DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
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DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (director: Freddie Francis; screenwriters: John Elder/based on the character created by Bram Stoker; cinematographer: Arthur Grant; editor: Spencer Reeve; music: James Bernard; cast: Christopher Lee (Dracula), Rupert Davies (Monsignor Ernest Mueller), Veronica Carlson (Maria Mueller), Barbara Ewing (Zena), Barry Andrews (Paul), Ewan Hooper (Priest), Marion Mathie (Anna Mueller), Michael Ripper (Max), John D. Collins (Student), George A. Cooper (Landlord), Chris Cunningham (Farmer), Norman Bacon (Mute Boy); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Aida Young; Warner Bros-Seven Arts; 1968-UK)

 
"This was the fourth of the Hammer Dracula films, and it's a bore."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This was the fourth of the Hammer Dracula films, and it's a bore. When Terence Fisher broke his leg, former cinematographer Freddie Francis ("The Creeping Flesh"/"Son of Dracula"/"Tales from the Crypt") replaced him as director. Problem is Francis has no feel for the lyricism of the Dracula myth and only musters a pedestrian supernatural version, but he at least adds a few good visual sequences to keep things from sinking too far below average. The static pic is too engulfed in inconsequential religious trappings and an unnecessary obsession with sexual motifs, taking it on a wrong path away from what the public likes about the Dracula stories. The screenplay by John Elder never breathes life into the familiar tale and when it tries to play fast and loose with the legend, it still looks like a stale remake. Also of note Dracula speaks in this Hammer version (he didn't in the 1966 version), but what he says is inconsequential.

It picks up two years after Dracula, Prince of Darkness left off, with Dracula trapped beneath the frozen stream below his castle.

The pic opens in a small-village in Transylvania that's gripped with fear when the body of a young girl, with two fang marks in her neck, is found hanging upside down in the church belfry. This means that Dracula has profaned the sacred grounds of the church, and the locals no longer feel safe in their own church and refuse to attend services for the mass.

One year later a haughty monsignor, Ernest Mueller (Rupert Davies), from the monastery in Kleinberg, visits the village to see how they are doing and is annoyed to find no worhipers in the church because of their superstitious fears. The monsignor tells them again that Dracula can't harm them anymore because he was imprisoned a year ago in a stream. The next morning the monsignor gets the cowardly local priest (Ewan Hooper) to accompany him to Castle Dracula atop the hill, and once there the monsignor performs an exorcism ritual on the castle and seals the door with a giant cross so even if Dracula return he can't enter the castle. But the frightened bumbling drunken priest stays below the castle grounds and slips, causing him to hit his head on the icy stream and bleed all over it. You know it, that's the spot where Dracula (Christopher Lee) is buried and the dripping blood on his lips revives him. Francis violates cinema vampire lore by having the priest see Dracula's reflection in the water with the vampire standing over him. Thus the priest becomes subservient to the vampire's will and begins to work for him instead of for God.

Francis tries to veer away from the horror story to build a love story between the monsignor's attractive blonde niece, Maria (Veronica Carlson), who is in love with Paul (Barry Andrews). He's the impoverished earnest cornball scholarly baker's assistant in the local pub that caters to students. But the monsignor doesn't approve of the lad because he's an atheist, and prevents his niece from being with the lad. Meanwhile the pissed off Dracula reaches the town where the monsignor is staying in the home of his late brother's wife, Anna (Marion Mathie), and finds shelter in a basement coffin in the pub where Paul is employed. With the help of the tool priest, Dracula sucks the blood of the sexy barmaid Zena (Barbara Ewing) but has her thrown into the fireplace by the priest when she fails to deliver to him Maria. But Dracula manages to get his fangs into Maria, the monsignor's niece, anyhow, with the help of the priest and thereby gets his revenge on the monsignor.

This version might seem blasphemous to the purists, in that the priest is led around to be the vampire's henchman in carrying out evil acts, which turns out to be the shocker that Francis was after in delivering this love story that was forced by the studio cuts to be viewed as mainly a horror story (the studio forced severe cuts of the love story that left the romance part of the film looking whack).

Though it's a bit late, Paul manages to put a wooden stake in Dracula's heart to save his Maria from further humiliations. But when Paul refuses to say the Christian prayer over the staked vampire in the cleansing ritual, Dracula has enough strength to pull out the stake and go about his vampire business again until Paul eventually gets him when the super-strong vampire in a struggle with Paul along the castle wall slips and flips over backward to become impaled on the giant cross below and, for some unexplained reason this time, the cowardly priest says the right prayers and Dracula fades out of the picture to lie in retreat for another remake. Unfortunately, according vampire cinema lore a stake through the heart of vampire is enough to stop the vampire from operating again and this crude attempt to change the rules of the genre was upsetting to many viewers who take this hokum as gospel.

The ending was too silly to be taken seriously and Francis never builds much suspense or momentum, as this "Dracula" tale lumbers along with its unpleasant shocker story that's much too lame to care about and seems to be made by a filmmaker not enjoying the legendary story and failing miserably when trying in his own words to "play about with the legend." 

REVIEWED ON 10/4/2010       GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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