Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dracula A.D. 1972 - 2/5

Hammer desperate to keep their Dracula franchise alive decided, perhaps hastily, to bring Dracula into modern times, that is circa 1972. The film right away throws away any continuity to the previous six installments by opening with Dracula and Van Helsing having a fight to the death while on top of a horse carriage speeding out of control . The carriage crashes, somehow impaling Dracula with a wheel and killing Van Helsing. At Van Helsing's funeral the camera pans up to the sky and suddenly an airplane appears and thus is our title transition to modern 1972.

We are then introduced to a bunch of young men and women (one who is the niece of a descendant of the original Van Helsing, of course played again by Peter Cushing). They meet up with a creepy Satanist (which gave me flashbacks to Taste the Blood of Dracula) who promises them a good time if they come to a black mass. They do, end up resurrecting Dracula who's bloodshot eyes burn for revenge against the Van Helsing family.

I just found this whole project embarrassing for the glorious Hammer studios. I wasn't against bringing Dracula to "modern" times at first but Hammer decided not to do it subtly. They decided to cram the 70's so far down the audiences throat that they shit peace symbols. Every cliché, 70's free love and style is done to the absolute max here. Did the filmmakers want to make this the hippest ,or hippiest, film possible? It worked against the film making it extra cheesy and dated beyond belief. After the title sequence the film even goes into a 10 minute long hippy, free love concert in an apartment building. The sequence serves no point other than to say "this is the 70s!".

Another problem is the plot and of course continuity. The continuity aspect to the rest of the series is just laziness on the filmmakers part. It feels like a whole film is missing between Scars of Dracula and this. Audiences like to see some sort of effort to make a connection and when there isn't one, it just makes people like me feel like the filmmakers don't give a damn. My other problem is the plot as it is nothing new other than the aspect of it taking place in...shutter...1972 . Take plot elements from all the previous Dracula films, put them in a blender, add the year 1972, and you have this extremely desperate sequel. I forgot the funky 70's score which gave me flashes of Austin Powers as opposed to Dracula. The score sucked out the little possible suspense there was when Dracula came stalking.

The one aspect I liked was the return of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. He was sorely missed in the previous sequels and it's just a damn shame the character had to make his return in such an embarrassing follow-up. Still I'm glad to see the character back going face-to-face with the count and his return made this sequel somewhat stomach-able.

After viewing Dracula A.D. 1972 I have decided Hammer should stick to period pieces. That is what the studio is known for and the results of Dracula A.D. 1972 shows that is what they should stick with. The Dracula formula was tired before this sequel and this desperate blitzkrieg attempt to breath new life into the franchise left it dead. However the series still forged on coming back to life just like it's bloodsucking villain.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

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