Things Roddy said during “Dracula AD 1972”

“Here he comes… the most exciting, scariest vampire you’ve ever seen!”

Fiona’s brother Roddy likes horror movies — I have to qualify that by saying he likes specific ones, like Universal FRANKENSTEIN movies or Hammer DRACULA ones. Christopher Lee is without question his favourite actor. So during Roddy’s Christmas visit there was no question what we were watching. Fiona screened the original Hammer/Lee DRAC while I was wrapped the parcels, and on Boxing Day I ran AD 1972, the penultimate film in Hammer’s loose series (not counting the later LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES, which maybe I should, even though it’s pretty poor, even by the dubious standards of vampire kung fu crossover flicks).

I like the two modern-day DRACS, although I shouldn’t. The period sequels got dull pretty fast, and even a transfusion of fresh ideas in TASTE THE BLOOD OF D didn’t entirely dispel the air of deja vu. Not that this bothers Roddy, who likes to repeat pleasurable experiences: like a lot of people with learning difficulties, and a lot of children too (Roddy just turned 50) he’s comforted by repetition and predictability.

I’ve never asked him if he prefers historical Hammers to funky modern ones, but I doubt it makes too much difference. I certainly know Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing are big parts of the pleasure: although the title BRIDES OF DRACULA always raises his interest, once he discovers Lee isn’t in it, he goes off the idea; a shame, as it may be Terence Fisher’s best film in the “series”.

Hyde Park — a Victorian Hansom approaches. “I think this is the one where they’re fighting — him and Dracula!” declares Roddy as  Cushing and Lee appear, wrestling on the roof.

Lee is dispatched with a spoke through the heart — curiously, Roddy, a traditionalist in matters of vampire slaying, doesn’t object to this. Cushing dies, we get an attractively-shot funeral, and unknown hands rescue a sample of Dracula’s ashes, along with his ring. I’m not sure the identity of this Draculite is ever dealt with, but it’s a nice mystery — he’s obviously an ancestor of the disciple we meet later, since he’s played by the same actor, but it’s not clear why he leaves it so long before attempting a resurrection.

Alan Hume’s Dick Bush’s cinematography makes attractive use of both long lens and wide angle lens effects.

Pan up from grave, past now-ruined church, to catch jet plane flying overhead, a shot which makes me think of the falcon turning into a fighter plane in Powell & Pressburger’s A CANTERBURY TALE. Funky music, shots of cranes forming cruciform shapes against the skyline, a steak house, a red London bus, and on to the wild party.

Cushing appears again, this time as his own grandson, and Stephanie Beacham is his buxom granddaughter, Jessica (inexplicably replaced by the more streamlined Joanna Lumley in the sequel the following year). Jessica is hanging with a wild crowd, including Johnny Alucard (prettyboy Christopher Neame).

“They’re dancing too fast!” complains Roddy during the party-crashing scene. People with Williams syndrome are usually quite musical, and Roddy is a good drummer. With his sense of rhythm, he spots that the partygoers are dancing to the wrong music.

“Would you smile at a policeman?”

“Uh, there he is. Why’s he got a bow tie on?”

“Carpathia? Where’s that?” Roddy must ask this question every time he watches the film. One never knows if he forgets the answer or if he just likes asking the question. People with Williams’ syndrome are notoriously chatty, and Roddy asks questions not just to obtain answers, not even primarily, but rather to keep the conversation going.

Alucard and his gang (including babes Caroline Munro and Marsha Hunt) attempt a black mass, accompanied by the music of The White Noise (featuring David Vorhaus, son of film director Bernard, and Delia Derbyshire, electronic genius behind the Dr Who theme) and raise Christopher Lee, who eschews dialogue as much as possible (Lee hated the scripts’ departures from Stoker, and particularly disliked the modern ambience).

Neame should have been a bigger star, it seems to me. He’s perfectly attuned to the movie’s camp sensibilities, and he looks great. If you’re going to have a character called Johnny Alucard, and I’m not for a minute suggesting you should, this is what he should look like.

“Here comes the smoke — or is it steam?”

This may be the movie where the makeup team pranked Lee by fitting him with Union Jack contact lenses…

Cushing prepares to strike back as Jessica’s pals go missing, and a montage shows him collecting holy water and melting a crucifix to make a silver bullet. This scene is why I’m never watching this movie with Roddy again, because he ALWAYS objects to the idea of silver bullets as a vampire-killing measure. “That’s for werewolves!” And he won’t be told otherwise, even if I quote the entry from my copy of Monsters and Mysterious Beasts (Carey Miller, Piccolo, 1974, my childhood source on all things monstrous) ~

1) A wooden stake made from aspen or hawthorn wood must be driven into the vampire’s heart or navel;

2) Small stones or rains of incense must be placed in the coffin so that the vampire has something to nibble if he awoke, to delay him leaving the coffin;

3) Garlic must be stuffed in his mouth;

4) Millet seed must be scattered over the vampire’s body for he could not leave the tomb until every grain had been counted;

5) The vampire’s body must be buried face downwards;

6) Wild, thorny roses must be strung outside the coffin in order to hinder the vampire’s progress from the grave.

