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Film / Dracula A.D. 1972

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There is evil in the world. There are dark, awful things. Occasionally, we get a glimpse of them. But there are dark corners; horrors almost impossible to imagine, even in our worst nightmares.
Witness the true horror of the film: The '70s!

Dracula A.D. 1972 is a horror film from Hammer, and is third-to-last in their Dracula series.

The film opens with Dracula (Christopher Lee) and Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) fighting in 1872, which ends with both of them dead. One of Dracula's servants (Christopher Neame) scoops up the Count's ashes and buries them near a church during his rival's funeral. A hundred years later, Johnny Alucard (also Christopher Neame), a descendant of that servant, convinces a gang of youths to stage a satanic ritual in a disused church. This resurrects Dracula, who can now start preying on the modern world. Van Helsing's grandson (also Peter Cushing) is still carrying on the family vampire-fighting business. Unfortunately, his grand-daughter Jessica (Stephanie Beacham) is one of the youths who took part in the satanic ritual — and the Count is after her.

The Seventies setting is revisited in the sequel The Satanic Rites of Dracula, which would be the last film to feature Christopher Lee as Count Dracula.

Examples in the film:

  • Adaptation Name Change: Van Helsing's first name is changed from Abraham to Lawrence.
  • Agent Scully: Played with in the case of Inspector Murray, who thinks that the circumstances of Laura's death are weird enough for him to consult Van Helsing, who according to dialogue has been consulted by the police on certain esoteric matters in the past. Even then, though, Murray scoffs at the idea that it could be the work of a vampire, but is nevertheless willing to hear what Van Helsing has to say on the subject — which he admits is somewhat beyond his scope.
    Murray: I don't see. I'm just a plain run-of-the-mill copper.
  • Alucard: Johnny's surname, which marks him out as Dracula's minion. Hilariously, Van Helsing has to write both names out on a piece of paper and draw lines from letter to letter to figure this out (or, more likely, to explain it for dummies in the audience).
  • Alternate Continuity: To the previous "Dracula" films, as the date is completely different from Horror and Van Helsing is named Lawrence Van Helsing instead of J. Van Helsing.
  • Annual Title: Dracula A.D. 1972.
  • As Themselves: Stoneground, in the party scene at the start.
  • Blatant Lies: The day after the ritual, Johnny tries to get the rest of the gang to think that Laura's gone to visit her parents in Ramsgate. She is in fact dead (the scene is intercut with a scene in which some kids find her body), but the gang aren't convinced by Johnny's explanation because they know that her parents actually live in Watford.
  • Broad Strokes: This film uses the premise that Van Helsing and Dracula fought in the nineteenth century like in Horror of Dracula, but changes the date and place (to Hyde Park, meaning that, like in the original novel, the Count made it to England) and ignores the numerous sequels to Horror.
  • Call-Back: This is by no means the first time that people have, seemingly for kicks, performed a satanic ceremony that results in the resurrection of Dracula — although this time, the organiser of the ceremony is actually the Count's minion.
  • Cannot Cross Running Water: Vampires in the Hammer films can be killed with running water (as previously evidenced by Dracula: Prince of Darkness). This leads to a rather undignified death for Vampire Johnny when he is killed by getting knocked into a shower, which he then accidentally turns on by way of his own panicked flailing.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Jessica has one when Gaynor is being killed by Dracula.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The silver crucifix Van Helsing places around Jessica's neck comes in useful — while it doesn't kill the vampires, it does burn their hands which slows them down. Also, the holy water Van Helsing takes from the church is used to good effect in the climax.
  • Chekhov's Gunwoman: Anna is a peripheral member of the gang who doesn't seem to like Johnny that much. It later transpires that this is because she's been to his flat, which she found "so weird". When she hears that Jessica's missing, she helps Van Helsing by telling him where Johnny lives, a detail no-one else seems to know.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Joe is seemingly fine with taking part in a satanic ritual to summon the Prince of Darkness, so long as "the big daddy with the horns and the tail" brings "his own liquor, his own bird and his own pot".
  • Continuity Snarl: A minor one is at play when Jessica takes the Treatise on the Black Mass book from her grandfather's shelf to read. When he puts it back, all of the other books are in a different order.
  • Distant Sequel: The film takes place in the (then) present day, unlike the previous Hammer Dracula films which were all set in the late nineteenth century.
  • Disturbed Doves: Seen in the climax in the abandoned church.
  • Exactly Exty Years Ago: Dracula is staked in 1872, and brought back in 1972.
  • Evil Is Petty: Johnny, who in his first scene smashes an expensive figurine simply to aggravate a stuffy matron.
  • Evil Wears Black: Johnny, Dracula's minion, is is only seen wearing black clothes.
  • Faceā€“Heel Turn: Bob, Jessica's boyfriend, helps Johnny to capture her so that Dracula can have a Van Helsing as his bride. Quite how much of a willing accessory he is is debatable, given that Johnny had to vampirise him in order to get his assistance.
  • Fainting: Jessica faints when she's captured by Johnny and Bob (both of whom are, by this point, vampires).
  • Foreshadowing: Johnny invites Gaynor into his apartment for "a bite". Later on, he lures her to the church where she is bitten and killed by Dracula (after which Johnny is himself vampirised).
  • Hollywood Satanism: Johnny convinces his friends to do a satanic ritual for kicks to resurrect Dracula.
  • Identical Grandson: Both Lorrimer Van Helsing and Johnny Alucard are identical to their grandparents.
