Time to take on the Hammer/Christopher Lee Dracula films

I warned you my Peter Cushing/Hammer Films Frankenstein movie blog would soon be followed by this one, so let’s get right into them! A LOT of them…

HORROR OF DRACULA (1958)

Also known simply as Dracula, this first installment of the Christopher Lee/Hammer Films/Dracula series is a fairly typical and straightforward adaptation of the original novel. It’s Christopher Lee’s physical presence and movements that give Dracula—dare I say—life.

Jonathan Harker comes to Dracula’s castle to work as a librarian, is approached by a woman who says she’s being held captive and need his help, and is eventually attacked by her. That’s when Lee first swoops in, leaping majestically across a room to stop her! Awesome.

Back at Harker’s home, Peter Cushing arrives as Van Helsing. Harker’s lady has fallen ill, and of course it’s because she’s getting nightly visits from Drac. Her troubles become the focus of the film, and Van Helsing plans to use her to lead him to Drac.

The final battle between Lee and Cushing is most definitely the highlight of the film.

BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960)

What do you know? Christopher Lee isn’t even in this second installment, But Peter Cushing carries on the Van Helsing tradition.

Although Dracula is dead, his disciples live on. In a similar plot to the traditional story, a young teacher is left in a bind while traveling to her new job, so a baroness invites her to stay at her castle.

The baroness’s son is supposedly insane and locked away, so naturally the teacher goes and explores, finds him, and releases him.

Of course he’s a vampire, but I really couldn’t take him seriously, because every time his beaming face flashed its fangs, he looked as flamboyant as Liberace.

More creepy are the “brides” in the movie—the classic lady vamps in flowing white gowns.

It’s up to Van Helsing to once again chase down all the vamps, and this one scores major points for the way in which he creates a huge, makeshift crucifix at the end.

DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966)

This is my favorite of the bunch so far, and begins with a flashback to the fight at the end of the first film.

This time two couples are traveling, and wouldn’t you know their means of transportation breaks down, and they unknowingly end up in Dracula’s castle.

In one of the most “gory” scenes of the series yet, Drac’s servant bleeds out one victim all over Dracula’s dusty remains to resurrect him. Slowly but surely, the servant keeps luring victims to Dracula, and Lee is even more sinister than in the first film.

Meanwhile,the survivors team up with the priest to combat the vamps. The ending is both cool and funny as the battle arena is thin ice. You can imagine what becomes of Dracula now. Lee’s reaction is not exactly his finest moment, and I laughed out loud.

DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968)

Things start strong, with a dead woman falling out of a bell in the church, rendering the altar boy mute, causing the priest to lose his faith, and keeping parishioners from stepping into the church for fear it is cursed by Dracula.

Soooo…the Monsignor comes to exorcise the place. In doing so, he unknowingly releases Drac from the ice.

Drac wants revenge on him (why? The dude set you free!) so he targets the monsignor’s niece with the help of one of her converted friends. But the niece’s boyfriend keeps getting in the way, and the friend is jealous that she’s not enough for Drac.

If there’s anything new and interesting here, it’s the symbolism concerning the niece losing her innocence, right down to a childhood doll she pushes away when Drac bites her. Other than that, it’s the same old shit, with Dracula ending up impaled on a crucifix.

TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA (1970)

You can tell Dracula has moved into the 1970s because things are much more lewd and sexual. A young lord draws three guys, whose “charitable cause” is actually to buy themselves a party at a brothel, into his black mass.

When the ritual goes bad, the three men leave the lord for dead…and he transforms into Christopher Lee’s Dracula. Say what? This is like some Friday the 13th: A New Beginning shit, with Dracula not actually being the real Dracula.

From there it’s the same old story. Dracula wants revenge on the three men, so he uses those women they love to go after them.

The highlight of this installment is the lady vamps turning the tables and staking a mortal for a change.

SCARS OF DRACULA (1970)

This one feels like a reboot or reset, with no continuity between how Drac died last time and where his remains are now.