There are other legendary ways of killing a vampire, like shooting him with a silver bullet or burning his coffin so he cannot return to it.

By the way, that millet seed thing only works if the vampire is the Count from Sesame Street.

Cushing tracks Alucard to his lair pad, and after an exciting confrontation where Johnny calls Van “man” about fifteen times, the creature of the night perishes under the clear running water of his shower. He also offends Roddy by calling Cushing “bastard!”

“Language, Dracula!” That’s not Dracula, I remind him. “Language, vampire!”

Alucard, being a recent vamp, doesn’t disintegrate when slain, he just turns a bit soapy.

Ouch! Stephanie has really hot tits!

Cushing corners Lee in his desanctified church and there’s a stirring battle. I like it when Hammer came up with complicated deaths for Lee (while I hate it when he gets struck by lightning), and this is a doozy, with holy water slung like acid, and a plunge from the steeple into a booby-trapped grave. Cushing finishes him off by driving him onto the spike with a jab from his shovel.

“That’s done the trick!”

Rest in Final Peace, reads the end title, a proposition immediately turned into a lie by next year’s sequel.

A shame Hammer didn’t make a true-life adaptation of the case of the Highgate Vampire, which would have given them an AMITYVILLE HORROR kind of documentary vibe. But I must admit I enjoy this tosh, and only wish director Alan Gibson could have been put in charge of the HARRY POTTER series, which might be enlivened by a jazz funk soundtrack and great yawning chasms of female cleavage.

59 Responses to “Things Roddy said during “Dracula AD 1972””

  1. Believe it or not, White Noise (without Delia Derbyshire) played a live show in Dublin about two years ago as part of an Experimental Music festival. I regretted missing it then, and now that I know they were part of this film I regret it even more.

  2. Hammer should have totally done Harry Potter, at least we’ll have a Dark Lord that is remotely frightening unlike Ralph Fiennes’ permanently straitjacketed expression.

  3. is this the movie where they figure out that alucard backwards means dracula? I did see this once as a kid on German tv and this was the staying moment. Anyway then everything with fangs on tv was very overwhelming.

  4. Not having a nose seems to hamper Ralph. I just saw the latest snooze, and it feels like all the bad guys are trying to be even quieter and slower than Rickman. The opening scene has them all sat around a table and it’s utterly somnolent stuff.

    I think it’s a great shame they haven’t got Sir Chris Lee to be in the Harry Potters, that would make a nice set with his Star Wars and Lord of the Rings roles.

    Delia Derbyshire also scored The Legend of Hell House, which shares a cinematographer with AD 1972.

  5. Christopher Lee should complain to the British Actors Guild for being the only actor discriminated. I think every British actor is in the Harry Potter series.

    I liked the last one incidentally, don’t approve of splitting it in two movies for a cash cow but the animation scene in that is terrific and the story itself is quite nice. The Harry Potter stories mix medieval tropes in post-modern society and its terrific to finally see the most medieval of all devices appear – the story-inside-the-story or in this case, a movie in a movie.

  6. “Count Alucard” was first used as a moniker in Siodmak’s Son of Dracula, starring the son of Lon Chaney. Dracula wasn’t quite his cup of blood but Lon Jr. gave it his all.

    Outside of the first, my fave of the Hammer-Drac series in Dracula Has Risen From His Grave whose opening scene has the unforgettable image of one of the Count’s assistnats slitting the throat of a victim and hanging him upside-down over a pit filled with ashes, which reconstitute themselevs before our eyes as Christopher Lee.

    The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires was released stateside as The Seven Brothers Meet Dracula. I was assigned to review it for the late, lamented “L.A. Herald-Examiner,” thus giving me the opportunity to pen my favorite opening line in all my years as a movie reviewer: “No The Seven Borthers Meet Dracula isn’t a sequel to Seven Brides For Seven Brothers>”

  7. Arthur, yes, the animated scene is a high point. The movie can’t get over the awkwardness of its leads, and few of the supporting players get a chance to show anything of their mighty abilities (Richard Griffiths gets into a car, Michael Gambon falls from a tower and frowns from some newspapers), and I’m astonished that the novel’s longeurs have not only been retained, but made even duller…

    Nico, yes, David E is correct. In both films somebody sits down and draws a diagram to prove that Alucard is really Dracula.

