Originally Posted by EvilTwin
DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968)
Kind of sloppy. Kind of fun. It's formula with a couple of points of interest at this point instead of a legitimately good movie.
One of those good points is that it looks good, albeit not quite hiding that it's pretty cheap. Freddy Francis takes over as director for this outing and as you would expect from an award winning cinematographer, SONS AND LOVERS, THE INNOCENTS, THE ELEPHANT MAN, DUNE, GLORY, CAPE FEAR, & THE STRAIGHT STORY, he knows how to frame an image. The other points of directing elude him a bit, but reasonably good looking formula is more than a lot of later horror entries can provide. There's also a darn solid opening, which I'll go into.
There's a prologue set during the events of PRINCE OF DARKNESS, where a trail of blood from a belfrey leads to the discovery on a victim of Dracula stuffed into a church bell, desecrating the church. One of the quickest and best shock openings of a Hammer film to date. The movie then jumps a year with the disillusioned Priest (Ewan Hooper), he has no other name, saying Mass to an empty church and then going to the bar to get drunk. Needless to say this doesn't sit well with Monsignor Ernest Mueller (Rupert Davies). Between the church desecration and the fact that the shadow of Castle Dracula touches the church, the locals will have nothing to do with the place. They won't even mention Dracula by name, shades of Voldemort. In a tit for tat, the Monsignor sets out to exorcise Castle Dracula with a big cross and drags the Priest along. Turns out that in between movies Castle Dracula has gotten a lot harder to get to, requiring a strenuous climb up a mountain. The Priest, due to a lack of courage and shaken faith, drops out but the Monsignor makes it an performs the rites of exorcism amid a raging thunderstorm and placing a cross on the doors. Perhaps this is the first exorcism performed on screen, perhaps not, but it's a good one. However, the Priest gets frightened during the exorcism and falls down a rocky slope bashing his head and unleashing a small stream of blood. Which finds its way to the icebound remains of Dracula. Almost immediately, Dracula is demanding to know who did the exorcism and sets out with the "fallen" Priest in his thrall for revenge on the Monsignor.
Too bad the rest of the film isn't up to the opening.
Given this is 1968, Hammer isn't about to have a film without a strong youth presence and the focus of the film abruptly changes from the Priest, Dracula, and the Monsignor to the Monsignor's niece Maria (the lovely Veronica Carlson) and her baker/student boyfriend Paul (Barry Andrews). And their romantic difficulties as it turns out that Paul is <gasp> an atheist. The revelation of which gets him booted from Maria's birthday party and into the arms of slutty barmaid Zena (Barbara Ewing) who works at the pub/bakery where Paul lives and works. Dracula however has his eyes on Zena and then on Maria. Wacky hijinks ensue. And the Priest's loyalties shift a couple of times.
None of this is particularly bad. None of this is particularly inspired either. Except for the well exposed cleavage of Barbara Ewing who's outfitted in a particularly loose fitting blouse in most of the film. But it's here that the film loses its narrative drive for awhile.
Still, there's fun to be had. Some lovely women to ogle. Francis plays with color filters at the edge of the screen. There are some fine shots. Christopher Lee looks imposing and gets to act sadistic, savagely whipping horses, abusing the Priest and Zena, and saying lines like "You have failed. You must be punished." with particular relish. Dracula's attacks are also played as particularly sexual in nature.
The couple does a lot of traveling between their places via rooftops and there are a couple of encounters with Dracula up there. It reminded me of BATMAN RETURNS with the rooftop scenes at times. For old time computer game fans, the fact that Dracula's borrowed coffin in hidden in the sewers accessed via a stairwell in the wine cellar may be amusing.
It's also quite sloppy continuity wise. Lee's Dracula has bloodshot eyes in every scene except his bedroom visit to Maria. Dracula's reflection is seen twice, in the water post resurrection and in Maria's glass doors to her balcony. Sacks in front of the wine cellar door come and go at random. And there are plenty more little sloppy continuity errors for the sharp eyed viewer to spot. Plus the day for night shooting is really obvious and there's not a single set that looks all the impressive. There's the air of a really tight deadline and rushed production schedule about this.
