Dracula A.D. 1972


1h 40m 1972
Dracula A.D. 1972

Brief Synopsis

Cult members unwittingly resurrect Dracula in swinging London.

Film Details

Also Known As
Dracula Chelsea '72, Dracula Today
MPAA Rating
Genre
Horror
Release Date
Nov 1972
Premiere Information
Los Angeles and New York openings: 29 Nov 1972
Production Company
Hammer Film Productions, Ltd.; Warner Bros., Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros., Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Hertfordshire, England, Great Britian; London, England, Great Britain; London--Chelsea, England, Great Britain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Film Length
10 reels

Synopsis

In September 1872, vampire hunter Lawrence Van Helsing is fighting with notorious vampire Count Dracula in a stagecoach racing through London's Hyde Park. Dracula is thrown onto the broken spokes of a wheel when the coach overturns, and the mortally injured Lawrence pushes a wooden spoke through Dracula's chest, killing him. After the monster disintegrates, his minion takes his signet ring, some of his ashes and the stake that killed him. When Lawrence is buried at nearby St. Bartolph's church, the minion buries the ashes just outside the hallowed grounds and plants the stake into the site to mark it until the vampire can be resurrected. One hundred years later, Johnny Alucard, the descendent of Dracula's servant, is the leader of a group of young, well-educated and affluent residents of Chelsea who like to play at being decadent hippies. One evening at their usual haunt, the Cavern coffee bar, Johnny asks the others to join him in a black mass. Although their reactions range from sarcasm to fear, the others, ranging in age from late teens to early twenties, agree to meet Johnny that midnight at St. Bartolph's, which is due to be demolished and has been desanctified. Lawrence's grandson, Lorrimer Van Helsing, lives in Chelsea and is a professor specializing in the occult. Living with him is his granddaughter Jessica, who is one of the more pragmatic of Johnny's followers. Jessica debates attending the ceremony with her boyfriend, Robert Tarrant, but Bob persuades her that it will be a laugh. That night, Bob and Jessica locate a hole in the fence surrounding St. Bartolph's and enter the desolate grounds, where Jessica is distressed to find Lawrence's headstone. Inside the church, Bob chides Johnny for his insensitivity, but Jessica tells him to "cool it," and the ceremony begins. While the others sit in a circle, Johnny stands at the altar, and, wearing Dracula's signet ring, calls upon Satan and Dracula. Johnny commands Jessica to join him in a baptism of blood, but the frightened girl demurs and her friend, Laura Jane Bellows, ascends in her place. After putting some of Dracula's ashes in a chalice, Johnny slits his wrist, and blood fills the vessel, then spills onto Laura. As Laura screams, the others run off, including Jessica, although she wants to stay to help. Johnny removes the stake from Dracula's grave, and after the vampire revives and takes back his ring, he sinks his teeth into Laura's neck, draining her of blood. Bob tries to reassure the worried Jessica, but the next day, Laura is not at the Cavern, and Jessica is suspicious of Johnny's claim that she is visiting her parents. Soon after, Laura's body is discovered, and the police are mystified about the mutilations to her neck. That evening, while Johnny takes Gaynor Keating, another member of the gang, to his apartment, Inspector Murray and Sgt. Pearson of New Scotland Yard question Van Helsing, hoping that he can explain the murder, which Murray thinks may be the work of a demonic cult. Upon learning of the mutilations, Van Helsing states that the additional wounds were made to disguise the real cause of death: vampirism. Van Helsing shrugs off Murray's skepticism, stating that his grandfather died while killing the most powerful vampire of all time, and that such evil can exist in the twentieth century. When Jessica arrives home and learns of Laura's murder, she tearfully informs the policemen about the black mass and about Johnny, who insinuated himself into her circle of friends a few months previously. Van Helsing is interested to learn that Johnny's surname is Alucard, and while he puzzles out that it is Dracula spelled backward, Johnny takes the drugged Gaynor to St. Bartolph's, where Dracula kills her. Johnny begs Dracula to make him immortal, and when Dracula growls that Johnny has not yet brought Jessica, the means with which he will revenge himself on the Van Helsing family, Johnny asserts that he would be able to lure Jessica there if he had more power. Dracula assents and soon Johnny has killed his first victim. The next morning, after gathering a vial of holy water, Van Helsing learns about the latest murders from Murray. Theorizing that the killings are not random, and that Jessica is the ultimate target, Van Helsing pleads with Murray for help. Murray agrees to remove the guards from St. Bartolph's so that Dracula can hide there comfortably and be more susceptible to Van Helsing's plans, but states that the Cavern has been closed. That night, Bob sneaks into the locked Cavern, where Johnny turns him into a vampire. The transformed Bob goes to the Van Helsing home and persuades Jessica, who does not perceive the change in him, to accompany him to the Cavern. Once there, Jessica faints upon being attacked by Bob. Johnny prevents him from biting her, however, telling him that she is "for the master." When Van Helsing learns that Jessica is gone, he races to the Cavern, but it is empty by the time he arrives. As he is running through the streets, he is almost run over by Anna Bryant, another friend of Jessica, who drives him to Johnny's flat. There, Van Helsing confronts the young vampire, who refuses to tell him Jessica's location. After a prolonged struggle, Van Helsing succeeds in overpowering Johnny, who dies upon being exposed to the clear, running water of his shower. Unable to do anything else because the vampires are inactive during daylight, Van Helsing waits till the late afternoon. He then goes to St. Bartolph's, where he finds Bob's dead body and digs a pit that he fills with sharpened stakes. Equipped with a silver-bladed knife and the holy water, Van Helsing enters the church, where he finds Jessica, in a trance induced by Dracula, lying on the altar. When Dracula enters, the men begin a fierce battle, which seems ended when Van Helsing stabs the vampire and he falls from the balcony to the floor below. Jessica, still hypnotized, removes the knife, however, and Dracula chases Van Helsing outside. Van Helsing falls to the ground, but before the triumphant vampire can kill him, he tosses the vial of holy water at him. Blinded by smoke and screaming in pain, Dracula falls into the pit of spikes, and Van Helsing kills him by pushing him onto one of the stakes. Released from her trance, Jessica runs to her grandfather, who comforts her as they leave the graveyard.