  8. I’m wrong — Ken Russell’s main man, Dick Bush, shot this movie.

  9. Not *every* British actor is in H Potter … Jeremy Northam has managed to steer clear.
    I’m still slightly discombobulated by Hammer being influenced by P&P …! I love A Canterbury Tale. I quite fancy investing in an essential Hammer collection for my DVD library: what should I not miss?

  10. Tony Williams Says:

    Good one, David E. You already know that this version was re-edited from the UK original with more irritating hopping vampire foot soldiers endlessly repeated and Julie Ege’s line to Van Helsing’s son about helping Szi Shu (sic) with the washing up was eliminated. I guess this was too “unAmerican” for male audiences at the time. However, the martial arts choreography was by the great Lau Kar-leung and you can see this when the Seven Brothers and one sister face the Tong’s in the Shaw Brothers Kowloon countryside location.

  11. Tony Williams Says:

    If Kubrick was also influenced by P&P why not Hammer?

  12. And Kubrick’s films are full of Hammer influence, from the casting (OK, they used the same talent pool but still: Adrienne Corri AND Patrick Magee?) to the direct quote of Curse of Frankenstein in Lolita. And Alex seeing himself as a vampire in Clockwork Orange.

    Essential Hammer? That’s a very subjective thing, but I think the best film is The Nanny. The first Frankenstein and Dracula have very strong bits, and Quatermass and the Pit is REALLY good.

  13. Thanks for the recommendations. I wonder which film version of Dracula is the very best? Or has the best yet to be made, I wonder …? It’s one of my favourite books, but the films I’ve seen have yet to measure up.
    I enjoyed Roddy’s observations, by the way, and well spotted ref. the music!

  14. Tony Williams Says:

    But, despite the growing reputation of QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, it still comes nowhere near the TV version that is Nigel Kneale and Rudolph Cartier’s masterpiece.

  15. Gill> There’s a Hammer box set currently going for a very good price on Amazon that has a lot of really terrific films in it (some very hard to see, like Demons of the Mind and Straight on til Morning, as well as some classics).

  16. Thanks Paul, off to check it out …

  17. Those two rarities Paul mentions are pretty interesting. Strange, strange films.

    Murnau’s Nosferatu is certainly the best film of Dracula, even if it’s an unofficial adaptation.

  18. david wingrove Says:

    THE GORGON, directed by Terence Fisher, is much-neglected but utterly stunning! The greatest camp classic from Hammer may be PREHISTORIC WOMEN with the immortal Martine Beswicke.

  19. I was forgetting Nosferatu, yes, I do like that one. I think there is still room for a really good Drac modern film. In my dreams, I’d love to pen the screenplay.
    Thank you everyone, by the way, for your kindness and generosity in sharing your considerable knowledge and expertise with a keen novice. If any of you ever feel like writing for my blog (about actor Jeremy Northam), please let me know, I would be honoured.

  20. The noxious Twilight series has ruined any consideration of a modern Drac for the moment.

    Vampires are now fantasy fodder for Mormon teenagers who’ve taken a “Purity Pledge.”

  21. I can’t say I’ve seen Twilight (I’m too old!) but I suppose I hope a wonderful return to the original might blow all that nonsense out of the water.

  22. Roddy on The Gorgon:

    The success of Twilight and its polar opposite True Blood ought to make a new Drac more likely, not less. It’s only the memory of Coppola’s goofy version standing in the way. If a suitable director or star expressed an interest, it could happen quickly. But I guess the project isn’t suitable to become another Mummy franchise. Thankfully.

  23. Back then, we had Christopher Lee as Dracula. Now, we’ve got that creepy twerp Edward who sparkles…someone bring back Peter Cushing so he can stake his sorry sparkly arse. Love Hammer horror films and Christopher Lee was always my fave Dracula.

  24. The Gorgon sounds unmissable!
    I don’t need to say who’d I’d cast as Drac … Husband contributes that although the Coppola Drac was accurate as far as the book is concerned, the atmosphere is all wrong. He also recalls vividly the ‘great yawning chasms’ of Stephanie Beecham in AD 72 …

  25. More than even Coppola, Its probably Buffy, that’s the biggest obstacle to retooling Dracula. The theme just seems relegated to takes on adolescent sexuality, with Martin, the one really good film on the subject, kind of forgotten about. Saying that, I thought the recent vamp pic with Megan Fox was a very good pop take on the subject.
    Also with Drac there’s a problem of formulating a believable patriarchal character, which I think directors would have a difficult time doing nowadays. Can’t really explain this opinion, but with the Universal Drac, you could say that Lugosi was a shadow figure to the Hollywood male stars, say an anti Barrymore. Without them around, in a way, there was no him.

