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STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 96 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: Theatrical Trailer
“Mix one iconic bloodsucker, his tireless foe, some fine cleavage and a bunch of hippie thrill-seekers. Pour over ice and serve.”
Peter Cushing (Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride, Star Wars), Christopher Lee (Taste the Blood of Dracula, Lord of the Rings), Stephanie Beacham (And Now the Screaming Starts, Seaquest DSV), Christopher Neame (Lust for a Vampire, Project Shadowchaser III)
When a vampire sneezes, you want to be standing somewhere else.
On an isolated country lane in 1872, Count Dracula (Lee) and Professor Lawrence Van Helsing (Cushing) find themselves battling it out atop a speeding coach careening out of control. Van Helsing is thrown from the coach seconds before it crashes, impaling the Count with a spoke from one of its wheels in the process. Dracula turns to ash and Van Helsing dies from his injuries. One of Dracula’s minions (Neame) arrives on the scene to collect some of Dracula’s ashes and a ring worn by his master. Later, when Van Helsing is being buried, Dracula’s servant deposits some of the ashes on the church grounds.
Flash forward 100 years. A group of young hipsters spend their time wearing funky outfits, crashing society parties and hanging out in a gloomy coffee bar called The Cavern. The group’s self-appointed leader, Johnny Alucard (Neame), wants to hold a black mass in an abandoned church and convinces the others that it will be fun for all. Another member of the group, Jessica (Beacham), is the great-granddaughter of the Van Helsing who fought Dracula a century ago. She lives with her grandfather (Cushing), a professor of anthropology and occasional dabbler in demonology.
Needless to say, Johnny resurrects Count Dracula and dooms several members of the gang. Dracula wants to destroy the Van Helsing family line, setting his sights on Jessica as his next bride. With the help of a local police detective, Prof. Van Helsing tracks his ancestral nemesis to the condemned church and prepares for the ultimate battle of human versus hellion.
"No, not the rack! Please, anything but that!"
Presented in matted widescreen, the film appears to have been polished up somewhat, but the effort to reduce film grain has noticeably softened the focus. This is compared to the theatrical trailer. Why trailers don’t seem to get the same remastering treatment of the original film on most DVDs I’ll never know, but the untouched footage does serve as a time capsule view of what the original film looks like. The Dolby Digital mono soundtrack is unremarkable but adequate, and often pleasantly bright during the musical bits. A theatrical trailer is the only real extra. Multilingual folks can enjoy an alternate French language track and subtitles in English, French and Spanish.
I suppose Hammer Studios wanted to play to a younger audience by bringing their Dracula series into the swinging 70’s. Although it’s fun to watch legends Cushing and Lee at work, the story is a bit thin. Lee has the least to do, regrettably. Once he’s brought back to life, he bites a couple of females, gives his latest disciple Johnny a radical dental upgrade, and wanders around the church waiting for events to move along. Still, Lee gives his version of Dracula a viciousness that other actors have never been able to match. Cushing has a little more meat to chew on. He has always played Van Helsing with regal power, and his role here is no exception. He has to do all the dirty work in these films, and like a stake-wielding Sherlock Holmes, he always finds a way to defeat his opponent.
Stephanie Beacham shines as the damsel in distress, and boy does she fill out her wardrobe in all the right ways. It’s no exaggeration to say that her (insert term for breasts) take center stage in the last half-hour of the film. It’s also amazing how many times Cushing gets to shake, pick up or support Beacham by her prominent upper torso. Those takes can’t all be accidental. This is a Hammer film, after all. For some quality bloodletting, you’d be much better off finding one of the earlier Hammer Dracula entries like Horror of Dracula (the original pairing of Lee and Cushing as Dracula/Van Helsing, and the best of them), but this one is good for a groovy giggle.
6.5 out of 10
Chaka Khan Chaka Khan, let me bite you Chaka Khan…