This blog is a place for Me to review classic British films (in particular horror films) by Hammer, Amicus and the like. But I will occasionally branch out and review international films as these are the international counterpart to the British films, some of which will include works by American International Pictures, Mario Bava et al. I hope you enjoy!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Dracula AD 1972


After being defeated by Van Helsing in 1872, Dracula is then resurrected in present day 1972. Here he goes about hunting Jessica Van Helsing in order enact his ultimate revenge; to end the Van Helsing blood line once and for all.

Dracula AD 1972 is a 1972 Hammer Production. It stars Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Stephanie Beacham. It was directed by Alan Gibson. It is the 7th film in the Hammer Dracula series. It was due to the success of 1970's Count Yorga, Vampire (which is a modern day set vampire film) that Warner Bros commissioned Hammer to make 2 present day set Dracula films. The time frame of this Dracula film is different to that of the previous ones, the segment at the start portraying Dracula and Van Helsing's final battle is set in 1872 but in Dracula where they meet for the first time it is somewhere in the 1880s.

This one gets straight into the action and it's pretty good too. Dracula and Van Helsing are doing battle, their “final battle” I might add, on top of a runaway coach. As if that isn't enough, the coach then crashes into a tree causing Dracula to get impaled with a broken wheel. AWESOME! Van Helsing watches him as he dies and then dies himself. What can I say, the whole ordeal must have knocked it out of him. All the while another person has been watching the whole thing, presumably a disciple of Dracula's as he then puts some of his remains into a glass container and buries them near Van Helsing's grave just after his funeral. Cue the funky 70s music.

The funky 70s music, which I might add is the same one track used throughout the film, is terrible. I mean, fair enough use it at the start to establish the setting. There it's fine, the camera moves away from the shot of Van Helsing's grave still in 1872 with on screen text saying “Dracula” then looks to the sky and suddenly a shot of a plane and the rest of the title “AD 1972” appears as does the funky music. That is fine, it sets the time frame for the film. What isn't fine is the continuous use of it, it completely kills great scenes. It sounds like that of what you would expect in a blaxsploitation film, but more about the funky 70s music and how it kills the mood later.

Hey, these teens are smart, they seem to know their stuff about how long it will take for a police car to arrive to the house to arrest them, they've taken into consideration that it's Saturday night, that they'll have to take an alternative route to avoid the traffic, hell they've probably even taken into consideration airspeed velocity. And there's me thinking they were just a bunch of drunken hippies. Oh wait, they were wrong. Nee Nor, Nee Nor. The police have arrived.

Where frilly shirts still in, in 1972?

Call me dull, but why does every group of young people want to play with black magic and raise the Devil. I was always content just playing with pogs. Why can't they just get pissed and stoned, then settle down and play a nice game of Monopoly in the old church instead of resurrecting Dracula?

The guy who is resurrecting Dracula is a descendant of his 1872 ancestor (who also looked exactly like him that's Spatial Genetic Multiplicity that is), but what I'm wondering is why did he wait til 1972 to bring him back. What made him think “1972, yeah I think he'll like this.”? I know it's the whole 100 years to the date of his death malarkey but they never waited 100 years to resurrect him in the other 6 films. He must have been resurrected every other week in those.

Again with the funky 70s music. It's just killed the atmospheric mood. I don't know why it's used so much because there is some creepy Hammer-y style music in there that works brilliantly. But then it gets blended into the funky music and kills it. They should have just used the typical Hammer style creepy music for those scenes and it would have been brilliant, we don't need reminding that it's set in 1972 they're wearing flares for fuck sake!

BEST LINE EVER! “I'll bet you a pound to a piece of shit” What the hell does it even mean? I have no idea, but it's brilliant! I'm going to use that.

That's twice now that I've seen a teenager parking their car outside and walking into the old church leaving the car headlights turned on. Don't they realise it'll drain the battery? Good luck fleeing from Dracula in your car when the battery is dead. Idiot.

Great choice of music for the sequence when Peter Cushing's Van Helsing is in a panic running around the streets searching for his grand daughter. Yep, you've guessed it, the funky 70s music. Very appropriate, obviously. Now let's go and have a dance, after all I reckon Van Helsing would be if he wasn't all in a fluster.

