While it may have lacked a bug-eyed Michael Ripper leading a band of pitchfork-wielding villagers, through torch-lit, cobble-stone streets, up to the castle to stake the dreaded vampire, Dracula 1972 A.D. did have an interesting back story, and a hip young Johnny (“Dig the music, kids!”) Alucard, great-grandson of the infamous Count.
Johnny had an interest in swinging parties, dancing, ending world hunger and er, Satanism. Johnny could also model hats at jaunty-angles and had a beezer plan to bring back his long-lost relative from the dead (cue lightning. And this is where the back story comes in.
Dracula 1972 A.D. was (surprisingly) inspired by real events. This was the news reports of the Highgate Vampire—a shadowy figure seen wandering around the famous London cemetery. TV crews hung around the graveyard in hope of capturing the blood-sucking count, while the press told tales of dead-of-night, occult rituals, and a “King Vampire from Wallachia,” who had allegedly been brought back from the dead by hip-young Satanists—you can see where writer Don Houghton got the idea for Johnny Alucard and his friends. Or, as Professor Van Helsing said:
“There is evil in the world. There are dark, awful things. Occasionally, we get a glimpse of them. But there are dark corners; horrors almost impossible to imagine… even in our worst nightmares.”
Without Michael Ripper, the villagers this time round were played by the police, who had the usual comic asides but still knew something nasty was afoot in modern London town.
Sergeant, I’ll bet you a pound to a pinch of shit… that there’s a little piece of hash at that party… and if there is, I’ve got them.
Alas, the critics were more vicious to Dracula 1972 A.D. than any crucifix-wielding Van Helsing. Roger Ebert gave it one-out-of-four, while the broadsheets considered this “hip” retelling to be the worst of Hammer’s Dracula films. It was all a bit mean, for Dracula 1972 A.D. was not really that bad. Indeed, age has been kind to the film, and fans of Hammer Horror and vampire movies will enjoy the fine performances from debonair Christopher Lee as Dracula, and nervy Peter Cushing as Professor Van Helsing, who both seem to relish their entanglement in a modern-day setting.
Lee was the focus of a short, promotional film, Prince of Terror, which peaked behind-the scenes of Dracula 1972 A.D., and visited the great actor at his London home, where he briefly enthused about the real Vlad Țepeș, aka Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia. All rather jolly really.