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Dracula A.D. 1972

Calling Alan Gibson's 1972 film Dracula A.D. 1972 hopelessly dated is a little on the nose, but there's no avoiding it. The movie — which tried to recast Hammer's most successful franchise into the modern era — positively reeks of period detail from the first reel, when a "happening" goes down while the band Stoneground plays in the background and youths engage in drugs and casual sex. The norm of the Hammer horror cycle was a lush Technicolor period setting, so the updating doesn't match the charms of the earlier pictures. But, as the seventh entry in the series (and second to last), at least it's attempting something new. The picture starts in 1872 when Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) slays Dracula (Christopher Lee), and both die. Cut to a hundred years later and the Van Helsing line has continued with young Jessica (Stephanie Beacham), who's looked over by her professor grandfather (Cushing). The elder Van Helsing also carries on the family tradition with his knowledge of the occult. Jessica hangs out with a bunch of hippie types — hence the opening party — and they are convinced by Johnny Aculard (Christopher Neame) to engage in a satanic ritual, which takes place on the day Dracula died a hundred years ago and is conducted by a guy who last name is Dracula spelled backwards. Dracula wants Jessica to be his bride, and so Johnny makes his ways through her friends as the police and her grandfather try to stop the resurrected vampire. While cast in the modern setting, Dracula A.D. 1972 still stars two men over 40 and is rated PG, making the movie antiquated, even for its time. Perhaps that's for the best — only young children and sobered cast members would find this film frightening. Besides, the further the picture goes on, the less the modernity even matters — Lee and Cushing clash with same results as every entry in the franchise. That said, Lee is one of cinema's great vampires, and the film manages never to bore. Director Gibson adds details of visual panache, and the kitsch factor does add a level of enjoyment. Warner Brothers presents Dracula A.D. 1972 in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) with DD 1.0 audio. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.

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