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
Dracula Chelsea '72, Dracula Today
MPAA Rating
Genre
Horror
Release Date
Nov 1972
Premiere Information
Los Angeles and New York openings: 29 Nov 1972
Production Company
Hammer Film Productions, Ltd.; Warner Bros., Inc.
Distribution Company
Warner Bros., Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
Hertfordshire, England, Great Britian; London, England, Great Britain; London--Chelsea, England, Great Britain

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Film Length
10 reels

Articles

Dracula AD 1972


The elements that worked against Dracula AD 1972 at the time of its theatrical release now appear to work in its favor-from a contemporary upgrade that pits the resurrected Count (Christopher Lee) against the grandson of his Victorian nemesis Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) in London's trendy Chelsea district to the with-it dialogue ("Dig the music, kids!"), rock-inspired soundtrack, and cadre of youthful protagonists who come off as a more decadent and disposable Scooby-Doo gang. With Hammer in decline, the studio reteamed Lee and Cushing in their signature roles for the first time since Dracula (US: Horror of Dracula, 1958), and for the first time in a Hammer picture since She (1965) six years earlier. Though Lee had been disinclined to participate and was fielding offers from abroad, the sudden collapse of several proposed film projects forced him back into his Dracula cape; during shooting, Lee went the extra mile of importing to the set a box of earth he had acquired from Transylvania, hoping the ritual would help him get into character. Now familiar faces among the supporting cast include Stephanie Beacham (later a regular on the American prime time soap opera Dynasty and its spinoff The Colbys) and Michael Kitchen (star of ITV's detective series Foyle's War) but contributing the film's most infectiously outré performance is Christopher Neame as satanic adapt Johnny Alucard, a cross between Michael Caine's Alfie and Malcolm McDowell's Alex from A Clockwork Orange (1971). If not quite a camp classic on par with The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Dracula AD 1972 remains a party favorite, as sincerely beloved as it is mercilessly mocked.

