a.d.1972

Marsha A. Hunt as Gaynor Keating in Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

Marsha Hunt was raised by her mother, aunt, and grandmother after her father committed suicide. She attended Berkeley, moved to England in 1966, and married Mike Ratledge of Soft Machine; she fronted her own band at the Isle of Wight and performed in Hair. Just prior to making her one film for Hammer, Dracula A.D. 1972, she met and had a child with Mick Jagger, and she brought the little girl to the Hammer set. Hunt plays Gaynor, one of a group of swinging London hipsters who participate in a black mass to revive Dracula. They succeed. Hunt becomes Dracula’s first Black victim and participates in an interracial love scene with Christopher Neame (daring stuff for the time). She had just a handful of movie-TV credits of the course of 21 years, with her last coming in 1990. Now an author, she has always been an activist, and is a cancer survivor. She has lived in Ireland since 1995. 

Source: The Women of Hammer Horror: A Biographical Dictionary and Filmography (p. 105)

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Peter Cushing: On Set Candid Behind The Scenes: Dracula AD 1972 AND USA Horritual Campaign

This short doc has been strangely absent from #YOUTUBE for a few months. So here is a fresh RELOAD! Wonderful candid shots of both Cushing and Lee during the making of Hammer Films#DRACULAAD1972. Popping up during the shooting are some familiar faces from the feature film, sneak peep of Lee actually fitting his DEADLY DENTURES, Director Alan Gibson putting both Cushing and Lee through their blocking and shooting. A RARE look at a long gone era of classic film making from the Hammer House of horror…!

Courtesy of the Peter Cushing Appreciation Society

The terrifying lover who died – yet lived: Christopher Lee’s DRACULA films

Sir Christopher Lee became famous for playing Dracula in a string of Hammer Horror films (1958-1973). He portrayed him 9 times (7 for Hammer), often with his friend Peter Cushing in the role of Dracula’s nemesis Van Helsing. Lee also portrayed the bloodsucking count in a Spanish/German Jess Franco film and in a french comedy. But it all started with the Hammer series. Hammer Film Productions is a company based in the United Kingdom best known for a bunch of gothic films. Hammer was the first studio to produce a Dracula film in color with Terence Fisher’s Horror of Dracula in 1958. It is a bit different than the book by Bram Stoker – but like the book, the film begins with Jonathan Harker visiting Count Dracula’s castle in Transylvania. However, he is not a naive real estate agent who tries to sell Dracula (Lee) a house in London. Jonathan is actually a vampire hunter who works for Van Helsing (Cushing) and he’s on a mission to kill Dracula.

Harker is eventually bitten and transforms into a vampire. Van Helsing therefore has to kill him to free his soul. Bummer. In the book, Harker doesn’t die – and he was engaged to Mina not Lucy like he is here. Anyway, one day Lucy begins to behave strangely and Van Helsing suspects that Dracula has something to do with it. Horror of Dracula is fast-paced compared with the Bela Lugosi version from 1931. There’s a lot of blood and Lee looks creepy with his red contact lenses. Audiences in the 50’s weren’t used to that much red stuff. But compared to today’s movies, it’s quite tame. It’s also a low-budget film and they couldn’t even afford Dracula to transform into a bat. In the novel he can also transform into a wolf, a horde of rats and a mist, and he becomes younger when he feeds on blood – while in the film he doesn’t seem to have any special abilities at all. However, it’s a good film and it has that distinguished british look. And even if Dracula’s not a shapeshifter, it somehow just makes him more sinister. Lee only has 13 dialogues in the film – plus a lot of snarls. But he has such a powerful charisma that his presence alone says more than any words can describe.

“Murder, Jessica. That’s what all this is about. Ghastly, horrible, obscene murder!”
- Professor Van Helsing

Hammer’s second Dracula film was The Brides of Dracula and Peter Cushing returned as Van Helsing. But because Christopher Lee isn’t in it, I’ll watch it some other time. Christopher Lee’s second Dracula film was Dracula: Prince of Darkness (also directed by Terence Fisher) and it takes place 10 years after Van Helsing killed Dracula in the first film. Some morons somehow end up in Dracula’s creepy castle, and for some reason they think it seems like a nice place so spend the night. Dracula then rises from the dead, more grumpy than ever, and begins to bite beautiful ladies in the neck again. He doesn’t appear until halfway into the film though. Prior to this, the film builds up to Dracula’s resurrection. Turns out Dracula had a servant (he wasn’t in the first film) who wakes his master by killing one of the morons and pouring blood over his ashes. Peter Cushing isn’t in this one, but Renfield is, and the film’s gothic atmosphere gives me goose bumps. Lee is amazing here, but according to rumors he found the lines he was given so stupid that he chose to play the role silent.

The Dracula sequels had little to do with the original novel, and Christopher Lee has said he didn’t really enjoy being in them. But hey, I’m glad he was, because I sure do enjoy watching them. The third film in the series is Dracula Has Risen From the Grave. After Dracula was killed *again* at the end of Dracula: Prince of Darkness, Transylvania has become a fairly pleasant place to live. But… There’s always a “but”… Just read the title of the movie again and you’ll know what I mean. Yup, the count has risen from the grave. A priest travels to Dracula’s castle to banish the evil from the gothic castle once and for all. But it takes more than a silly exorcism to destroy the fanged undead. The previous film ended with Dracula falling through the ice outside his castle. He froze to death and drowned. Dracula is therefore not within the castle this time. When the priest leaves the castle, he cuts himself on a branch and blood somehow manages to drip down into Dracula’s mouth. Shit, you know what that means: Full resuscitation! This was Hammer Studios’ most profitable film and I really liked it. The camera angles make Dracula very menacing and it’s perhaps Lee’s best performance as the count.

