31 Days of Halloween 2: Dracula Has Risen

dracula1In Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1970), Dracula does what he does best, and rises from the grave to drink brightly colored fake blood.  This movie follows the Dracula continuity from previous sequels, but you don’t need to know what happened in Horror of Dracula (1958) or Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), to follow this movie.  All you need is a good story and good characters, and that’s what you get.  This movie has striking visuals thanks to director Freddie Francis, though he messes with vampire mythology.

dracula2You’ve got to love a direct approach.  The title and the title screen tell you what’s going to happen, as if you didn’t already know.  Christopher Lee is a great Dracula, and he has plenty of victims in this film.  His character is as evil and determined as in Horror of Dracula. All that people can talk about for twenty minutes is how they’re still afraid of Dracula, though he’s still buried in the ice, as all Christopher Lee fans saw in Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966).

Priestly guy:  And what are you so afraid of?

Scared Man:  The castle sir!  The castle is still EVIL.  It’s EVIL, sir!  The shadow touches the church.

Priestly guy: Really.  Those are some evil shadows.

You really have to be afraid to believe the shadows are out to get you.  I guess the priest was really concerned for the town, because he and another guy hike it up to the castle to place a cross on the door, but end up releasing Dracula from the ice inadvertently.  Once Dracula is released, he doesn’t take over the movie.  As in most sequels, the main characters are the focus of the movie.

dracula3The highlight of this movie is the strong supporting cast.  The two best actors are Barry Andrews and Veronica Carlson, who play well off each other as boyfriend and girlfriend.  Andrews plays Paul, who is just your ordinary schmoe.  He is not a super-intelligent scientist and he’s not a vampire hunter, a la Van Helsing.  He seems to be interested in Maria, played by Carlson, and comes to her rescue when she’s threatened by Dracula.  Andrews puts on a good performance.

dracula5The most interesting thing about Paul is that he is an atheist.  This is an obstacle for him and makes it hard for him to fight Dracula, since he refuses to pray and use the cross.  He finds his faith though and ends up killing Dracula in the end.  It is a nice little character arc that works well, but the movie changes some of the vampire mythology to fit this character arc.  For example, Paul drives a stake right through the heart of Dracula, but it doesn’t kill him, because Paul has to also pray to finish him off.  He can’t or won’t, so Dracula pulls the friggin stake out of his own chest and throws it back at Paul like a baseball.  Pretty awesome.  Take that atheists.

 Christopher Lee later gave an interview about this movie and said the following:

“Everyone knows a stake through the heart is the very end of a vampire. I objected at the time but it was overruled. It was an extremely gruesome sequence. The blood came pouring out…So, we shot the thing, with my lying in the coffin, writhing around and hissing ferociously, as I tug on this huge stake, getting progressively wetter and wetter and colder from the fake blood that was poring out of the ‘wound’ in my chest. And the movie went out and made a fortune. So there you are…”

dracula4The reason this movie did so much better than the previous Dracula sequels is that it was rated “G” in the United States.  This was due to a change in the ratings system in 1968, which seemed to think that this horror movie was tame enough for general audiences.  It is interesting how ratings have gotten more lenient over the years, even with the increase in gore and blood. I’m not sure what they were thinking giving this movie a “G”, because it is not a cartoon and not for kids, though it made buckets of money, so Hammer made one a year for four years in response.

dracula6This movie is directed by Freddie Francis, who took over for the great Terrance Fisher, director of Horror of Dracula and Frankenstein and the Monster from HELL, my previous review.  His direction is good.  He uses a filter effect in the Dracula scenes and flexes his stylistic muscles for this one.  Most shots are traditional and close in on characters to show you emotions, but overall, this movie reminds me of an old-time comic book or serial film.

All in all, I like this film.  A lot of children probably became Dracula fans after watching this one, considering its rating.  Either that, or they were traumatized.  Personally, I think it gets better as it goes along and Christopher Lee does some of his best Dracula reactions, even crying blood at one point.  The only problem is that the Dracula character lacks the charm that Gary Oldman later put into it, or is in the book.  Christopher Lee certainly has a presence though, and Hammer couldn’t have released the film without him.  This movie is probably the peak of the Hammer Dracula series, and it delivers on its promise: Dracula rises from the grave and puts on a good show.

Check back for more reviews!

31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon

1 – Frankenstein and the Monster from HELL (1974)
2 – Dracula has risen from the grave (1968)
3 – The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
4 – Evil Dead II (1987)
5 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
6 – Les Diaboliques (1955)
7 – The Howling (1981)
8 – Friday the 13th (1980)
9 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
10 – Hellraiser (1987)
11 – Let the Right One in (2008)
12 – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1984)
13 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
14 – The Strangers (2008)
15 – The House of the Devil (2009)
16 – Psycho (1960)
17 – The Orphanage (2007)
18 – The Amityville Horror (1979)
19 – The Raven (1963)
20 – Blue Velvet (1986)
21 – Repulsion (1965)
22 – Dementia 13 (1963)
23 – The Vanishing (2008)
24 – Halloween (1978)
25 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
26 – The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
27 – An American Werewolf in London (1981)
28 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
29 – The Exorcist (1973)
30 – The Ring (2002)
31 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)