By Richard Harland Smith
Dracula Ad 1972

Dracula AD 1972

The elements that worked against Dracula AD 1972 at the time of its theatrical release now appear to work in its favor-from a contemporary upgrade that pits the resurrected Count (Christopher Lee) against the grandson of his Victorian nemesis Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) in London's trendy Chelsea district to the with-it dialogue ("Dig the music, kids!"), rock-inspired soundtrack, and cadre of youthful protagonists who come off as a more decadent and disposable Scooby-Doo gang. With Hammer in decline, the studio reteamed Lee and Cushing in their signature roles for the first time since Dracula (US: Horror of Dracula, 1958), and for the first time in a Hammer picture since She (1965) six years earlier. Though Lee had been disinclined to participate and was fielding offers from abroad, the sudden collapse of several proposed film projects forced him back into his Dracula cape; during shooting, Lee went the extra mile of importing to the set a box of earth he had acquired from Transylvania, hoping the ritual would help him get into character. Now familiar faces among the supporting cast include Stephanie Beacham (later a regular on the American prime time soap opera Dynasty and its spinoff The Colbys) and Michael Kitchen (star of ITV's detective series Foyle's War) but contributing the film's most infectiously outré performance is Christopher Neame as satanic adapt Johnny Alucard, a cross between Michael Caine's Alfie and Malcolm McDowell's Alex from A Clockwork Orange (1971). If not quite a camp classic on par with The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Dracula AD 1972 remains a party favorite, as sincerely beloved as it is mercilessly mocked. By Richard Harland Smith

Dracula A. D. 1972 on DVD


Near the end of the 19th century, Dracula (Christopher Lee) and Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) engage in a furious battle aboard an out-of-control, horsedrawn carriage before finally crashing, sending both man and bloodsucker to their deaths. However, a disciple of the resilient vampire conveniently pockets a sample of the Count's blood for safekeeping... and fast-forward a few decades to 1972, where Swinging London is still being celebrated by hellraising youths in sideburns and miniskirts who celebrate their freedom by throwing loud musical bashes at their elders' homes. Among them is the youngest of the Van Helsing clan, Jessica (Stephanie Beacham), who's prone to hanging out with the debauched, vaguely sinister Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame) and his clan, including a buxom Caroline Munro. Unbeknownst to her uncle (Cushing again), Jessica and her pals decide to invade an empty church and stage a black mass with Dracula's liquefied ashes, a romp that goes terribly awry and returns the fiend from the dead. With Johnny now free to do his bidding, Dracula plans to unleash another generation of fear upon Old Blighty...with only the two surviving Van Helsings standing in his way.

With its commercial desperation extending all the way to its instantly dated title, Dracula A.D. 1972 has long taken a beating as the least of Hammer's vampire films with Lee more or less in the lead; it certainly is the silliest, though plentiful entertainment value (intentional or not) can be gleaned from the avalanche of '70s fashion and bad rock music, rapid TV-style pacing, and ripe performances packed with silly puns. Apart from teaming up two of the decade's most appealing scream queens (Beacham and Munro), the film also benefits (at least in an aesthetic sense) from a surprisingly catchy, evocative score by Tim Barnes and lustrous, colorful cinematography by regular Ken Russell cinematographer Dick Bush. Plus, as ridiculous as it all is, at least there's nothing quite as risible as that blood-belching rubber bat from Scars of Dracula.