Lee’s fourth Dracula-film for Hammer was Taste the Blood of Dracula (another cool title). This time the ruthless count seeks revenge on those who killed his servant. I’m a huge fan of the old Dracula films with Bela Lugosi, but I’ve always liked the Hammer films a notch better. Lugosi’s tuxedo-clad Dracula is perhaps the ultimate Dracula, but Christopher Lee’s interpretation is perfect. When he looks at you, all he sees is food. He is a monster and when he shows up there’s never any doubt that he can hurt you. Dracula has less to do in this film than in any of the other films. But I dig that he’s not overexposed. It makes him scary and mysterious. This film is a bit different though. You see, Dracula is almost like the hero this time. The same happened to Godzilla in the 70’s, but that’s another story. Dracula isn’t the most vicious characters in the film. For example: A guy gets drunk and abuses his daughter played by Linda Hayden. Dracula therefore hits him with a shovel. A heroic deed, if you ask me. Okay, so Dracula isn’t exactly the hero of the film. But it’s close enough.

Film number five, Scars Of Dracula, differs slightly from the other films. There’s more sex, blood and violence (Wii-hooo!) and Dracula has more screen time than usual and more dialogues than in any of the other Dracula movies combined. He is also more sadistic than ever. He doesn’t just bite hot women. He stabs people with a knife and takes pleasure in torturing people! Grrraaarrrr! This time Dracula is awakened when a ridiculous rubber bat spits blood on his remains. The film doesn’t really have a plot, but it is very entertaining. Let’s move on to the next film, my personal favorite, Dracula A.D. 1972. This funkadelic movie is also quite different than the other ones. It begins in a classic way in the year 1872: Count Dracula and Van Helsing (Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing together again!) are fighting each other in a cool chase scene. But they’re both killed and the film suddenly fasts forward to 1972. We’re then introduced to a bunch of party crazed hippies. The leader of the gang calls himself Johnny Alucard (Dracula backwards) and he’s a huge Dracula-fan. Alucard therefore decides to bring Dracula back to life (“Master, I did it, I summoned you!”) There’s only one man in the world who can save us from the wrath of the modern Dracula and that’s Van Helsing’s grandson Professor Lorimer (Cushing again).

“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.”
- Professor Van Helsing

Caroline Munroe (Starcrash) briefly appears and completely steals the show (what a woman!) as one of Dracula’s victims, and Stephanie Beacham plays Van Helsing’s daughter. The central characters are the hippies, so the film is a bit silly, but the Gothic tone is well-preserved despite the fact that the film is full of acid music and dancing hippies (“Dig the music, kids!”). Dracula A.D. 1972 is the most trashy Hammer film I’ve seen, but it’s very entertaining and like I said, my favorite. Lee’s final Dracula-film for Hammer was The Satanic Rites of Dracula. It too takes place in the 70’s, but there are no hippies or groovy music in it, and it’s darker and far more serious than Dracula A.D. 1972. It’s also the dullest in the series. At least the great Peter Cushing is back as Van Helsing, and here he confronts his enemy for the last time (in Lee’s case at least). The Transylvanian bloodsucker seems more like a Bond villain this time. He has a stylish office and he wants to exterminate humanity, instead of just biting annoying hippies in the neck. There’s also more action than I’m used to, and Dracula even employs an assassin! I’m a big fan of Hammer Films, especially the Dracula series, so it’s impossible for me to say anything negative about them. So, for me, this is another cool movie even though it’s… you know, bad.

Christopher Lee also made two other Dracula films. A french comedy which I haven’t seen yet called Dracula & Son (1976) and an Italian film by Jess Franco called Count Dracula (1970). I really liked Franco’s take on the series. It’s close to Bram Stoker’s novel and it begins with Jonathan Harker traveling to Transylvania to help Dracula with buying property in England. Jonathan gets a little intimidated by him and his spooky castle, and eventually he becomes Dracula’s prisoner. But he manages to escape and is well taken care of by Professor Van Helsing (portrayed by Herbert Lom). Dracula then decides to travel to England to terrorize the recurring Franco-starlets Soledad Miranda and Maria Rohm. Cool movie. I didn’t like the sudden ending though. Franco allegedly financed the whole thing with his own money and it shows. Dangling bats etc. Still, the sets are nice and gothic, and some of the effects are pretty neat – especially Dracula’s fierce disappearing act. Good films. And that’s that.

  1. Horror of Dracula (1958) Director: Terence Fisher
  2. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) Director: Terence Fisher
  3. Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968) Director: Freddie Francis
  4. Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) Director: Peter Sasdy
  5. Scars of Dracula (1970) Director: Roy Ward Baker
  6. Count Dracula (1970) Director: Jess Franco
  7. Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) Director: Alan Gibson
  8. Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) Director: Alan Gibson
  9. Dracula & Son (1976) Director: Edouard Molinaro

Today (May 27) is the birthday of both Vincent Price and Christopher Lee, two of the horror genre’s most iconic players. Even though it’s getting late, there is still time for a classic horror double feature…IF YOU DARE!!!!

Here are some quick recommendations for each:

SIR CHRISTOPHER FRANK CARANDINI LEE, CBE, CStJ

That’s just a sampling. Dude has been in over 200 movies, so I’m sorry if I left out your favorite.

VINCENT LEONARD PRICE, JR

OR

If you are a super-efficient kind of person, you can watch them both at once in  Scream and Scream Again

I have no idea how many, if any, of these are available on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime or YouTube or whatever, but I hope you can get access to at least one of each!

Happy viewing!