  26. Tony Williams Says:

    Stephanie’s “great yawning chasms” were also used to great effect in Michael Winner’s pre-quel to THE TURN OF THE SCREW. Had somebody directed a remake to Jack Clayton’s version then she would have made a great vampire-like Miss Jessel. THE GORGON is interesting but the same actress should have played both roles and a more effective snake head used as Barbara Shelley commented in a later interview. The film does have potential but poor production values and a rushed screenplay does not do it full justice.

  27. I haven’t forgotten about ‘Martin’ Tom. It’s one of my favourites, but then I am a bit of a Romero fan.

  28. funny Romero anecdote…

  29. Correct me if I’m mistaken but no one has yet mentioned LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. It’s been a long time since any recent vampire-themed film has left a positive impression on me, but if there’s even a one it has to be this (having not seen its American-made counterpart I’ll suspend judgment, but I know I cringed when I first heard the news that such a thing was in the works).

    Something struck me as I read this post. Your statement that Williams Syndrome causes those who have it to be notoriously chatty. I think such a person lives here, at the other end of the hall in my apartment building. Been here for years, a short stout fellow with wire-rim glasses, Tom will do just that, try to chat you up if he sees you, and just won’t let go. The spittle flies when he speaks, and that has me thinking that he may be on medication, with salivating as one of its side-effects. A nice enough guy, he’ll approach anyone, anywhere, doesn’t matter if they’re total strangers, and try to engage them in conversation. And, he loves movies.

  30. There’s one vampire project that’s in the process of jelling. I know the filmmakers involved and I don’t want to say anything more until the starting date is announced. But it involves a Major Iconic Star (who has never done a horror film before) and a young leading man who has figured in several films of interest in recent years — though not in the leading role.

    a suivre

  31. David E, you intrigue us!

    Guy, your neighbour could have Williams, but it’s hard to be sure. Pixie-like features, at all? The spittle isn’t anything to do with the condition, but there are other health issues related to it which might lead to him being on medication. If he has poor spatial awareness and vertigo, that’d be a clue.

    Let the Right One In is excellent (shame about the fake cats though). I’ve heard the remake is OK but the “A Film By” credit on the poster pissed me off so much I didn’t see it. How can a faithful remake, scripted by someone else, based on another film written by someone else, based on a book, merit that credit for its director?

    Northam would no doubt make a fine Dracula. But I’d like to see it played by a real Eastern European again.

  32. David E … any clues you are allowed to give? The Major Iconic Star: are we talking British or American … ? Very intrigued here!

  33. david wingrove Says:

    Am I the only one who’s baffled by LET THE RIGHT ONE IN? Not a bad movie, exactly…but what self-respecting vampire would choose to live on some blighted council housing estate in the suburbs of Stockholm?! Bela Lugosi and Delphine Seyrig would be turning over in their tombs.

  34. Christopher Says:

    yeas Count Alucard…put it on my ALU CARD…and the mexi Alucarda,which is pretty nice..

  35. David W, since LTROI is a quasi-realist vampire film, the life of the undead and their companions is somewhat bleak. Apart from being able to kill school bullies, there don’t seem to be many perks. If you like Scandinavian bleakness (much more photogenic than the British kind: even that estate looks kind of lovely) it has a lot to recommend it.

  36. Correction! The Hammer/Dracula I cited in a previous post SHOULD have been Dracula, Prince of Darkness, not Dracula Has Risen From His Grave (which is quite nice though not as gaudy. )

    And speaking of Scandanaivan bleakness, surely Persona counts as a vampire film.

  37. Bergman certainly has an affinity with horror, the emotion if not the genre.

  38. david wingrove Says:

    For me, the real Bergman vampire movie is HOUR OF THE WOLF. Not just the pre-pubescent vampire boy who attacks the hero, but also the castle full of weird and desiccated aristos. It ranks with Carl Dreyer’s VAMPYR as one of the classiest Gothic horror pics ever made.

