“Dracula AD (1970)”
OH THE PAIN, THE PAIN!
The quote so famously bellowed by Doctor Smith from “Lost In Space” in the title should give enough indication that sitting through this movie without a braced mind is enough to give any self-respecting film lover a migraine. What could have been a novel concept was quickly transformed into a lame horse waiting to be put out of it’s misery when one watches this movie, I mean, where do I begin?
First, every single cliche that has been used in all of the Hammer Horror films is used in this movie, the only difference being that it’s set in the groovy 70’s. I have no problem separating the stupid from the charming, but seriously, this film is ridiculous. Even if you viewed it as a joke, it falls flat on it’s face like a drunken starlet stumbling out of a limousine without any knickers on- you watch and snicker, but it’s at the starlet, not along with them. Dare I say, even Lee starts to come off as a major mook in this picture (it pains me to say that by the way).
The storyline is predictable, but here is one of the most ridiculous aspects of the film makes itself apparent- it’s not meant to be a canon sequel to the previous “Dracula” films. Okay, we could have worked with this wonderfully if this film wasn’t so saturated in pungent cheese. Now, cheese is fun as we all know, but this film makes an explicit point to remind you that this is the 70’s every step of the way. Kaleidoscopic fashions, token funky music(which at times sounds like a porno of all things) and every single cast member sprinkling their lines with verbal discourse exclusive to the time period. Think PJ Soles from “Halloween” constantly spurting “Totally” and you have a general idea of these young hipster’s vocabulary.
But that aside, what really confuses you is that even though this film says it’s meant to be it’s own entity, it still has a (ri-DONK-ulous) Dracula resurrection sequence which blatantly references Dracula’s destruction in the previous film. If they really wanted to start anew, why would they feel the need to show this? Couldn’t they have just said that Dracula was, I dunno, in a deep sleep or something? It boggles the mind, and not in a David Lynch way.
To me, the only true saving grace of this movie is the return of Peter Cushing (who actually plays two ancestors of Van Helsing, Lawrence and Lorrimer) to the franchise. I just want to bring this up because I need to get this off my chest- does anybody else feel like their intelligence is being insulted whenever they cast the same actor to play various relatives? I mean, it’s obvious people wanted to see Cushing as a Van Helsing again, who wouldn’t, but come on, surely they could have chosen another actor to assume that character? I doubt their identity would be lost on viewers.
Even the comforting presence of Van Helsing isn’t enough to keep you from tearing your hair out because of the young, hipster cast. Stephanie Beachum, who plays Jessica Van Helsing (I guess Peter Cushing couldn’t make a convincing woman) is almost a non-issue even though she is meant to be the heir of the Van Helsing legacy. It’s like she’s there solely to be the means Dracula uses to have his vengence on the Van Helsing family.
Then there’s the character of Johnny Alucard. Ah, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, JOHNNY. If there was ever a more obnoxious character, they would have to work pretty hard to overbear Johnny. He’s meant to be this charismatic figure who can get all the babes and make everybody do as he says, but man… what a sad, sorry little dick. This guy is meant to be Dracula’s regent (pffffft) and yet he’s got the attitude of a mentally inept 17 year old. Plus his wardrobe SUCKS.
While films of this nature have the capacity to be charming, there really is little joy and good humour to be had watching this movie, even if you are taking it lightly. In the end, you really do feel sorry for Lee the actor rather than Dracula. I don’t know how Lee made it through filming because his rendition of the Count this time take a third wheel role behind Johnny Alucard. I have nothing against having the big guy as a background ominpotent figure, but given how charmless and idiotic Johnny Alucard is, to think Dracula put this guy in charge makes you question Dracula’s credibility as the Big Bad.
Speaking of Lee, what a waste. All he does is stand around and look menacing and speaks in his deep baritone some truly reeking dialogue that almost rivals the shit he had to say in Lucas’s Star Wars prequels. Gone is the animalistic and sexual Count Dracula, in his place is something a little more animated than a cardboard cut-out. I realise Lee was getting older by this point, but Dracula’s sexually perverse nature it’s merely limited to how he looks- it’s all in what he does, and he does absolutely nothing here that makes you want to lock up your mothers, daughters and wives. Not Lee’s fault in particular and with what little he does have he manages to use, but unfortunately, he just doesn’t sell it. You’d think Hammer would at least owe it to Lee to ham it up given this franchise all but depended on Dracula’s inclusion even if his presence by this point had become redundant.
Just in case you were wondering, even if you watch this film for the T & A, the initial attraction wears off faster than you think. Yes, cult cinema cheesecake Caroline Munroe shows her generous body and she looks magnificent as usual, but really, if Hammer’s continued embrace of the naked body and Lee and Cushing going head to head doesn’t save the movie, nothing does.
This movie really is a lame failure on all accounts, and it is a pity once you get down to the bare essentials- you had two stalwarts being reunited with a fresh restart to a fading franchise only for the studio to chicken out and give the audience what they want… again… and again… and again. If it’s of any consultation to you though, the final film manages to claw back the most scantest of ground Dracula had left to stand on… not that it truly makes a difference in the end.
Review written by Bea Harper