As promised… *deep breath*
So ‘Dracula Has Risen From the Grave’ (1968) has the Count revived, killing, destroyed. The only new twist is that now, if you stake a vampire, you must recite a prayer or it doesn’t work, which gave us the iconic image of Dracula pulling the stake from his chest. It’s a cool concept, but it’s never used again.
1969′s ‘Taste the Blood of Dracula’ has the Count’s remains taken to England. Some blokes perform a ritual, Dracula rises, then seeks revenge on those who destroyed his disciple during the ritual. In fact, Drac tends to seek revenge a lot from here on out.
In ‘Scars of Dracula’ (1970), they tried to go in a new direction. There is no real connection to the previous film and the action has moved back to Transylvania. And when I say ”Transylvania” of course, I mean “wherever” because Dracula’s homeland is a tad vague in these movies. We know he’s in some Germanic Eastern European town, which in the first film was Klausenberg, which is in Romania, but then was Carlsbad. So let’s just say Transylvania, okay? Thanks.
Some dialogue and scenes from Stoker’s novel are introduced, such as Dracula climbing walls. And Klove is back, somehow, although played by a different actor. While Dracula still is not turning into a bat, he apparently commands them in this one.
While ‘Scars’ is not a bad movie, it is still in many ways the same old, same old. Times were changing and Hammer felt like the Dracula series needed to move forward. It’s amazing how wrong they were!
‘Dracula AD 1972′ is, as the title suggests, set in 1972. Well, sort of. Looks more like the 60′s, really, with the hippies a little too mod, if you catch my meaning. No? Um, looks more ‘Austin Powers’ than ‘Woodstock’. Okay, so Peter Cushing is back as Van Helsing, so that’s nice. They kind of throw continuity out the window at this point, so you can safely ignore anything that’s happened so far.
Basically, Dracula is defeated by Van Helsing a hundred years ago, in London. His remains are collected by some disciple or other and in 1972, Johnny Alucard (get it?) and a bunch of young folks looking for kicks bring back Drac. Van Helsing’s descendant Lorrimer (also Cushing) must now do battle against the Count, et cetera, Dracula is destroyed AGAIN, the end.
It was, of course, obvious that Hammer was out of ideas with the series. I’m kidding.
‘Satanic Rites of Dracula’ (1973) is, well, it’s just WEIRD. The modern setting was kept, as was Cushing as Lorrimer Van Helsing, but the movie seems more like a bad Bond ripoff than anything. Turns out some mysterious figure named “D.D. Denham” (I am not kidding) is in charge of a cult that is planning to release an improved version of bubonic plague on the world. Van Helsing, with help from the British Secret Service, discovers that Mr. Denham is actually – wait for it – Dracula! Yes!
Dracula gets destroyed, of course. Credits roll.
Now, by this point, it was obvious that Hammer had run out of ideas with the series. I’m still kidding. But there was a problem: Christopher Lee made it plain he would not play Dracula again, period. He’d said this before, but he stuck to his guns this time. So that was that.
STILL kidding! Hammer Films had noticed that those Kung Fu movies seemed popular, so they had the brilliant idea of combining Dracula and martial arts. I am honestly not making any of this up. In fact, Hammer teamed up with the famous Shaw Brothers Studios, who were the kings of Chinese cinematic chop-socky (say THAT three times fast).
So ‘Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires’ (1974) starts off in Transylvania – which is specifically referred to as Transylvania this time around – in a prologue that sees Dracula (played by John Forbes-Robertson in way, WAY too much makeup) take on the form of a Chinese fellow named Ka who has traveled to the castle to ask for the Count’s help. Drac, as Ka, then goes to China and takes command of the 7 Golden Vampires, who are, well, seven vampires who wear gold masks. Yeah.
Lawrence Van Helsing (Cushing again) and his son end up in China and naturally, they end up having to deal with the vampires. They are assisted by seven Chinese siblings whose superior Kung Fu comes in handy in the big fight scenes, but who don’t do much else. There’s also a pretty European noblewoman tagging along, for no good reason.
Long story short (too late?) the vampires are defeated, Ka is revealed to be Dracula and is destroyed.
And that was the end of Hammer’s Dracula films. Certainly, they should have quit while they were ahead, but that doesn’t change the fact that the first three films in the series are great, while the next few are certainly fun to watch. Even ‘AD 72′ and ’7 Golden Vampires’ are fun, just because they’re so WEIRD. But for best results, watch ‘Horror of Dracula’, ‘Brides of Dracula’, ‘Dracula, Prince of Darkness’ and ‘Scars of Dracula’ and call it a day. Lee really was great as the Count, while Peter Cushing set the bar high for the Van Helsing character. In the long run, there is a lot of great atmosphere, lots of pretty gals baring their, um, necks and some decent vampire showdowns. So almost any one of them makes for good viewing on its own. Just don’t try to watch too many in one sitting – it can be a real pain in the neck.