  • It's Personal: Dracula is after Jessica because she's a Van Helsing. This is probably why Johnny asks for her by name during the ritual, only for the more enthusiastic Laura to step forward instead. It might even explain why he befriended Jessica, Bob and the others in the first place, as he is stated to have only been friends with them for a few months.
  • Jerkass: Johnny has shades of this even before he persuades his friends to join him in a satanic ritual that resurrects Dracula, as he is seen to smash a figurine at the party just to antagonise the old lady.
  • Kensington Gore: A given in a Hammer horror film. Especially evident at the end when the Count falls into Van Helsing's stake trap, impaling himself. Van Helsing pushes him further in with his shovel, and the blood flows.
  • Killed Offscreen: The only reference to Bob's death is when his body discovered in the churchyard by Van Helsing — having previously been vampirised by Johnny and used to help capture Jessica, he appears to have died from being exposed to sunlight before he could reach his resting-place for the day (quite possibly on account of his being somewhat new to the whole being-a-vampire thing; Johnny, having been Dracula's minion before being vampirised, is better prepared in this respect). Apparently his death was filmed, but the scene didn't make the final cut.
  • Kiss of the Vampire: How Dracula likes to devour his victims, sometimes with a kiss on the lips before the blood-sucking bite to the neck. As usual, the ladies seem to be in some kind of mind-control daze when in close proximity to the Count.
  • Kubrick Stare: Dracula gives one to Van Helsing during their climactic confrontation.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jessica, played by Stephanie Beacham, might be Hammer's best — which is really saying something.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Laura has a plunging neckline while wearing a black outfit in the scene where Johnny is using her in the blood rite to return Dracula to life.
  • No Immortal Inertia: Done twice with Dracula's demise in the opening and ending.
  • Noodle Incident: Modern-day Van Helsing is stated to have helped the police out before ("something to do with witchcraft"). Plus, reference is made to an incident of some sort on Hampstead Heath which is very close to Highgate Cemetery, the epicentre of a vampire-related media scare in 1970 which partly inspired the idea of having a Dracula movie in a (then) contemporary setting.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: The party at the beginning appears to be an upper-class black-tie do that gets crashed by a load of hippies (including a band as well as the main gang). Two of the party-crashers get it on underneath a table, and are still at it when the police arrive, to the amusement of the copper who spots them.
  • Politically Correct Villain: As evidenced by the fact that Gaynor is his second victim, Dracula does not discriminate on the grounds of skin colour.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Originally, the modern Van Helsing was going to be Jessica's father. However, Peter Cushing became visibly much older following the death of his wife Violet in 1971, leading to Van Helsing being hastily re-written as Jessica's grandfather.
  • The Renfield: Johnny, who organises the satanic ritual that resurrects Dracula and then provides the Count with some fresh blood (courtesy of Laura and Gaynor); his reward is to be turned into a vampire himself.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: After the satanic ritual, Jessica is worried about whether Laura, last seen screaming and covered in blood (not her own, but still) is OK. Bob assures her that she's probably fine, and will doubtless show up at the coffee bar the following day, although she might be feeling "a bit drained". He is of course totally wrong about Laura being OK, but he's more right than he could possibly imagine about that last bit.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The film, or at least the idea of having Dracula appear in a (then) modern setting, was partly inspired by the Highgate Vampire media sensation which followed reports of supposed supernatural activity, notably an alleged vampire sighting, in Highgate Cemetery in 1970. Although vague, descriptions of the supposed vampire implied that it looked a bit like, well, Christopher Lee. Making this a case of art imitating life when life was imitating art.
  • Series Continuity Error: Not that Hammer worried about continuity too much anyway, but Dracula and Van Helsing's "last" duel is stated to have taken place in London in 1872... despite the events of the original Hammer Dracula film having taken place in Dracula's Transylvanian castle in 1885.
  • '70s Hair: Unsurprisingly given the 1972 setting — most of the men have sideburns, while Gaynor (the only black character) has an Afro.
  • Shout-Out: Inspector Murray's mention of a series of "demonic" murders in the US a couple of years beforehand could be construed as a subtle nod to Count Yorga, which did the whole vampire-in-the-present-day thing first.
  • The Snack Is More Interesting: At the party, a couple are having sex under a table; the woman is awkwardly trying to eat an apple throughout.
  • Time Skip: A hundred years pass as the camera pans up from the Victorian funeral in the churchyard to show a passenger aircraft flying overhead as the opening credits start to roll. Dracula has indeed entered the jet age. During the hundred-year gap, the area around the church has been urbanised and the church itself is now disused, presumably pending demolition and redevelopment.
  • Token Minority: Gaynor is the only black member of the gang. She's not the first of Dracula's victims, though.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Johnny, to the rest of the gang. Even before the satanic ritual, he's the one who's got them doing "far out" stuff "for kicks" even though some of them (like Anna and Jessica) are a bit uneasy about it.
  • True Blue Femininity: Jessica mostly wears blue clothing, switching to white later in the film.
  • Wooden Stake: The 1872 confrontation between Van Helsing and Dracula ends when a carriage crash leaves a broken wheel lodged in Dracula's chest. After a brief struggle, a broken-off spoke reduces him to a skeleton that quickly crumbles to dust. At the end of the film, he's impaled on a wooden stake.

Rest in final peace