This is also a film that despite Hammer's reputation for skin and shocks is ultimately quite conservative in nature. The slutty girl is punished. The atheist comes to believe. I think this is the first time that the idea that you have to believe in order to kill a vampire was used on film, although I think it ultimately was used to better effect in SALEM'S LOT and FRIGHT NIGHT.
Ultimately, there's another race back to Dracula's castle (which is a lot easier to get to at the end of the film than the beginning) where he's escaping with the girl. But even though it should be old hat, it still works. I think a good reason for that is that Hammer is good at finding new wrinkles for the climax and don't rely on the same method for dispatching Dracula. (Cameron's done this trick himself in ALIENS and T2.) This time it involves Dracula getting impaled on the big cross with the Priest's prayers and Paul's willingness to believe doing Dracula in. Darn it all if it doesn't work.
This is a far cry from the pleasures of HORROR OF DRACULA and BRIDES OF DRACULA. The absence of Peter Cushing is especially felt in this one as no one in opposition to Dracula is really that interesting or charismatic. But, despite some obvious sloppiness, this is essentially competent formula. Too bad a soggy middle kind of does it in from being more than that.
Love these reviews, Mr. Evil Twin.
I did this one for DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE's DVD for BloodyNews.com back in 2004 -- you made me think of it, given your obvious and genuine affection for this series (which is something we share).
DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968)
DIRECTOR: Freddie Francis
Lugosi never did it for me. His phonetically-rendered English and corny Valentino impressions seemed at odds with the sense of muddied nobility the character of Count Dracula was supposed to possess. And he looked fat. Dracula was by no means supposed to be a Chubby.
No, boys and girls, it was always the Hammer cycle for me. I grew up watching the Dracula and Frankenstein sagas, and still bow regularly before the Studio That Dripped Blood. I have fond childhood memories of staying up late (past ten!) on Saturday nights to catch Brides of Draculaon USA, or maybe Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell on Ghost Host. While my peers were indulging in Fast Food movie franchises like Friday the 13th, I was getting both Filet Mignon (blood and cleavage) as well as nutritious veggies (low-rent Masterpiece Theater). Wanna see tits and get educated? Stop, Hammer Time!
The Dracula series was my drug of choice. Christopher Lee can play a tree stump and be sincere about it; but his performances as the Lord of the Undead have earned him his god-like status in the pantheon of legendary character actors. The mere fact that he could (and still can) add a touch of class to even the cheesiest of productions is a testament to his presence; and if we’re going to be honest about it, Hammer had its share of Velveeta moments (Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, anyone?). Still, the good outweighs the cheddar. In most cases, the “good” is the cheddar. This is what makes a Hammer movie so entertaining: its silly sense of self-awareness.
After 1958’s Horror of Dracula, which was (very) loosely based on Stoker’s novel, the Hammer machine began cranking out sequels to its literary adaptations. There were seven Dracula films in all, each one becoming progressively sillier than the last, and somehow more entertaining whether because of (or in spite of) it. Each film picked up where the last one left off, beginning with the old Bleed On Dracula’s Ashes routine, a surefire way of resurrecting the Count no matter the circumstances of his previous death; and soon the old vampire was off tormenting some virginal beauty while seducing a few big breasted wenches along the way. Eventually, the heroine’s boyfriend realizes that it’s a full-on Drac Attack, and, in the final reel, chases the old pervert back to his lair where the girlfriend is held prisoner. Dracula buys it in some goofy-ass way. Roll credits.
