Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Dracula Has Risen From The Grave"(1969)d/Freddie Francis

How about that poster,eh?Completely brilliant ad campaign for tonight's focus,which would be the fourth in Hammer's Dracula series,the third with Sir Christopher Lee donning the cape n' pronounced eye teeth as the Count,and the first without Terence Fisher at the directorial helm,although it's been said he was indeed slated to take the chair before walking knackered into traffic.I can't laugh,I've done that numerous times myself.Freddie Francis,another favorite of mine,takes over here,and puts his personal stamp on the series with the help of Rupert Davies,Barry Andrews,and the buxom charms and striking of Hammer girls,Barbara Ewing and Veronica Carlson,who ranks at the top of the list for me,truth be known.Despite the glaring set differences from the previous films,as Risen was filmed at Elstree rather than the familiar Bray Studios,where the "carshoo"('at's a castle,innit?) is only reachable now by a certain degree of mountain climbing,and the frozen moat that contains Dracula's body is now a bit of a stream,that can barely house Lee's impressive frame,and some silly connecting rooftop path that allows our young couple to sneak out during the night to see each other via attic windows,and some ham-fisted ideas about religious discovery,this one has always been one of my favorite of the Hammer Dracula series,with enough cleavage,carnage,and crucifixes to satisfy any nosferatu-phile worth their weight in type O.
Did I mention Veronica Carlson?I know I'm not the biggest pro-blonde advocate in the world,but even as a kid,repeated viewings of tonight's film had me walking out into my parents' living room confused as to why I was pitching a tent downstairs,and earning me the nickname 'Stovepipe' from my father,who's also a tenth degree cocksmith from way back.I offer no apologies for being a man who loves women,here at the Wop,droogies.Lee gives a classically spirited performance as lord of the blooddrinkers,and even gets a few lines of dialogue this time around.We're gonna dedicate the review to Dominique of Netotchka Nezvanova,who despite having a blog with a name that chokes Italians(In Russia,blog writes you.),is a cool broad indeed who requested some Hammer,and that's something nobody should ever get tired of.
Dracula's castle?Yeah,hang a right at the prop rocks,it's the first matte painting you see,can't miss it,padre.
In a small European village besieged by Dracula(Lee),a man with a history of not being very nice at all,an altar boy stumbles upon a bit of dead krumpet up a bell,the trauma of said findings causing him to become mute.A year after the Count has been vanquished,a monsignor(Davies) finds the village still terrorized by Castle Dracula,whose shadow still falls upon their church,which is in a state of disarray,and run by a priest who gives his sermons to empty pews and spends most of his time pissed at the pub.The monsignor gathers up the jaded priest and the two men trek up the mountain with a large metal cross,in hopes of exorcising Dracula's memory from the superstitious townsfolk.The priest cashes his chips halfway there,and while a storm brews and the monsignor places the bulky cross across the castle door,he tries to run back,falling and cracking his domepiece on a rock.The blood from his wound trickles down into a crack in the ice where Dracula is imprisoned(Dracula,Prince of Darkness)and into the lord of the undead's lips,resurrecting him.He quickly dominates the priest's feeble mind,and upon seeing the cross blocking the doorway to his digs and preventing his entry,demands to know who is responsible for this disgusting act.The priest dimes out the monsignor,who has returned to his home in Keinenberg,satisfied that he has dispelled the fears of the townspeople,to the waiting arms of his wife and buxom niece,Maria(Carlson).Niece,you say?Dracula knows now how to exact his bloody vengeance upon the pious cross-happy bastard.
Why,this bell's clapper is a bloody slapper!
Maria is in love with a curly-haired Roger Daltrey look-alike in the form of an atheist student named Paul(Andrews),who, when he's not denying the Lord,enjoys playing booze games involving silly sing songs and broomsticks at the tavern above the bakery where he works.Dracula enslaves the top-heavy draught girl,Zena(Ewing),who,when she's not displaying her bounteous bobblers to any drunk at the bar who'll peer at 'em,is trying to get into Paul's undergarments.The monsignor gets past the beer smell of Maria's suitor but when he admits he's religion-free is told to hit the bricks and forbidden to see her again,causing the two lovers to secretly cross rooftops in the night to be together.When Zena's attempt to bring Maria to the Count fails due to Paul's heroics,the vampire rewards her with a meal of instant,blood-siphoning death,ordering the priest to chuck her lifeless frame into the oven's coals.Dracula then comes to Maria's bedroom in the night,and gives her his patented dual poke-hole throat hickey.The monsignor recognizes the tell-tale signs of vampirism in his niece,but when he follows the fleeing nosferatu,the priest brains him.As he lay dying,he recruits Paul to rid the world of the wretched blood-sipper,but after staking the Count in his coffin,the atheist and the faithless priest fail to recite the prayer to finish the job,allowing Dracula to unstake himself.The vampire makes off to his castle with Maria in tow,and orders his slave to remove the infernal cross from his door,and when she chucks it over the castle's parapet,it lands in the ravine below,jutting out of the ground.Paul and the priest arrive on the scene,and during the young man's struggle with the Count,Dracula clumsily tumbles over the same parapet,impaling himself on the large cross.This time,Paul and the priest complete the prayer,turning the blood-driven monster to ashes and ending his reign of terror(at least until 1970's Taste the Blood of Dracula).Reunited with his squeeze,the now-religious man makes the sign of the cross upon himself.Amen.
Look at those eyes,Dracula's been playing the green saxophone again.
The stoic and regal Lee went on to play the infamous vampire four more times for Hammer,ending with The Satanic Rites of Dracula in 1973,although he has accepted the bloodthirsty role a handful of times for other directors,even Jesus Franco(!).My favorite Dracula,and one of my favorite actors of all-time.We Italians stick together,what can I say.The pale and gorgeous Carlson enjoyed a long run of genre films for Hammer,including 1969's Frankenstein Must be Destroyed,The Horror of Frankenstein(1970),Vampira(1974),and 1975's The Ghoul.Ewing enjoys a long career on the telly to this day,which includes an episode of the excellent Hammer House of Horror series in 1980.Tonight's film was Hammer's most profitable,and enjoys the honour of being the first movie to be rated by the MPAA.Though it feels a little strange not seeing the legendary Peter Cushing rehashing his vampire-hunting Van Helsing to compliment Lee's Count here,this is classic stuff.Risen hoists a beer into the sky on the end of a broomstick,while drinking another one,and the drunken,singing louts that surround it give it three solid wops on the scale.
You know the drill,Maria(Carlson).Get 'em out for the Count.


Watching Hammer said...

Not one of my top Draculas but still enjoyable. Hammer were trying to compete with Polanski's recent Fearless Vampire Killers, which is why there's plenty of nice matte shots (using the same artist), including the roofscape, which gives the picture a grander feel. But too much on the young couple, Freddie Francis' visual style doesn't do it for me here, and what's with rewriting the stake in the heart law...???

beedubelhue said...

Eh,he was indeed guilty of pushing Paul and Maria's love story to the forefront and giving Dracula a sidecar here,but did I mention I'm a big fan of Veronica Carlson?The stake in the heart reboot came off as a little preachy as well,but did I mention I'm a big fan of Veronica Carlson?Haha,thanks for the words!


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