A young man on a bicycle rides happily through town, heading to his job at the local church and greeting passersby. This kid is far too perky for his own good. Thankfully, when he arrives at the church he finds DEATH AND BLOOD in the form of a beautiful woman whose body has been stuffed into the church bell. The poor kid is turned pale and mute from fear, but really, how can you feel sorry for him? He knew better than to try to lead a happy, cheerful life; he was a supporting character in a Hammer horror film.
So begins “Dracula Has Risen From the Grave”. (Risen from the grave? Interesting. I didn’t know he was dead.) October is the month for horror films, of course, and I wanted to watch more Hammer horror movies, so picked one starring Christopher Lee. The idea to choose this particular movie came last month when I read this post on Starlet Showcase.
DHRFtG is the fourth film in Hammer’s Dracula series, the third of which stars Christopher Lee as Dracula. It begins just where Lee’s previous outing, “Dracula: Prince of Darkness”, left off two years earlier. The inaugural film in the series was “Dracula” (1958), followed by an official but Dracula-less sequel “Brides of Dracula” in 1960.
Monsignor Mueller (Rupert Davies) arrives in the small town to speak to the village priest, who is drowning himself in drink at the local pub. The Monsignor doesn’t understand why the church is empty every Sunday, but the worry in the faces of the locals answers the question. The Monsignor reminds everyone that Dracula is dead — he was frozen in a mountain lake in “Prince of Darkness” — but the locals are superstitious and don’t believe he’s really dead. The Monsignor attempts to reassure the priest (a dubbed Ewan Hooper) and decides they will both go up to Dracula’s castle in the morning to prove that there is nothing left to fear.
The next morning, as the Monsignor blesses the castle and seals the door with a cross — a cross that may have done some good had Drac actually been in the castle at the time — a thunderstorm rages and the hapless priest runs off scared. The priest trips and falls, rolls down the mountainside and breaks the ice Dracula was ensconced in. Blood oozes from the priest’s wound whets Dracula’s lips… and he comes alive!
The Monsignor returns to the pub, claims the evil is destroyed forever, oh and by the way, where is that drunken priest dude? Even though the priest must have disappeared hours ago, the Monsignor doesn’t bother to ask after him except as an afterthought. The locals claim they have seen the priest heading home safely, but this is a lie told out of spite. They don’t like an outsider prying around and they just want the Monsignor to go home.
In actuality, the priest is still with Dracula and has the thankless job of informing him that his fine, spacious castle has been blessed. Ruined! Dracula is pissed, and it’s no wonder. This is a terrible time to lose one’s home what with the economy and all. Drac puts the priest under his spell and makes him acquire (read: steal) a horse-drawn hearse for drama. Er, I mean for transportation. The priest also digs up someone else’s coffin so Drac has a place to sleep. Even the coffin stuffing corpse is a buxom babe.
The Monsignor goes home, pleased at a job well done. Heh. Oh, he’ll be pleased all right. His maid and sorta-wife Anna (Hilda Rumpole! er, I mean Marion Mathie) tends to him. She and her daughter Maria (Veronica Carlson) have lived with the Monsignor ever since his brother, Anna’s husband, died. Anna is the Monsignor’s wife in all but the Biblical sense, and Maria is essentially his daughter. Maria is having her birthday dinner that night and has invited a new beau, Paul, to the house.
Paul (Barry Andrews) works as a baker at a local cafe and bar. Maria goes to fetch him for the party and finds him flirting with the bosomy Zena (Barbara Ewing). A mildly jealous Maria takes him to her dinner party, which goes well until Paul reveals he is an atheist. The Monsignor demands Paul leave. Paul acquiesces and goes back to the cafe, to Zena, and to booze. After he gets blotto, Zena takes him to his room in the back and makes the moves on him.
At the same time Maria sneaks out and finds Paul passed out on his bed as Zena undresses him. Zena brazenly continues to undo his fly until Maria stops her. Hey, the girl knows what she wants. Zena leaves in a huff and Maria tucks him in herself… and spends the night.
Zena walks home, past the priest and the hearse, which start to follow her. The editing here is odd, as Zena is clearly running into a thick copse of trees at some points and onto a road with a clear pathway at others, and the cuts in the scenes don’t match up. The hearse is able to follow her even though it should be too overgrown for a huge horse-drawn carriage to fit between the trees. The hearse knocks her over. She turns to limp home and instead finds her way blocked by Dracula. Chomp!
The next morning she’s at work hiding the bite with a scarf, and the priest arrives to rent a room at the cafe. Zena recognizes him as the priest who knocked her over, and becomes frightened. The priest is there to find the Monsignor for Dracula, who, as a mortgage holder on a now-useless castle, wants a little revenge. Zena is afraid but still helps the priest create a space in the cellar of the cafe for Dracula and his coffin. She even leads the Monsignor’s niece Maria to Dracula.
There is precious little Christopher Lee in this film, and one wants to see more of him, as he’s one of only two reasons to watch this movie. The other reason is cleavage, by the way. But the time Lee is on the screen is so very, very worth it. You can tell Lee just loves this role, loves the effect his mere presence has on the entire film. Dracula conserves his energy, rarely speaking and only occasionally moving, and when he does it is graceful and sleek. His walk is a determined glide, his enormous strength is revealed through fluid sweeps of the arm. Dracula takes his deliberate time when he leans in for the kill, obviously relishing the conquest.
