“Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)”
Don’t you just LOVE this poster? Pink band-aids, front cleavage AND sarcasm?
By 1968, it was no secret that Christopher Lee was the undisputed Dracula of the generation. Lee had appeared in quite a few other Hammer productions and they had all been quite successful, but his bread was ultimately buttered by Dracula’s success that he found it difficult to be seen as anybody else. While he would soon be almost contemptuous about the character he had re-invented, ”Dracula Has Risen From The Grave” still remains one of the better films. While not quite up to par as the first and ”DPOD”, it’s still quite respectable with some fascinating new ideas, more on that later.
If the title wasn’t obvious enough, Dracula has indeed risen from the grave and as predicted, quite pissed off with everybody alive. Van Helsing or Sandor do not return, in fact, there is no real heroic older warrior fated to battle with Dracula. No, instead we meet Paul (Barry Andrews), young, handsome, in love and harbouring a secret that will dictate how he does battle with Dracula. He is the loving suitor of Maria (the lovely Veronica Carlson), an arrangement that her father, the Monsignor Ernest Muller hardly agrees with. Despite this, Paul’s work and love life are still pretty damn good until Dracula comes a-calling.
You see, Dracula arose from the grave when a cowardly, weak-willed priest, a friend of the Monsignor’s, traveled to Dracula’s castle to place a cross on the door to sanctify it from evil. His traveling companion fell and died, his blood mysteriously finding it’s way into Dracula’s mouth. Yes, I am intentionally being vague about where Dracula is in this situation because if I told you, you wouldn’t believe me. Dracula ain’t happy about the cross on his door and he makes the weak priest his slave, as you do.
“DHRFTG” may not have the distinct flavor the previous two Dracula films had, but for what it lacks in paying homage to old school it makes up for in brand new notions. Granted, obviously Hammer had to keep the series fresh for years to come (and in some cases failing in execution), but I find the crucial twist to affairs is quite, quite clever. Paul is not some member of a cult long devoted to fighting Dracula, nor is he half vampire like Blade, no, he is…. an atheist. When shit hits the fan and Paul is called upon to help save Maria (after Dracula’s inevitable visit to her bedroom, ya-HOO), it’s difficult for him because in order to defeat Dracula (in this case), you must have faith, Christian faith, to vanquish him. Given this dynamic was introduced early in the film, it’s pay-off has that much more of an impact than you would expect. However, there is a massive cop-out that is to be anticipated when Paul finally eliminates Dracula- he converts, just like that. I didn’t like that- sure he had to struggle with himself in order to save the woman he loved, but a total spiritual make over? Come on. I liked Atheist Paul better than Born Again Virgin Paul.
Now, what can be said about Lee other than what has already been stated? Nothing new really, but a massive development that has occurred between “DPOD” and ”DHRFTG” is that Dracula has become especially violent toward women, Zena in particular. He thralls her, no muss, no fuss, orders her around, uses her as an occasional drink and just overall abuses her. He doesn’t even have the decency to make her into a vampire. This trait continues on through the series, getting more dire in degrees that you almost forget he is a vampire and see him more as an abusive boyfriend. It’s definitely a shocking development, but in terms of Dracula, you can see the logic- he really is the pimp of the undead.
So Dracula sets up his chop shop in the town where the other characters are going about their business, and as expected, he starts to thrall/and/or/kill his victims, one case being the loose barmaid Zena (Barbra Ewing, who is only too happy to show a little more cleavage than anybody in the films at this point), who has an unrequited feelings regarding Paul.
Terence Fisher didn’t return to direct this sequel, instead the duties were handed over to Freddie Francis who takes everything in stride. Where Fisher made his films with a sense of classic Gothic forboding, Francis is more in favour of adding more visual flare, using dramatic, almost symbolic lighting and imagery. He can fill empty spaces with a sense of disorientating claustrophobia and turn the dreariest cellar into a kaleidiscopic chamber of frights. He also really knows how to use this unusually colourful style to compliment the stature of Christopher Lee, making him look just that little more menacing.
If I may say so, I should say this is where the Hammer Dracula franchise should have ended. It came, it saw and Dracula’s destruction seemed final. Of course, money spoke loudly and then the Dracula Express starting to roll downhill at breakneck speed. “DHRFTG” bids farewell to solid horror storytelling only to make way for many senseless and confusing sequels that were made with an eye for profit than true viewer pleasure that went beyond showing nubile female flesh. Check it out and shed a small tear of blood with me.
Review written by Bea Harper