Plot: Although Dracula (Christopher Lee) has been bested and staked by his nemesis Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), one of his cohorts was able to prepare for an potential return with some of the count’s ashes. A hundred years down the road, an eccentric named Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame) is able to complete the ritual at last and once again, Dracula is unleashed upon the world. Now Dracula has risen and finds that 1972 is a much different world that what he is accustomed to, though he is still surrounded by disciples and followers. While a lot has changed however, some things remain the same and that includes his old rival, as occult expert Lorrimer Van Helsing retains the interest in the supernatural passed down from his ancestors. So the era might have changed, but Dracula’s eternal battle against the Van Helsing line continues and he plans to make sure he doesn’t get dusted this time.
Entertainment Value: I love the idea of bringing Christopher Lee’s version of Dracula into an Austin Powers style 70s London, complete with swinging teens and all the expected counterculture elements. While the premise of Dracula A.D. 1972 might be stronger than the end result, I like this one more than most and appreciate the more offbeat moments and general campiness. I have to think felt dated when it was first released, as it doesn’t feel like a “finger on the pulse” type approach, but to me that just adds more b movie appeal. Despite all the 70s trimmings that can be found here, the movie still has the core texture of a Hammer period production, especially the set design and locations. So the concept might promise a much different take on Hammer’s Dracula, it still feels familiar to fans of the studio and of course, the presence of Lee, Cushing, and other regulars bolsters that. I do think the second half is less fun than the first, with a slower pace and some iffy choices, but even then it is more just passable than outright bad. So while Dracula A.D. 1972 doesn’t deliver one of the better Hammer rides, it is a fun watch and has some memorable moments.
The cast in this one is impressive, with some Hammer legends in the leads to anchor the offbeat cinematic experience. Christopher Lee had already turned in numerous spins as Count Dracula, so he is right at home within the role by this point and while this isn’t one of his better efforts in the part, he is still rock solid. Lee was always able to work wonders even the material didn’t give him a lot of chances to shine, which is just what he does in Dracula A.D. 1972. The downside to Lee’s performance is that he doesn’t have much screen time, but that isn’t exactly off brand for the Hammer Dracula movies. I also think the movie struggles once Dracula returns, so a good amount of Lee’s scenes take place in the weaker section of the film. But we do get a humorous and awkward battle to kick off the movie, as Lee duels with his frequent costar Peter Cushing, who knew how to make a Van Helsing role work, of course. To me, being able to see these two horror masters at work, especially in the shared scenes is reason enough to overlook some of the movie’s lesser points. The cast also includes Caroline Munro, Stephanie Beacham, and Christopher Neame.
The Disc: Warner Archive has drummed up a new 2k scan of an interpositive, which provides results far better than the DVD editions and a considerable improvement over the import Blu-ray version I’ve seen. The print looks spectacular and the restoration efforts have paid great dividends, as the image is so clean, but also retains the natural grain texture. The detail level is striking, with much more depth and clarity evident in this new treatment. I found colors to be bright and garish, allowing the 70s visual design elements to shine through. This is an impressive, natural looking visual presentation that fans should more than appreciate. The extras begin and end with the film’s trailer.