As he looks at the beautiful Maria, he works his Drac mojo on her. A subtle little smile creeps into his face, the look of a vampire who really just enjoys the hell out of his job. Maria escapes to the upper levels of the cafe but passes out. Everyone there thinks she just fainted and imagined Dracula, despite her protestations.
Meanwhile, Drac is mad at Zena for ruining the chance he had with Maria, so he drinks her as punishment. The priest returns to find Dracula satiated in his coffin with a satisfied, blood-smeared grin on his face. Beautiful. Drac awakens and commands the priest destroy Zena, who I guess is now a vampire. She has fangs, but she’s immobile and looks pretty darn dead. It doesn’t much matter since the priest shoves her into the baker’s furnace.
There isn’t much by way of effects in this film except for Dracula Vision ™. Drac has bloodshot eyes, of course, and any scene where Dracula shows up is shot with a filter that adds red and a bit of yellow around the edges to mimic the idea of peering out through bloodshot eyes. The filter is used even when the camera is on Dracula himself, though, so the effect is a bit haphazard. It’s not as though Drac is looking in a mirror.
Maria sneaks back to her room, seriously shaken and weak from fright. Her mother catches her sneaking in, and although Maria is too scared to tell her mother she was at the cafe with Paul the heathen atheist scumbag, the mother knows something is very wrong when Maria faints. Thinking she is ill, the Monsignor and Anna take care of Maria with soup and bed rest.
Back at the cafe, Paul asks the priest to go check on Maria because he can’t go to the Monsignor’s house himself. This must act essentially as the invitation vampires need to enter a home, because instead of the priest going to check on Maria’s condition, Dracula ends up in Maria’s room. He makes with the sexy vampire voodoo and seduces her.
The next morning Maria appears to be even more ill. The Monsignor quickly suspects vampire after seeing bites on Maria’s neck. Genius. That night Dracula returns. These scenes are very sexy, with a deliciously seduced Maria who always opens the top of her nightgown for him, to give him better access to her… neck.
Dracula’s sexy sucking routine is interrupted by the Monsignor with a crucifix. He escapes and the Monsignor gives chase, but is knocked down and seriously wounded by the priest. He manages to get back home. At daybreak the Monsignor insists Paul be summoned; despite being an atheist, Paul can still help because he loves Maria. The Monsignor makes Paul promise to protect Maria. He agrees and quickly goes to get his things from the cafe to bring back to the Monsignor’s home. While at the cafe he runs into the priest and, thinking the priest can only help, he invites the priest to come with him. Oh no! Wrong! Don’t do that!
But too late. The priest and Paul arrive, and the Monsignor sees the priest for just one moment before falling back dead on the couch. The Monsignor was surely trying to warn the family that the priest was under the spell of Dracula. Later Paul, Anna, and the priest use garlic and crucifixes to protect Maria per the priest’s instructions. Of course, the priest is just pretending to be helpful. He clocks Paul on the head and undoes the protection to allow Dracula in, but he can’t bring himself to remove the crucifix on Maria. Ah ha! Now we know why Drac could not simply force the priest to take the cross off the castle door. The priest is fallen and cannot touch a crucifix.
Dracula still at bay, Paul comes to and demands the priest take him to Dracula, which the conflicted priest does. They find Dracula in his coffin and Paul hammers a wooden stake through his heart, but it doesn’t work. See kids? This is why you shouldn’t be an atheist! If you’re an atheist it won’t work when you stake draculas.
Drac fetches Maria by telepathically bringing her to him. So much for the anti-vampire devices in her room. Peter tries to stop her but Dracula just flings him away like an insect. “Now my revenge is complete,” Dracula seethes as he leads Maria back to his castle.
Paul gives chase and gets to pub at foot of the mountain moments before Dracula and Maria arrive. Paul tells the villagers what’s going on. They do not care.
“We’re sick of people interfering with our lives, and if we leave things alone, maybe he’ll leave us alone,” says one villager.
“But he’s evil!” counters Paul. Weaksauce, Paul. No one is convinced.
Dracula carries Maria in his arms up to the castle. This is such a terrific scene, with Dracula carrying her like a loving groom carries his bride, yet with there is no love, care, or consideration for her. Dracula is just impatient and couldn’t wait for the slow and stumbling Maria to follow him on her own. Dracula makes her take the cross off the door — it plunges off the balcony and impales onto the ground below the castle. Paul arrives and scuffles with Dracula, who falls backwards and becomes impaled on the cross. The priest prays and this time, the impaling works. The priest is redeemed, Paul finds faith, and Maria is released from her walking prison.
Well, that was fun! Again, I wanted a lot more Christopher Lee, because the film kind of falls apart during scenes without him. Rupert Davies does his darndest and manages admirably, but the supporting cast is quite weak. You know who would have been better than Barry Andrews? Bert Convy! The fact that I’m a big Bert Convy fan and always want him in any role that calls for a brunette male with a perm is not the point here. It’s not.
The cinematography was nice if a little dark, although that may have been the DVD transfer. The music was heavy-handed at times and some of the plot points really needed to be explained better. I was relatively familiar with the mythology of vampires and could extrapolate from that, but a casual viewer who didn’t know, say, that vampires have to be invited into a home could have gotten confused.
Am I picking nits here? Probably. This is a fun little film.
I didn’t have enough room in the summary to include all the screencaps I wanted to, so I’ll leave you with one final look at Dracula:
Taliesin meets the vampires review
DVD Savant review
New York Times review (may require login)
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