Today marks the 45th anniversary of the Hammer Horror film Dracula A.D. 1972 being released in UK theaters. This was the seventh Dracula film put out by the iconic Hammer Film Production company and was directed by Alan Gibson. The film was an attempt by the studio to pull Dracula out of his Gothic domain and bring him into the modern world.  While obviously a bit dated at this point, Dracula A.D. 1972 is nevertheless an incredibly fun, vibrant and entertaining ride.  

The film opens in 1872 with a showdown between Lawrence Van Helsing, played by Peter Cushing, and Dracula played by Christopher Lee.  A runaway carriage ride ends with the two adversaries being thrown from the carriage and Dracula being impaled by a broken wheel.  Van Helsing seizes the opportunity to overpower Dracula and send him to what he hopes will be his final resting place.  The injured Van Helsing also passes away, but not before a disciple of Dracula shows up, scoops up some ashes and the stake that killed his master. A quick cut later, and this is how the film arrives in the hip, swinging London of 1972.  

From the moment the film enters “modern day” the viewer is quickly introduced to how the rest of the film will feel.  A party, in an upper class English home is being overrun by hippies and “anti-socials” who are there with the party’s band, Stoneground.  A real band from California, Stoneground sends out vibes reminiscent of The Velvet Underground or Jefferson Airplane.  The party soon disbanded by police sends the crashers scattering and introduces us to our main group of young hipsters.  Looking for the next “giggle” the mysterious character Johnny Alucard (played by Christopher Neame) proposes a black mass.  Johnny bears a striking resemblance to the character Alex from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange in not only looks, but mannerisms.  The Cavern Club where they meet is also eerily reminiscent of Kubrick’s Korova Milk Bar.  


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It is soon revealed that group member Jessica (played by Stephanie Beacham), is no ordinary young Londoner.  She is a direct descendent of Lawrence Van Helsing and her grandfather is Professor Lorrimer Van Helsing played by, you guessed it, Peter Cushing. (Perhaps you can see where this film is starting to head) Johnny, under the guise of just having a good time, uses this group of thrill seekers to raise Dracula from his resting place outside a defunct and desanctified church.  Dracula is raised from the dead in a series of scenes that are really quite amazing any way you look at it.  

Once Dracula is revived the film starts to take on an almost slasher like feel.  Dracula and his disciple Johnny start picking off the youngsters one by one in the attempt to unite Jessica and Dracula.  This, the ultimate revenge for Dracula.  

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Upon it’s initial release, Dracula A.D. 1972 did not receive the best reception.  Roger Ebert gave it one star and it still only sits at a 4.1/10 on Rotten Tomatoes.  However, the fact that it does feel so incredibly 70’s actually works in its’ favor after all this time.  The clothes, the music, the language and colors all add to an atmosphere that is not only nostalgic, but straight ahead fun.  Little things too add to this films endearing qualities.  Jessica, is constantly dressed in velvet, purples and blues; the colors of royalty.  One liners like Johnny inviting a lady friend to “Come in for a bite.” Or Jessica’s boyfriend telling her that her friend probably just went home because she was feeling “a bit drained.” And let’s not overlook Lee and Cushing’s performances.  While Lee’s presence in the film is actually pretty minimal, his performance as Dracula is one that you can’t take your eyes off.  Despite his feelings towards the role, Lee delivers.

Peter Cushing is the real star of the movie as the Professor Van Helsing.  His performance as Jessica’s grandfather is sweet, well acted and totally believable.  While never having actually confronted a vampire, the Professor is thrown into a desperate quest to save his granddaughter from Dracula’s clutches.

On a final note, the soundtrack has to be mentioned.  Composed by Mike Vickers (former member of 60’s band Manfred Mann), it’s the perfect combination of the classic Hammer sounds with the funky, swingin’ sounds of the 70’s.  A true asset to the film, it’s a soundtrack not only worth paying attention to, but owning.  Death Waltz records released the soundtrack last year and you can find it here.  Check out a clip of the main title track below for a little taste.

While perhaps not Hammer’s best work, Dracula A.D. 1972 is still a blast to watch.  The 45 years since it’s release has actually only added to it’s appeal and it’s a film any fan of genre can appreciate.