In this installment I’m tackling a genre that’s bursting at the seams and to everyone’s chagrin and amazement is still going strong. Last time around I tackled two films in the zombie genre, this time I’ll be taking on a genre that hasn’t seen that much action as of late, though in recent years has come under much scrutiny due to the word ‘sparkling’ for which the Twilight saga and the young adult reading audience is mostly to blame.
Without further ado I give you…
Dracula AD 1972
Released: 1972 (duh!)
Country: United Kingdom (PG)
Director: Alan Gibson
Runtime: 96 minutes
Studio: Hammer Films
The Vampire Happening
(aka Gebissen wird nur nachts)
Country: West Germany (R)
Director: Freddie Francis
Runtime: 102 minutes
Studio: Aquila Film Enterprises
Tagline: The count is back with an eye for London’s hot pants, and a taste for everything.
Tagline: An Adult Vampire Film.
For the last hundred years, England has thrived. The threat coming from a mysterious, nocturnal and ageless menace is all but forgotten. By most, but not the Van Helsings’. A prestigious name known by only a few to have risked life and limb to banish the plasma obsessed phantom near a century ago. Lately however, one might imagine their life’s are a tad on the boring side from lack of entanglements with the same diabolical, claret addicted, fellow by name of Count Dracula.
A small group of youths led by a playful, rebellious, type (a dead ringer for Malcolm McDowell ala A Clockwork Orange) have designs to change all that, orgies, harassing elderly folks and coffee shops have lost their allure. It’s time for something exciting and new. An impromptu nocturnal ritual turns horrifically real all too quick and brings more than the group could have ever bargained for.
An American actress inherits a castle in Transylvania. Strangely she has no idea that there’s Vampiric royalty in her bloodline…REALLLY!
Stop right there! I think we can all guess the rest. However, because I’m very much intrigued I’ll endeavor to sit through this (even though many of the reviews are horrid) and report although it appears to be more a comedy with adult values/themes.
TVH takes no time to tell of the legend of the inhabitants of the castle (a real castle, or a damn good set!) which has been handed down, a narrative from the caretaker who instantly appears fearful on account of an uncanny family resemblance (a painting depicts great grandmother in all her birthday suit glory) though then opens up to talk of the many delights of the torture room and its many implements all as if commenting on something as mundane as the weather. Dracula 72 takes a few scenes to enlighten those that may not know of the Dracula mythos in showing how Van Helsing rid the countryside of his unholiest of presence a hundred years previous, these very same scenes also show certain “trinkets” retrieved by an unnamed person and later treasured away (lest a sequel need a plausible synopsis I would imagine).
Dracula 72 isn’t without its humor either as it unfolds to introduce the relationship of the close knit group of friends, their environment (the groovy 70’s complete with bell bottoms and space rock) and the personality quirks of the lead character namely Johnny (Christopher Neame) and the thrill he gets from rubbing the bourgeoisie the wrong way and causing trouble.
Both films have a respectable score. TVH leans happily towards the area of parody in most if not all instances. Dracula 72 score helps tremendously to heighten tension and elevate gothic atmosphere but also in other instances aids the viewer to get a better understanding, or feel, for the vibe of the time the movie is set.
Note of interest: There are varying versions of this film, one is an internet version - butchered and very choppy the other decidedly naughtier, lurid and quick to linger on exposed areolas, navels and derrieres.
Dracula 72 picks up pace as the boisterous teens become embroiled in something bigger than themselves and a situation that quickly spirals out of control.
TVH, however, continues to score points as its backdrop is stunning and the interiors appear to be that of a real castle, not shoddily constructed period set pieces. Although sadly, it loses these very same points from its excessive use of nekkidness (I never thought I would be the one to complain about this!) and its continued descent into what quickly became a farce (albeit sexy) rather than a full on sarcastic/comedic approach on the Vampire genre.
Dracula 72 continues to gain momentum as an old favorite of the horror realm. Peter Cushing adds a theatrical element whilst twisting the story away from mere spoilt kids towards the ‘Tit heads’ as the bodies start piling up and the local constabulary becomes very much involved. It is at this juncture that I can’t help but think upon another gothic film made around the same time… Jorge Grau’s The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue.
Dracula 72 remains interesting with its heightened gothic values, ‘cat and mouse’ antics including many of the Master’s offspring (has he never heard of playing it safe?) and instances of tomfoolery where Johnny believes he is a God on account of his recent transformation. A chase scene of sorts transpires through the streets of Chelsea, London though ends rather predictably with a climax that has been boasted by many a vampire film throughout several decades. One would think Christopher Lee would have learnt something by his many mistakes by now. Apparently not! In my opinion this would have been a great scene for the writers to have switched things up perhaps brought about a new demise, one fitting for the new century. The incorporation of an object of the era, a “lavalamp” comes quickly to mind, would have been applauded, anything but the same old hack ending that seems to have been ‘phoned in’ multiple times before and still to present day.
Dracula AD 1972, on the other hand, is a film I enjoyed very much though admittedly I felt a little let down on account of the over usage of stereotypical, theatrical, elements that to this day still exist and are, in my opinion anyway, overused. However, for a PG rated movie I was impressed although I ill feel as if it relied very heavily on A Clockwork Orange for much of the writers’ bad boy character inspiration. I believe my favorite is clear between these two.
Characters 5 7
Story 5 7
Acting 6 8
Lighting 6 8
Gothic Appeal 7 9
Fluidity 5 7
Comedy n/a n/a
Quality of FX/Gore 3 6
Soundtrack/Score 5 8
Repeat Viewings 3 7