(UK - 1972)
Directed by Alan Gibson. Written by Don Houghton. Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Stephanie Beacham, Christopher Neame, Michael Coles, Marsha Hunt, Caroline Munro, Janet Key, William Ellis, Philip Miller, Michael Kitchen, Stoneground. (PG, 96 mins)
By 1972, Christopher Lee wasn't even trying to hide his seething contempt for Hammer's ongoing DRACULA series. He portrayed the Count in five Hammer productions going back to 1958's HORROR OF DRACULA, and in between two entries in 1970 (TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA and SCARS OF DRACULA), he went to Spain to star in Jess Franco's COUNT DRACULA with the promise that it would be the faithful-to-Bram Stoker adaptation that he'd spent years pleading with Hammer to make. Hammer still wasn't listening, and in 1972, following their attempts to capture the youth market with the increased T&A of HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, they decided to move Dracula to mod, swinging London in all its Austin Powers glory with DRACULA A.D. 1972. It's not a bad idea, and the film's an entertaining time capsule that's proven to have significant longevity as a genre cult favorite, but it just doesn't have enough of Lee, who's in it so sporadically that there's no way he was on the set for more than a few days. That was likely by design, as Lee made it clear he didn't want to do the movie, even though it marked the return of Peter Cushing, as Dracula's arch-nemesis Van Helsing, to the franchise after 12 years away following 1960's Dracula-less THE BRIDES OF DRACULA.
|Christopher Lee can barely contain his enthusiasm in this
DRACULA A.D. 1972 publicity shot, accompanied by Caroline Munro,
Stephanie Beacham, Marsha Hunt, and Janet Key.
DRACULA A.D. 1972 opening in Toledo, OH on 4/6/1973
aka COUNT DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDE
(UK - 1973; US release 1978)
Directed by Alan Gibson. Written by Don Houghton. Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Michael Coles, William Franklyn, Freddie Jones, Joanna Lumley, Richard Vernon, Patrick Barr, Barbara Yu Ling, Lockwood West, Richard Mathews, Maurice O'Connell, Valerie Van Ost. (R, 88 mins)
If it was a stretch to imagine Dracula going after "London's hotpants," as the DRACULA A.D. 1972 poster promised, then who knows how they came up with the insane plot of THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA? It's crazy enough to admire, but it never quite pulls its various threads together, and like A.D. 1972, it still doesn't have enough Christopher Lee, who doesn't even enter the story until 30 minutes in and then isn't seen again for another half hour. Indeed, anyone watching SATANIC RITES' first 25 minutes might think they've accidentally stumbled on a Michael Coles police procedural, as his returning Inspector Murray catches a case involving a dead SIS agent's undercover investigation of a Satanic cult that's populated by a quartet of prominent Londoners, among them Nobel Prize-winning biochemist and germ warfare expert Prof. Keeley (Freddie Jones), real estate mogul Lord Carradine (Patrick Barr), government security analyst Dr. Porter (Richard Mathews), and military honcho Gen. Freeborn (Lockwood West). A stumped Murray and SIS official Torrence (William Franklyn) decide to consult occult expert Lorrimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), who happens to be an old college chum of Keeley's. Van Helsing discovers that Keeley has been secretly developing a new and ultra-lethal strain of bubonic plague that could wipe out mankind on the 23rd of the month--known in the occult world as "The Sabbat of the Undead," all under the auspices of a secret foundation bankrolled by enigmatic, reclusive Howard Hughes-like tycoon D.D. Denham, whose skyscraper headquarters is located at the location of the demolished church from A.D. 1972.
THE LEGEND OF THE 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES. In it, Cushing's Van Helsing teams with a family of Bruce Lee-like karate experts to take on Dracula, now played in a bland and ineffective fashion by Lee's one-and-done replacement John Forbes-Robertson. The film was recut and retitled THE 7 BROTHERS MEET DRACULA for its 1979 US release, but by that time, the franchise and Hammer itself were over. With genre trendhops like SATANIC RITES' outlandish 007 plot and the ENTER THE DRAGON-inspired martial arts action of 7 GOLDEN VAMPIRES, it would've been inevitable that Dracula and Van Helsing would've somehow ended up in space if the series was still going when STAR WARS came around in 1977.
THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, under its US title
COUNT DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDE,
opening in Toledo, OH on 10/13/1978