Plus, now he can finally control animals—or more specifically a really bad bat that looks like a cheesy Gilligan’s Island special effect. This is the kind of thing where you can sense the strings even when you can’t see them. And this bat gets a lot of screen time.

Anyway, the story starts as a rehash. Guy ends up in Drac’s castle, a woman there says she’s being held prisoner, she tries to bite the guy, vlah, vlah, vlah.

Drac’s faithful servant helps him lure new victims to the castle, including the brother of the guy he already had staying with him. It’s a rinse and repeat gothic vampire story with helpless damsels saved only by the crucifixes dangling between their ample breasts…until the bat comes along and pulls it off them so Dracula can drink their milk…I mean…blood.

I can’t believe I’m going to watch four more of these movies, or that Christoper Lee kept agreeing to make more well into the 1970s.

DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)

As if the title wasn’t enough to tell you, the series goes off the rails this time. It begins in the old days with Peter Cushing back as Van Helsing and killing Dracula before dying himself. Unfortunately, a Dracula fanboy shows up and saves his remains.

Flash forward to a horrible hippy party in modern day 1972. One guy in the group, who looks just like the fanboy from a century before, gathers a group to perform a black mass…and sacrifices a young Caroline Munro in the process. Aaaaaand…

Dracula is back in action, with his new fanboy luring all the victims to him. Cushing is a Van Helsing descendant that looks exactly like the old Van Helsing. Throw in horrible, 70s jazzy action muzak, and this is as bad as the series gets so far. Even Cushing is rolling his eyes…

On the bright side, the film is totally post-civil rights movement, with a black female character and plenty of interracial intimacy, even with Dracula.

THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973)

A direct sequel to the previous film, this one continues in modern day, and focuses on government agents investigating prominent men that are part of a vampire cult run by an Asian woman.

There are plenty of boobs, including an emaciated pair and a big pair that overshadows the stake being struck through the heart in the same vicinity. There’s also a pretty freaky scene of a woman being swarmed by vamps in a basement.

The agency hires Van Helsing to help them out, and eventually he tracks down Drac. The final act is the best part of the film because Lee and Cushing battle it out once again. The prickle bush trap is so bad it’s awesome.

However, I must admit, as much as I hate period pieces, these two men are forever tied to the old days, so when they come face to face in an modern office it ends up looking like the characters simply time warped into the future and are just not admitting to it.

THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974)

Lee is out as Dracula (replaced briefly by another actor), Cushing is still Van Helsing, and Hammer films has teamed with an Asian production company, so this is predominantly a Kung fu movie.

Van Helsing travels to Asia to help a small village with a vamp problem—part of the problem for me being that the vamps wear masks. WTF?

The fighters in this village seem much better equipped than Van Helsing to beat down anything; he just stands around coaching them to strike the vamps in the hearts. Talk about phoning it in.

Notably, this doesn’t continue from the last film, instead taking place in the early 1900s, so continuity is once again out the window. But you have to love Hammer’s attempt to delve completely into 1970s cult cinema. If only they had gotten the rights to Carl Douglas’s “Kung fu Fighting”.

Probably thanks to this being partially an Asian production, it’s also much more contemporary than a standard Hammer film in that there is a blood sucking orgy with plenty of boobs on display.

And finally, this is the last time Cushing will defeat Dracula. And yet, Lee comes back for more…

COUNT DRACULA (1970)

He doesn’t actually come back for more, because this film was released in 1970, the same year as two of his Hammer Dracula films. See, this is not a Hammer release, it’s yet another adaptation of the original novel. Lee sure didn’t seem to care about type casting.

To make it clear he’s not Hammer’s Dracula, Lee has a mustache this time. And Klaus Kinski plays his crazy servant Rendfield. For the first time, Lee visits his victim by flying to her window as a bat before transforming into himself.

It’s all about as generic as a Hammer movie, with perhaps a little more blood. There is also a weird scene of taxidermy coming to life…however, it’s the only memorable scene in the film.

 

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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