  39. Watching this a few days ago, I couldn’t help but notice that Stephanie Beacham’s breasts assume a co-starring role in the climactic scenes. Now, I like Stephanie Beacham and I like her tits but I was stunned by the dubiety of theseconds-long shot of her – quite lovely, kudos Steph – bosom alone in profile while Laughing Chris Lee reached out for the crucifix. Quite hilariously late period Hammer. That said, there’s a recently-released dvd of a British-lensed Italian thriller (featuring Patricia Hayes as a crime boss!) charmingly (re)titled Super Bitch which is drawing me not simply because of the dubiousness of its contents but because it features Ms Beacham au naturel, ah my youthful yen for her is too powerful I fear…
    As regards the dress Stephanie wore in the black wedding scene in A.D. 1972 apparently it created havoc for the sound recordists as the tape preventing Ms B’s boobs being bared to all made rather a lot of noise!

  40. Tony Williams Says:

    Mrs. Cravat of 10 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam as a “crime boss”! This sounds too good to miss.

  41. It gets better. Her character’s name is Mamma the Turk she’s a nasty piece of work (oh yes) and she even has her own song of sorts! Also present : Gareth (Blake’s 7, Children of the Stones), Leon Vitali, Michael Sheard, Tutte Lemkow, and Cec (Quatermass and the Pit, Goldfinger) Linder as a man with a rabbit fetish… Intriguing!

  42. I watched it recently and there’s mention of it in my post on The Shining a couple months back. What’s the connection? I wasn’t thinking of Vitali…

  43. Forgive me for being dense but apart from Mr Vitali being in Super Bitch before (I believe) his involvement with Stanley, none.

  44. If you search the tags here for The Shining it’ll come up and all will be clear. Has to do with furries.

  45. Oh. Bugger. I. AM. AN. IDIOT. (but that’s already self-evident!). Cec Linder. Rabbit Enthusiast. The Shining. Ultimate evidence of its SCARY past = people dressing up as furry animals. By jove, I think he’s got it (at last)…
    I wonder if they vet those workers at Disneyland? “Well, Mr Cocteau, you’re perfect for the job but why *do* you have your own Beast outfit?”

  46. They don’t let the staff take their costumes home, that’s for sure.

  47. I expect sordid revelations about the Banana Splits or the fellows who (hilariously) played chimps in the Weismuller Tarzans any day now… (not Operation Yewtree but Operation Chimpanzee perhaps… I’ll get me coat)

  48. The chimps were real chimps, but there were occasional phony gorillas. Crash Corrigan and Charles Gemora were Hollywood’s leading ape actors, but I never heard of a whiff of scandal attaching to either man.

  49. Ha. I should think not, no I just liked the idea of “furries” being particularly attracted to such jobs (possible now but unlikely then). I hope you didn’t think I was seriously suggesting anything untoward my heart sinks if I’ve offended (I don’t like to admit it but I have Asperger’s so sometimes what appears to me to be an obvious joke isn’t to others and I offend, though contradictorily I can misinterpret or misunderstand other people’s meanings, I think the lesson is I should stay off the internet. Sorry).
    As regards the Tarzan movies, while my knowledge of ape actors in Old Hollywood is distinctly limited – though I’ve heard of Corrigan – and I have seen many fantastic flagrantly fake gorillas in ’30s and ’40s pictures, I distinctly remember seeing adult chimps played by men in ape costumes in the Tarzans during action scenes, this was especially funny because of the obvious mismatch between them and Cheeta and chums who were played by real (young) chimps. I’m pretty sure that this was confirmed in Sean Egan’s recent book, Ape-Man. That said it may have been in one or two of the films as I was surprised to see those chimp-men when Channel 4 repeated some of the Weissmullers a few years ago.

  50. I’ve only watched a couple of Tarzans lately so I’m sure you’re right. And don’t worry about giving offense, I knew we were both speaking light-heartedly, though it can sometimes be hard to read tone over the internet. But everyone is joking here unless they say otherwise!

  51. Thank you, sir. I was worried I’d made a terrible unpleasant monkey of myself. I believe the young and the unfeasibly annoying might write something like Hashtag Relieved!

  52. Did we ever find out what this was?

  53. (the vampire project David Ehrenstein was talking about, I mean. I cut and pasted him into the start of my comment, but WordPress somehow managed to remove the quote)

  54. It MUST have been Only Lovers Left Alive, knowing David E’s great enthusiasm for La Tilda.

  55. Ah yes, of course. That makes sense. Thank you!

  56. Maureen Lipman never made t into the Potter series, and she is still VERY CROSS about that. Yes, really.

  57. The ESSENTIAL Hammer is Quatermass 2 (US: Enemy from Space); easily the best socio-political nightmare to emerge in Britain in that era. Dir. by stalwart Val Guest.

  58. Well, she must have been looking at it and thinking, everyone else is in this, why not me? She would have made a great Rita Skeeter.

    Hey, it’s not too late, I’m sure they’ll start remaking them from the top in about five years.

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