Dracula Has Risen From the Grave

Dir: Freddie Francis
Star: Christopher Lee, Ewan Hooper, Rupert Davies, Veronica Carlson

Trash City
Top 50 Film
I'm curious to watch some of the other Hammer Draculas - particularly those involving Peter Cushing - and see how they match up to this. Certainly, it benefits from being somewhat more restrained and avoids the silliness which would tend to plague their later productions, as they strove to keep up with Hollywood. Lee also demonstrates the way a vampire should be, balancing between the sensual Eurotrash cliche of Anne Rice and the mindless eating machine: he has a feral intensity, and there's no denying his viciousness, yet you can also see the appeal. I also thoroughly enjoyed the jabs at religious hypocrisy, as Dracula is resurrected by the blood of a priest who has lost his faith (Hooper), and subsequently strikes out for revenge against the Monsignor who sealed Dracula's castle with a crucifix - said revenge involving the Monsignor's (inevitably, pretty) niece. Yet, ironically, the only hope she has is her atheist boyfriend (Barry Andrews).

The most interesting character however, is Hooper's nameless priest, who ends up becoming Dracula's henchmen, Renfield-like. He struggles with his consience, yet is largely powerless to resist. There is, this being Hammer, naturally a dose of reactionary conservatism, with the local slutty barmaid (Barbara Ewing) meeting a bad end; this being Hammer, that doesn't even count as a spoiler. Carlson, playing the niece, is a natural counterpoint - blonde vs. brunette, chaste vs. wanton - though doesn't get as much to do except climb over the rooftop sets. Francis's strength as a cinematographer is apparent, and it's certainly among the lushest and best-looking Hammer films, full of striking, if sometimes illogical, imagery such as Dracula's tears of blood. Though the pacing on this seems a bit off: it takes quite some time to establish everything, and the finale is set-up, takes place and we roll credits inside about two minutes. Merely one in a series which contained a number of great films, while this remains very good, I'm probably open to being convinced that there are better ones to act as Hammer's representative.

January 2008

Lurid middle-European poster
for the film
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