HAMMER’S ‘DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE.’ (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

drac risen zena

DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE. (1968) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY BRAM STOKER. DIRECTED BY FREDDIE FRANCIS. PRODUCED BY AIDA YOUNG. SCREENPLAY BY JOHN ELDER.

STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, RUPERT DAVIES, MARION MATHIE, GEORGE A. COOPER, MICHAEL RIPPER, BARRY ANDREWS, EWAN HOOPER, NORMAN BACON, BARBARA EWING AND VERONICA CARLSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a stunning addition to the Hammer Dracula canon. It’s the third in the series to feature Christopher Lee as the Count, coming after DRACULA (1958) and DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1965). Christopher Lee is in excellent form as the titular Dracula, or ‘the fanged undead,’ as he’s rather pithily described in the promotional material.

Very fine form indeed, especially considering he’s supposed to have spent the last several years frozen under the icy-cold waters that flow near his castle in the mountains. Still looking very good too, just waiting for a clumsy man of the cloth to lose his footing, crack the ice, under which Dracula slumbers uneasily, with his bonce and bleed his blood on to the sleeping vampire’s lips.

The first half hour is truly magnificent and super-exciting. A little village in the Hammer-created ‘Mitt-Europe’ that Hammer do so well has had its church horribly desecrated by Dracula. The Prince of Darkness has chosen to ravish and murder a beautiful and busty young woman in its little bell-tower, leading to one of the most spectacular ‘reveals’ of a victim’s blood-drained cadaver in the studio’s history.

A visiting Monsignor, name of Ernest Mueller, responsible for all the churches in the area, is distressed to see that a shadow cast by the vampire’s castle, even though the vampire himself is supposed to be dead, is preventing the superstitious locals from attending church services. Any excuse not to go to Mass, eh?

The Monsignor decides to climb up to the castle himself, reluctantly accompanied by the parish priest who will soon be enslaved by Dracula and forced to work as his lackey, and exorcise the damned place once and for all.

Dracula, however, accidentally revived by the terrified parish priest, is more than pissed off to discover that his home has been befouled by the Monsignor and his shimmering golden cross.

He determines to seek revenge against the poor old Monsignor, for which purpose the action moves to the Monsignor’s sweet little home village of Keinenberg, a picturesque wee place surrounded by the mountains.

The Monsignor lives very comfortably indeed there with his brother’s widow, a fine figure of a woman called Anna who does everything for him except warm his bed, and her beautiful daughter Maria, the Monsignor’s niece.

A less worthy man than the Monsignor might be tempted to take advantage and enjoy a little mother-daughter action, but the Monsignor’s motives are as pure as the driven snow. Even while his buxom sister-in-law is kneeling at his feet putting on his slippers when he arrives home after a hard day’s exorcising, not once, seemingly, does he feel the urge to say: ‘Um, while you’re down there, Anna…!’

Played by Hammer’s latest discovery of the time, the ravishing blonde-haired Veronica Carlson, Maria first bounces charmingly on to the screen dressed in a gorgeous dusky pink dress complete with Little Red Riding Hood cloak.

She’s looking for her boyfriend Paul, a college student, so she can bring him to dinner to meet her mother and uncle, the Monsignor. And where else would she look for him but in Max’s public-house, where he pulls pints and is training to be a pastry chef under the not-so-watchful eye of the endlessly good-humoured Max?

Max is played by Hammer stalwart Michael Ripper, who surely, more than anyone else living or dead, was born to pull pints in a Hammer-created ‘Mitt-European’ alehouse, Gawd bless ‘is little ‘eart.

The getting-to-know-you dinner at the Monsignor’s house goes tits-up, and Paul is ordered out of the house on the grounds that he has the audacity to admit to his girlfriend’s uncle that he’s an atheist, goddammit, but never mind all that for now.

The Monsignor and his family have bigger problems than the curly-headed, happy-go-lucky Paul, who actively encourages his goody-two-shoes girlfriend to visit him at night via the surprisingly dizzy rooftops of Keinenberg, if you can believe that. No true gentleman would ever permit his girlfriend to do such a dangerous thing, especially when she’s lacking in, shall we say, a little blood…? What an ungallant cad he is.

Anyway, Dracula has found the perfect way to get back at the Monsignor, and that’s through his lovely niece Maria. Maria’s seduction by the Count is not as knee-tremblingly sexy as Melissa Stribling’s in the 1958 DRACULA, but it’s a nice little scene nonetheless.

It involves open bedroom windows, pleasant terraces overlooking the mountains and another mesmerised woman walking hesitantly backwards towards her bed, while gazing up the whole time into red bloodshot eyes, like a rabbit fascinated by the snake that’s poised to pounce on it.

Dracula’s other girlfriend here, Max’s busty brunette barmaid Zena, has a bit more chutzpah and oomph, if you get me, than the rather prissy Maria, but Dracula treats poor Zena appallingly. Which only makes women like me fancy him all the more, heh-heh-heh. Women in these Dracula films are here for two reasons only, to be used and abused, and to damn well be the eye candy while they’re doing it, lol. Ah well, it’s nice, at least, to know where you stand.

Poor Maria gets dragged from pillar to post as well by the Count, in her bare feet and white nightie to boot, but at least Dracula doesn’t try to bury her alive like he does Melissa Stribling in the 1958 film.

It’s up to Paul, the not-very-swotty college student and would-be pastry chef, to save not only Maria from the evil clutches of Dracula, but the village of Keinenberg as well. Is the curly-headed one up to the task…?

In this film, a neat little addition to the folklore surrounding the fanged undead is included, in the form of a caveat that decrees that you can’t just stake Dracula through the heart and he’ll obligingly die. You’ve got to mumble Latin words from the Bible over him as well, or he won’t croak. Now I wonder where on God’s green earth we can find a padre to do the necessary at this hour of the night…?

I love the scene where Zena is being chased through the forest at night, by the mysterious black coach with the four black horses with the black plumes on their heads. Such a fearsome carriage could only belong to one man. The poor horses seem to get whipped a lot by the Count in this film, but I’m fairly certain that it’s only pretend-whipping, lol. I love George A. Cooper as the landlord of the tavern in the village with the cursed church, by the way. He’s a terrific actor.

This is a gorgeous-looking film. The forty-six-year-old Christopher Lee is still very much engaged in the series, and it really shows. (He was at his sexiest in his forties and fifties, and even his sixties, if you ask me.) Some people say that he zoned out a bit towards the end but I don’t know. Down in the murky, leaky basement of Max’s tavern (it’s a good job that Max never seems to go down there!), the centre of operations where his black coffin rests imposingly on blocks of wood, he’s very much the master of all he surveys.

He’s magnificent here as the Count, and his two chosen concubines, Zena and Maria, are très easy on the eye as well. Michael Ripper is behind the bar in the tavern, dispensing homespun wisdom along with the ale and sausage rolls and meat pies. God’s in his heaven, and all’s well with the world of Hammer.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

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