Hammer fans often try to split hairs between this film and its immediate successor, the much more explicit The Satanic Rites of Dracula (which has aged far better); as few try to contest, the studio had essentially run out of inspiration by this point and was trying to wring out a few box office dollars from the ever-growing youth crowd. However, as the success of unorthodox films like Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, and Rosemary's Baby had just proven, it takes an imaginative, fearless approach to grab a counterculture audience, and simply surrounding Lee with a few go-go chicks and hip-talking, wannabe glamour boys wasn't enough to rejuvenate an increasingly desperate studio. Still, as far as guilty pleasures go, you could do far, far worse.

The last of the Hammer Draculas to find distribution from a major studio, this film has been treated with more than a bit of indifference from Warner Brothers in the video era; despite frequent TV screenings, it arrived on VHS far later than its companion films and never merited a laserdisc release (apart from a brief, lovingly packaged edition in Japan). Likewise, its DVD incarnation came quite some time after Warner's other Hammer output, a minor footnote in the studio's digital legacy. At least the transfer looks stellar, far better than any previous version; the widescreen framing improves on the prior open editions, which retained the original open matte (1.33:1) framing with huge gaps of extraneous headroom rather than the original 1.85:1 compositions as seen in theaters. The restored framing restores some interesting compositions throughout the film and adds some much-needed punch to the bloody graveyard climax, which pushes the PG rating about as far as it can go. The only extra is the riotous theatrical trailer which desperately tries to pass this off as a hip new breakthrough in horror; the far more interesting making-of featurette produced to promote the film is conspicuously absent here, but it can be found on AllDay Entertainment's Horror of Hammer DVD and is well worth seeking out.

For more information about Dracula A.D. 1972, visit Warner Video. To order Dracula A.D. 1972, go to TCM Shopping.

by Nathaniel Thompson

Dracula A. D. 1972 on DVD

Near the end of the 19th century, Dracula (Christopher Lee) and Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) engage in a furious battle aboard an out-of-control, horsedrawn carriage before finally crashing, sending both man and bloodsucker to their deaths. However, a disciple of the resilient vampire conveniently pockets a sample of the Count's blood for safekeeping... and fast-forward a few decades to 1972, where Swinging London is still being celebrated by hellraising youths in sideburns and miniskirts who celebrate their freedom by throwing loud musical bashes at their elders' homes. Among them is the youngest of the Van Helsing clan, Jessica (Stephanie Beacham), who's prone to hanging out with the debauched, vaguely sinister Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame) and his clan, including a buxom Caroline Munro. Unbeknownst to her uncle (Cushing again), Jessica and her pals decide to invade an empty church and stage a black mass with Dracula's liquefied ashes, a romp that goes terribly awry and returns the fiend from the dead. With Johnny now free to do his bidding, Dracula plans to unleash another generation of fear upon Old Blighty...with only the two surviving Van Helsings standing in his way. With its commercial desperation extending all the way to its instantly dated title, Dracula A.D. 1972 has long taken a beating as the least of Hammer's vampire films with Lee more or less in the lead; it certainly is the silliest, though plentiful entertainment value (intentional or not) can be gleaned from the avalanche of '70s fashion and bad rock music, rapid TV-style pacing, and ripe performances packed with silly puns. Apart from teaming up two of the decade's most appealing scream queens (Beacham and Munro), the film also benefits (at least in an aesthetic sense) from a surprisingly catchy, evocative score by Tim Barnes and lustrous, colorful cinematography by regular Ken Russell cinematographer Dick Bush. Plus, as ridiculous as it all is, at least there's nothing quite as risible as that blood-belching rubber bat from Scars of Dracula. Hammer fans often try to split hairs between this film and its immediate successor, the much more explicit The Satanic Rites of Dracula (which has aged far better); as few try to contest, the studio had essentially run out of inspiration by this point and was trying to wring out a few box office dollars from the ever-growing youth crowd. However, as the success of unorthodox films like Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, and Rosemary's Baby had just proven, it takes an imaginative, fearless approach to grab a counterculture audience, and simply surrounding Lee with a few go-go chicks and hip-talking, wannabe glamour boys wasn't enough to rejuvenate an increasingly desperate studio. Still, as far as guilty pleasures go, you could do far, far worse. The last of the Hammer Draculas to find distribution from a major studio, this film has been treated with more than a bit of indifference from Warner Brothers in the video era; despite frequent TV screenings, it arrived on VHS far later than its companion films and never merited a laserdisc release (apart from a brief, lovingly packaged edition in Japan). Likewise, its DVD incarnation came quite some time after Warner's other Hammer output, a minor footnote in the studio's digital legacy. At least the transfer looks stellar, far better than any previous version; the widescreen framing improves on the prior open editions, which retained the original open matte (1.33:1) framing with huge gaps of extraneous headroom rather than the original 1.85:1 compositions as seen in theaters. The restored framing restores some interesting compositions throughout the film and adds some much-needed punch to the bloody graveyard climax, which pushes the PG rating about as far as it can go. The only extra is the riotous theatrical trailer which desperately tries to pass this off as a hip new breakthrough in horror; the far more interesting making-of featurette produced to promote the film is conspicuously absent here, but it can be found on AllDay Entertainment's Horror of Hammer DVD and is well worth seeking out. For more information about Dracula A.D. 1972, visit Warner Video. To order Dracula A.D. 1972, go to TCM Shopping. by Nathaniel Thompson

