The old centuries had, and have, powers of their own that mere 'modernity' cannot kill.
-- Bram Stoker, Dracula
Let me state at the outset: any film with a date in the title is a bad idea. Admittedly, Hammer Films had hit paydirt with their Raquel Welch bikini-fest One Million Years BC, but sadly Dracula A.D. 1972 does not live up to Hammer's own questionable standards.
The vampire genre had been resurrected in the late 1960s and 70s, largely as a result of Hammer Films' efforts. Hammer had made about half a dozen vampire films through the preceding decade, but was facing the problem that many horror producers faced: filmgoers had lost their appetite for gothic horror. The traditional dinner-suited vampire was looking increasingly passé, and generally played for laughs rather than terror.
Early attempts to give vampires a modern movie makeover generally tried to avoid the issue entirely: Andy Warhol's Dracula and Hammer's Karnstein series just added modern sex and gore to the mix but kept the period settings. Blaxploitation film Blacula and its excellently titled sequel was a bit more successful with its pimpin' 70s setting, as was Count Yorga. Both films placed the vampire into the modern day, both were relatively successful, and so the time was ripe for Hammer to move its favorite demon into the present day.
THE TIME: NOW
THE PLACE: KINGS ROAD, CHELSEA
THE KILLER: COUNT DRACULA
-- promotional poster for Dracula A.D. 1972
Hammer brought out their big guns for Dracula A.D. 1972. Peter Cushing returned to the role of Van Helsing, a role that he had last played numerous times for Hammer. Opposite him was Christopher Lee in the role that he owned. They had a new director, Alan Gibson, who looked capable. Even the concept was fantastic and (as yet) not overdone – Dracula arrives in Swinging 60s London, havoc ensues. Everything looked promising. Everything went wrong.
While later films like Salem’s Lot, Near Dark, or even Buffy made a strong and confident attempt to show us vampires having adjusted to the modern world, Dracula A.D. 1972 avoids any of its hidden potential whatsoever. Christopher Lee is trapped in the confines of a Gothic church for the entire length of the film, and the crude attempt at incorporating Swinging London into the Hammer Dracula milieu is hilarious. Moments of cringe-inducing dialogue generally aren’t too hard to find in a Hammer Film, but there is something about one of the teens saying “Listen to the music, man,” during a black magic ceremony that really grates. The film plays like an attempt to appeal to a youth movement made by people that weren’t a part of it, and something that probably seemed dated even by the time the film was released. And then there is a dreadful 1970s rock score on the soundtrack to contend with.
Directed by Alan Gibson
Screenplay by Don Houghton
Christopher Lee Count Dracula
Peter Cushing Professor Van Helsing
Stephanie Beacham Jessica Van Helsing
Christopher Neame Johnny Alucard
Michael Coles Inspector
Marsha A. Hunt Gaynor
Caroline Munro Laura