Completely loving the use of Stephanie Beacham's boobs by the way. Now I know they're lovely and all, but do they really need to be peering into shot when the focus isn't even her but is instead Dracula and his hand burning because he held a cross?

Great death! Van Helsing throws Holy water at Dracula which causes him to lose his footing and fall into a grave full of stakes. And if that isn't enough Van Helsing then grabs a spade and pushes it into Dracula's back forcing him even more onto the stakes so that they go right throw him and out the other side. Fuck yes!

Overall, it's not the best Dracula film as you will have gathered, and as such it does get a bad rap from most people. But I can't help but still enjoy it, it has it's faults (mainly the constant use of the same piece of funky 70s music) but for me it's a sort of guilty pleasure. It's just a fun film. It's a shame Dracula doesn't do much mind, but the scenes when both him and Van Helsing are together are when he kicks into action. Unfortunately those scenes are what start and end the film, so what you have in between is Dracula telling his disciple to bring Jessica to him but he keeps bringing the wrong women so Dracula keeps being pissed off, and Van Helsing assisting the police in hunting Dracula. What is great about this though is it's the first Dracula film to star both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing since the first Dracula film in 1958. There seems to be this running theme of reincarnation, or at least the idea of a descendant looking the same as a person from the past. Both the disciple and Van Helsing look like their ancestors, so that's interesting. All in all, I'd probably say only watch this if you're a big fan of the Hammer Dracula films (like me!) otherwise it will probably put you off watching any of the others.

Dracula AD 1972 3/5

Friday, 8 April 2011

Don't Look Now


After the death of their daughter Christine, John and Laura move to Venice where John is helping to reconstruct an old church. Whilst there Laura meets two old women, one of which claims to be psychic and tells Laura not to be sad about Christine because she's happy. This causes Laura to feel immensely better, the best she's felt since before her daughter died. So she keeps talking to them and wants to contact Christine. All the while John is sceptical and refuses to be part of it. The psychic woman claims that Christine is warning them of danger that lies ahead. John begins to see a figure wearing a red trench coat the same as that of which Christine was wearing when she drown. But who is it? Could it really be their daughter back from the grave...and in Venice?

Don't Look Now is a 1973 Casey Productions and Eldorado Films production. It stars Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland. It was directed by Nicolas Roeg.

That was weird. John was looking at a photograph of the church he's going to be reconstructing, not only did he notice someone sitting there (you can only see the person from behind) who looks remarkably like his daughter. But then he spilt a drink (some wine I think) on the photo which at first was a small splodge on the person's head but then it spread more and more like blood right across the photo. As it spread John suddenly got up and ran outside, almost as if he knew his daughter was in danger. To which he was right, she had drown in the pond.

The old crow's got something! Now in Italy, Laura has got talking to two old sisters, one of whom is blind and claims to be psychic. She tells Laura that her daughter is happy, but most shocking of all is that she is able to describe what she looked like and what she was wearing when she died. So this confirms to Laura that she is telling the truth. This being the beginning of their beautiful friendship, well, the beginning of Laura hanging out with them as it gives her comfort knowing more about Christine being happy now she's dead. They have some interesting things to say though, the psychic one even at one point suggests that maybe John is psychic because he knew something was wrong just from looking at the photograph, he appeared to sense Christine was in danger.

GOD DAMN IT, JOHN! That's what you get when you choose to parade around nude. After getting showered John decides to continue with his painting IN THE NUDE! There's no reason for it, he could easily have got dressed and done some painting but no he chose to be in the nip. Resulting in the cleaning lady walking in on him sat nude at his desk.

Inevitably, I have to at least mention the controversial sex scene. Well, other than it being a bit long (THE SCENE!) if I hadn't have already known about it being controversial then I wouldn't have given it a second thought. After all, it's not like we saw it going in, if that were the case then my reaction would have been something more along the lines of “HOLY SHIT!” But then again, this is my 21st Century perspective looking back on a sex scene deemed controversial in 1973. So in an analytical sense, I suppose I can understand the shock. It does seem a bit strong and obviously at the time sex scenes as strong as that would have been made available only in porn, so fair enough.

