Lady Summerisle (strange_complex) wrote,
Lady Summerisle

10. Dracula: AD 1972, dir. Alan Gibson

I synchro-watched this film with [personal profile] lady_lugosi1313 this afternoon. It is one of my absolute favourites in the Hammer Dracula cycle - so much so that I apparently watched it once every two years at the beginning of the last decade: 2012 (LJ / DW), 2014 (LJ / DW), 2016 (LJ / DW). A four-year gap since my last viewing is therefore a long time for me!

It is so good, though, and rediscovering it today in all its vivid immediacy was just brilliant. The more I see it, the more I realise how much my personal fashion concept was shaped by it, and Stephanie Beacham's outfits in particular. Quite apart from the flares, the smock tops and the floppy hats, she is wearing purple in almost every scene. I listen to the soundtrack CD regularly in the car too, but there is a quite a lot of what must have been library music in the film itself which isn't on that CD, and which I've never successfully been able to identify via Shazam or similar - flute music as Bob and Jessica are driving around, the record Johnny puts on for Gaynor telling her the band were all stoned when they recorded it, and the music playing as Johnny stalks Marjorie Baines in the laundrette. I would love to find out more about all of those some time, but meanwhile will have to satisfy myself with exploring more of the music of Stoneground instead. I can see there is quite a lot of it on YouTube.

I don't want to repeat things I've written about this film in previous reviews, but I see that although I mentioned that it has "extremely competent cinematography" in my 2014 review, I didn't give any specific examples. Some of the sorts of shots I mean include Johnny seen through a bus window from across the road as he approaches the Cavern the day after the big ritual, his car approaching his flat seen through the square entrance-way, or Van Helsing viewed in a discarded shaving-mirror after his big battle with Johnny. But those are only a few examples. Throughout, the street scenes, the Gothic church set, and the many smaller interiors are really brought out to their best effect through interesting angles, focus pulls, panning etc. The man responsible deserves credit - and to have been given a better name by his parents than Dick Bush.

I also see that despite working it all out in my head about six years ago, I have never written out here my Very Fannish Theory for how this film actually fits perfectly effectively into the overall Hammer chronology. The apparent problem is that in this film we see Dracula being killed in 1872 and only resurrected in 1972, yet Dracula (1958) takes place in 1885, with Prince (1966), Risen (1968) and Taste (1970) all following on from it in a direct sequence. How, we might ask after seeing AD 1972, can he have been alive for all those stories in the intervening period? My explanation for this rests on the premise that in 1872, Dracula was not alone in London. Rather, Valerie Gaunt's character was there with him. She turns into a woman with the appearance of being in her 70s or 80s when Jonathan stakes her in 1885 (in Dracula 1958), so he probably bit her and turned her into his bride about 40 or 50 years before that - i.e. c. 1840. Perhaps he came to London around about then, and they were living there together perfectly successfully until they managed to come to Lawrence Van Helsing's attention in 1872?

Once you have her in the picture, you can flesh out the story of what happened on that fatal night in 1872. After Van Helsing kills Dracula, we see on screen Johnny Alucard's ancestor coming to collect and ritually bury some of his dust. But he certainly doesn't collect all of it. There is plenty left behind for, for example, Valerie Gaunt to come along after Johnny, and conduct a resurrection ceremony immediately. Naturally, after a traumatic event like that, Dracula and Valerie would choose to leave London for the safety of Dracula's native Transylvania - which is where we meet them both, thirteen years later, in Dracula (1958). By 1972, Valerie is long gone and Dracula has undergone many adventures, including a trip to India in the 1930s, but he has returned to London, not least because he knows he left instructions to his disciples to carry out a resurrection ritual in that year. But it isn't actually a resurrection ritual as such. Johnny thinks he is resurrecting Dracula, but we don't see any actual regeneration scene, as we do in some of the other films - just a load of smoke and then Dracula walking out of it. In fact, he was already alive and watching the ritual unseen as it unfolded, and stepped forward at the end to reclaim a small amount of his own lost strength, left behind with his dust a century earlier (the smoke) and his lost ring. Job done.

This still doesn't explain how Dracula can have gone to China in 1804 in the body of a monk and been killed there by Van Helsing in 1904 in The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. I have to resort to "It must be another member of the Dracula family who is also a vampire and was imprisoned in that castle by the Christopher Lee Dracula" to deal with that. But it's all doable if you think creatively enough.

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Tags: christopher lee, dracula, films, films watched 2020, hammer films, horror films, peter cushing, vampires

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