The stories weren’t important. Hell, Dracula was basically a guest star in his own movies, if you want to get technical about it. Whatever the case, you watched the films for two basic reasons: to see how Dracula is resurrected, and then to see how they kill him again. Each film tried to top the previous “death” in terms of inventiveness and originality. Some were great (God throws a lightning bolt in Scars of Dracula); some weren’t (death by Church decorations in Taste the Blood of Dracula). Still, you’re always entertained. Even when the saga fell apart with the painful double-penetration of Dracula A.D. 1972 and its follow-up, The Satanic Rites of Dracula, it was hard to dislike the proceedings. It’s like an old, tired dog that’s lying limply at your feet: it tries so hard to please despite its arthritis and glaucoma that you can’t bring yourself to be too annoyed when it shits on the rug.
Now that everyone knows that I love these movies like an old blanket, let’s talk about the third film in the franchise, the newly-released-on-DVD Dracula Has Risen From the Grave.
At the end of the previous film, Dracula: Prince of Darkness, our Heroic Young Couple (assisted by Andrew Keir as Father Sandor) dropped old Vlad into the frigid moat surrounding his own castle. A year has passed, and the nearby villagers of that fictional part of Germany where everyone speaks in British accents are still living in fear of the Count. After all, the son of a bitch keeps coming back.
The visiting Monsignor, Ernst Muller (the great Rupert Davies) is baffled that the villagers have seemingly lost their faith in the Almighty and are shying away from Sunday Mass (probably due to the fact that Drac stuffed a drained corpse in one of the church bells a few years before). Irritated by the peasants’ superstition, he decides to hike up to Castle Dracula and prove that the former owner is dead, which, as fans of horror franchises know, is almost always a bad idea.
He nominates the theologically crippled priest of the village, a priest named, appropriately enough, Priest (a completely re-dubbed Ewan Hooper) to take the trek with him, and together the two make their way up the ominous, fog-enshrouded mountain that leads to the abandoned fortress. Just to confirm our fears, they arrive once the sun’s gone down. Cue James Bernard score: bah bah bah bahhh…BUM BUH-BUMMMMMMM!
Anyway, the Priest has a panic attack and decides to wait in the forest while the Monsignor performs an exorcism on the castle. As if the sudden appearance of an unexpected storm isn’t enough to tell old Ernst that this is a bad idea, the Collar Jockey decides to really push his luck by barring the castle gate with a large, gold cross. Suddenly the sky is weaved with lightning, and amidst the chaos, the hiding Priest takes a tumble down the slope, cracking his head on the ice under which Dracula is frozen. In typical Hammer fashion, the blood from the Priest’s wound trickles through the splintered ice and directly into Drac’s mouth, resuscitating the evil tyrant. Bah bah bah bahhh…BUM BUH-BUMMMMMM!
Meanwhile, the Monsignor calls it a day and goes home, while the Priest is held captive by the newly-risen Lord of the Undead, who’s fairly pissed that he can’t access his newly-sanctified lair. With the appropriate amount of restrained malice, Dracula forces the Priest to lead him to the Monsignor’s distant village to…you guessed it…have his revenge. BUM-BUH-BUMMMMMM!
Cut to Euro-England. We meet Maria, Muller’s virginal, live-in niece (the still-hot Veronica Carlson) and her dashing young suitor, a University student named Paul (Barry Andrews). Everything seems perfect between them until Maria brings Paul home to meet Monsignor Muller/Uncle Jesus and the young man announces his atheism at the dinner table. Way to go, Paul! The obvious faux pas aside, we don’t get too worried when Muller boots the kid out of his house: by the film’s end, the two will, obviously, become allies against Dracula, and the boy will, of course, discover his Faith in order to save the woman he loves from the threat of Ultimate Evil.
It’s all pretty standard stuff for a Hammer film. What sets this film apart from the previous two installments, however, is the change in regime. Both Horror of Draculaand its sequel, Dracula: Prince of Darkness,were helmed by Terrance Fisher, the man who put Hammer on the map. The purists consider him the finest of the studio’s directors, but the reasoning is typically sentimental in nature. Fisher was very old-fashioned in execution, and not terribly inventive.