This is an odd film. The psychic woman from earlier is performing a séance for Laura and her means of contacting the dead is to go into a trance where she moans and rubs her boobs alot. I'm so confused!

HOLY SHIT! John's been working on restoring an old church. He was on a piece of wobbly scaffolding whilst working on a piece of the wall. Then it cuts to a slow motion shot of a plank of wood falling from the ceiling, which leaves the audience sort of state of panic but obviously unable to do anything. Then it cuts back to John (not in slow motion) working on the wall, then the big plank suddenly smashes through his scaffolding causing all sorts of havoc leaving him swinging on a rope and the church wall he was working on ruined. It was done rather brilliantly I might add, we see it falling in slow motion leaving us worried for John but unable to help, then cuts back to him and it's SMASH! AHHHHH!

What a right kerfuffle! After learning that their son has been injured whilst at school, Laura leaves to return home while John stays to get on with his work. Then a couple of hours after seeing her leave he sees her on a funeral boat with the two old women. So he hastily reports this to the police, as not only does he not trust the two women, but he believes they have brain-washed his wife into joining a cult. On top of that, there's a murderer on the loose. Then after reporting it and worrying for his wife's safety, she phones him from England saying that their son is fine and that she'll return soon. Learning this leaves John confused as he could have sworn he'd seen his wife. But obviously he can't have done she was in England.

(If you wish to avoid the ending being spoilt then please skip the following paragraph)

After learning of his wife being in England, John goes to the police station where they have arrested the psychic sister, feeling terribly guilty about his misunderstanding and getting her arrested over it, he escorts her home. Along the way he explains the misunderstanding, after he gets her home he leaves and she falls into a trance. Screaming for her sister to go and get John back as he's in danger. But she is unable to find him. Whilst returning home, John sees the person in the red trench coat once again but this time decides to pursue the person believing it to be his daughter. But when he finally gets the person cornered, she turns around and it's an old woman with a knife who then cuts John's throat. It's at this point that we realise he is psychic, and that he's been having various premonitions of his own death. The reason Christine was trying to contact them was to warn of this. Then what follows is the funeral boat with Laura and the two old women on heading to John's funeral so then we see that the boat incident was also a premonition. It's one of those films that really plays with your head.

Wake Wood has been compared to this, which I can see why as there are a few similarities. Most of all there's the common factor that it's about a grieving couple who's daughter has died. There's also the recurring motif of the daughter's trench coat. And also that the couple move away after the death, in Wake Wood's case it's that they move to a small remote town. In Don't Look Now's case it's that they move to Venice. That's pretty much where the similarities end, the two stories are rather different after the point when they move to another location. Another point that was similar is that both get right into the story, establishing the family then killing off the daughter without a long drawn out build up towards it.

Originally, I was baffled and confused by this film. But after some reading, I see that I didn't properly register some bits which obviously effected my enjoyment/understanding of the story. But after reading up on it, I rather like it. I knew there was the recurring motif of red; the trench coat and blood. But what I didn't realise was there were more recurring motifs; water – Christine drowning and Venice, and most of all the idea of doppelgängers. John after all is reconstructing an old church, then there's the sightings of someone who looks like Christine, lots of shots of reflections in water which in themselves are doppelgängers. It is a very deep film, there's alot to it. It's one of those films that really gets you thinking. And as such I intend to watch it again, as I'm presuming it's one of those films that takes repeat viewings to increase one's enjoyment of it. Afterall, in the booklet that came with the DVD it even says “this is a work that grows richer with every viewing.” which although I haven't re-watched it yet I'm still going to agree with because just from reading into it and discovering what I didn't take in first time round has increased my enjoyment for the film. As is I'm still going to review it based on my first viewing, the title Don't Look Now is apparently an instruction to the audience which obviously we the audience disobey and do look now, I like this because I felt compelled to keep watching maybe it was just the idea of rebelling against the title. “Hell no! I'll look at whatever I want!” but most likely it was just due to it being really interesting, I was hooked from the start and wanted to know just what the hell was going on. So as it is from my first viewing it's not a bad film, not as great as it's made out to be. But like I said this is based on my first viewing and I believe it's one of those films that requires repeat viewings for greater understanding and greater enjoyment.

Don't Look Now 3/5