue their characters with 1972ís Dracula AD 1972. The seventh film in Hammerís franchise Ė and the sixth with Lee Ė the movie opens with a prologue set in 1872.
At that time, Count Dracula (Lee) battles his enemy, vampire hunter Lawrence Van Helsing (Cushing). This tussle appears to leave both Dracula and Van Helsing dead.
A century later, Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame) Ė a descendant of a Dracula groupie from 1872 - joins a group that also includes Jessica (Stephanie Beacham), the granddaughter of current-day vampire hunter Lorrimer Van Helsing (Cushing(. Spurred by Johnny, this clan resurrects Dracula, a feat that sets up a fight with Lorrimer.
Despite all my movie watching over the years, I never pursued the horror from Hammer. I canít claim I intentionally avoided their efforts, but I just never found myself with their films in my DVD or Blu-ray players.
So Dracula become my formal introduction to Hammerís fare. Iím going to assume it doesnít show the studio at its best, as Dracula provides a largely cheesy, unconvincing horror tale.
With a title that includes AD 1972, this film inevitably would offer dated elements, but no matter what they called it, the movie would seem like an extreme product of its era. After the 1872 prologue, Dracula embraces the styles of its period in an overwhelmingly eager manner.
1972 was peak time for the remnants of the 1960s counterculture, and the movie reflects that in an almost comical fashion. Scratch that - Dracula does become comical, what with scenes like our introduction to 1972.
There we meet Johnny as he attends a party packed with every early 1970s stereotype imaginable. We get post-psychedelic fashions, a vaguely Dylan-esque band, go-go dancers, free love and squares who canít stand all that happiness!
Who brought all these post-hippies to a horror movie? And why do these rebellious youth seem more like jerks? When Johnny taunts a stuffy old lady, he seems less like a daring breath of fresh air and more like a self-absorbed prick.
Despite the filmís title, Johnny fills the screen way more than anyone else. This fact leads me to paraphrase Dr. Ian Malcolm: eventually you do plan to have Dracula in your Dracula movie, right?
Barely. We hear a lot about Dracula here but we rarely see him. After that prologue, Iíd guess Lee spends maybe five minutes on screen Ė and that might be a generous estimate.
So rather than show us the expected horror with the Count, Dracula indulges other areas. We spend nearly half an hour with Johnny and his hipster pals before Dracula actually re-emerges, and as noted, even when he returns, he doesnít do much in the movie.
This leaves us with tedious Johnny as well as a listless police investigation into the sudden violent deaths of those in Johnnyís group. Lorrimer becomes part of the latter, and that adds intrigue in theory, but in reality the experience remains plodding and dull.
Once again, thatís because we spend so darned little time with our title character. Johnny becomes the focal point of the violence but he seems like a weak substitute for the real Count.
Most of the actors fare poorly Ė even Lee, who looks bored during his brief appearances. Cushing adds some class to the proceedings, but thereís not much he can do with this sluggish tale.
Not much about Dracula AD 1972 succeeds. It delivers a painfully dated tale with no scares or suspense on display.