Quotes

There is evil in the world. There are dark, awful things. Occasionally, we get a glimpse of them. But there are dark corners; horrors almost impossible to imagine... even in our worst nightmares.
- Professor Van Helsing
Oh my God. A disciple!
- Professor Van Helsing

Trivia

Renamed for its French release because it was reached theaters there one year later.

Notes

The working titles of this film were Dracula Today and Dracula Chelsea '72. The opening sequence, depicting the fight between "Count Dracula" and "Professor Lawrence Van Helsing," appears before the opening credits. In the ending cast credits, Peter Cushing's character name is misspelled "Proffessor Van Helsing."
       According to an April 1971 Variety news item, the picture was a co-production between Warner Bros. and Hammer Films. The news item also reported that at that time, The Faces, a popular British rock group, was to appear in the film, although at some point the group was replaced by Stoneground, and that with the casting of Marsha Hunt (1946-, not to be confused with actress Marsha Hunt, 1917-) as "Gaynor Keating," "Dracula" would have his first black female victim in a Hammer picture. As noted in the onscreen credits, the picture was filmed at the Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England. Outdoor locations were filmed around London, including the neighborhood of Chelsea. Modern sources include Jane Anthony, Maureen Flanagan and John Franklyn-Robbins in the cast.
       Motion Picture Herald and other reviews noted that Hammer was publicizing the film with a gimmick called "HorroRitual," in which the audience members could be inducted into the Count Dracula Society by repeating an oath issued by Dracula "during a four-minute short preceding the feature." It has not been determined, however, if Christopher Lee, who had portrayed Dracula in several films prior to Dracula A.D. 1972, appeared as the character in the short.
       The film marked the first time in twelve years that Peter Cushing reprised his role of Professor Van Helsing for Hammer. He had last appeared as the character in the 1960 film The Brides of Dracula. Although frequent co-stars Cushing and Lee had appeared together in other films, released in 1971, Dracula A.D. 1972 marked the first time they had reprised their roles of Dracula and Van Helsing in the same movie since the 1958 Hammer film Dracula. The pair teamed up again for the 1974 production The Satanic Rites of Dracula. According to a modern source, the poor box-office results of Dracula A.D. 1972 prompted Warner Bros. to decline an invitation from Hammer to co-finance the later film, which was not released in the United States until 1978. For more information about the "Dracula" series, please see the entry above for the 1931 Universal Pictures release Dracula.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1972

Released in United States 1972