Fresh blood was injected into the franchise (ha ha!) beginning with Dracula Has Risen From The Grave, directed by the legendary Freddie Francis, the Academy Award-winning cinematographer of Sons and Lovers and Glory. As with the current Harry Potter film (read review here), the changing of the guard breathes new life into a potentially tired premise. This is the first Hammer film with a “modern” look to it; and the use of locations (and a few fairly impressive matte paintings and miniatures) sets it apart from its predecessors. The staging of scenes results in atmospheric environments (the hike to Castle Dracula) and intimate character shots (Dracula hissing, “Who has done this thing?”). These are things we take for granted today, but for a Hammer movie circa 1968, it’s positively groundbreaking. The day-for-night is pretty dodgy at times, but overall, between its vibrant colour and impressive lighting, it’s an incredibly gorgeous film to look at.
However, Francis is a bit too ambitious at times, using coloured filters during all sequences featuring Dracula. Only the sides of the frame are tinted, casting a sort of spotlight on the centre. The problem is, the spotlight doesn’t move, so the effect rarely matches the onscreen action. Still, it’s pretty trippy for a Hammer film, and along with the psychedelic credits sequence, the attempts to experiment are certainly welcome. James Bernard’s score also features some new, restrained variations on the Dracula Theme which are easier on the ear than some of his louder efforts.
Dracula Has Risen From the Grave is definitely one of the better entries in the series. Christopher Lee actually gets some dialogue this time around (he refused to speak the lines given to him in Prince of Darkness), and character actress Barbara Ewing shows a nice amount of boobage. There’s also a great little false climax where Dracula gets staked and pulls the thing out just when we think he’s done for. Lee hated the scene, and as a result, hates the film for the way it betrays the mythology of the vampire (and you thought Internet fanboys were obsessive!). Nevertheless, the “real” death is pretty satisfying, leaving the audience to wonder how Drac’s ashes are gonna get bled on in the next film. I won’t spoil it, but I’ll leave you with these two words: Blood cocktail. I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself.
This is a classic. Put down that Final Destination 2 DVD the next time you’re at Blockbuster and introduce yourself to more nutritious fare.
8.9 out of 10
This transfer is gorgeous. The colours are rich, and there’s little grain to be seen. I doubt much restorative work was done here, but this is easily the best-looking version of Dracula Has Risen From the Grave that I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s the best-looking Hammer DVD I’ve seen, as well. The film is presented in a “matted” widescreen format.
9.0 out of 10
The sound, however, sucks harder than Dracula trying to drain a used tampon. Although not specified, it sounds like the really crappy 2.0 mix I hear on every single “second tier” Warner Brothers release. You’ll have to CRANK THIS ONE UP IF YOU WANT TO HEAR WHAT THEY’RE SAYING.
In honor of the mix, I’ll give the sound a rating of:
2.0 out of 10
Warner Brothers hates their customers, which is why these “escapee” discs keep escaping without any sort of audio or visual work done on them, and little to no supplemental features to speak of. All we get is a very dated theatrical trailer and a French audio track for when you’re entertaining those drop-in Canadians. Add the Spanish subtitle option and you’ve got Dracula in three different flavours.
2.0 out of 10
It may not be the coolest image in the world, but the original poster art adds a touch of history that some cheesy Photoshopped montage would lack. The disc image of Drac leaning over Maria is also pretty kick-ass.
However, as we’ve already established, the WB likes pissing consumers off, which would explain the fact that snap cases still exist. This particular Snapper disagrees with the concept of “closing,” so trying to lock it without fucking up the case is something of a chore.
7.0 out of 10.
This is a keeper. For those of you new to Hammer, I’d advise picking up the recently-released Hammer Horror Collection and get some schoolin’. For the rest of us, who grew up watching these on Saturday nights and waited anxiously to see how Dracula was going to Buy the Farm each time, then possession of this (as well as the rest of the studio’s catalogue) is essential.