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Friday, May 7, 2010

Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968) review


Christopher Lee (Dracula), Rupert Davies (Monsignor Ernst Muller), Barry Andrews (Paul), Veronica Carlson (Maria Muller), Ewan Hooper (Priest), Barbara Ewing (Zena)

Directed by Freddie Francis

With the evil spirit of Dracula still looming over the village of Keineneburg, the occupants continue to live in fear that he may return. Monsignor Muller enters the hamlet and asks a frightened priest to accompany him to Castle Dracula to exorcise the hellish citadel by affixing a cross to the front door. Later, Dracula is accidentally resurrected and promises revenge against the Monsignor and his family for profaning his home.

Struck by a motorbike breaking his leg, original director, Fisher was out of the picture as was the original producer who was likewise involved in an accident while playing golf of all things. Famed cinematographer, Freddie Francis stepped in. Francis wasn't entirely thrilled to be directing such a film, but he turned out one of the best in the series. Fisher's cinematographic eye is put to good use in the director's chair as this entry has some strikingly high quality shots. The color filters may go a bit overboard, but all the matte paintings are beautiful to behold.

Notice the reflection of Lee in the glass door to the left. In the film, Dracula also casts a reflection in a pool of water

Apparently, Fisher included a lot more romance between Carlson and Andrews. When the film was finished, he went on vacation and upon his return, he discovered much of said romance had been removed in favor of the horror. Regardless, the film was a monster of a success becoming the biggest hit of all the Hammer dracula pictures. Being funded entirely by Warner-Seven Arts, the famed British horror company would only savor big studio support for a few more years before such Gothic trappings as Dracula and Frankenstein became passe.

Some notable mentions include Christopher Lee's embarrassment when Hammer received the Queen's Award while shooting Dracula's demise. The character of Dracula has less to do than in the previous movie, but Lee makes do with what he has and is quite riveting in the few lines he's allowed to utter. For years, Lee showed much contempt for the sequence wherein he removes the stake from his chest because Paul (Barry Andrews) is an atheist and can't finish the prayer necessary to destroy the vampire! It's still one of the best scenes in the movie. It would be interesting to know what Lee thinks of it today.

Veronica Carlson is lovely to look at and ultimately became one of the best loved heroines in these movies. What little characterization between her character, Maria and Paul is still noteworthy especially the juggling of religious beliefs. The clash between those with faith and those without makes for an interesting plot point which figures wonderfully into the above mentioned staking sequence.

The subject of faith also figures into the cowardly priest who is so terrified for his own life, he lowers himself to being a slave to Dracula up until the end when it is he who finally sends Dracula back to rotten Hell. Dracula's destruction is also one of the best of the series. It's the first time he's done in with a staking, but it's more ingenious in that the instrument of his termination is the gigantic cross that covered the entrance to his castle. During this sequence, Dracula also sheds tears of blood, another nice touch.

The beginning of the movie presents something of a problem, though. The corpse of a pretty lady is found hanging from a church bell with blood dripping from her neck, the victim of a vampire. Since Dracula still remains dormant beneath a frozen river, how did she die? I am going to assume, then, that the vampires spirit was responsible for the death. The next film in the series was a direct sequel and ultimately shifted the location away from the typical Eastern European locations.

With a new director and a new look, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968) is a success all around and possesses an aura of a macabre fairy tale that wouldn't be seen in any other Dracula picture.

This review is representative of the Warner Brothers DVD


dfordoom said...

It's definitely a movie that looks stunning. That's the thing that impressed me most. Not that there's anything wrong with the other elements in the film - it's a thoroughly enjoyable little horror flick.

venoms5 said...

I totally agree, D. It's easily one of the most enjoyable entries in this series. Stunning is a good word to describe it, too. Francis definitely came through on this one.

I Like Horror Movies said...

Ive always been underwhelmed by this one, though Ive only seen it twice. Will be revisiting the series shortly, so hopefully I will find something I missed in the earlier viewings

venoms5 said...

I like this one a lot, Carl. A lot of it is nostalgia no doubt aside from it being a well made picture. It used to come on a local station with regularity along with DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS. I think it's gotten much better with age.

Anonymous said...

The opening scene in the church is a prologue set while Dracula was still active, presumably before he was dispatched by Van Helsing in the first movie, since he wasn't around very long during Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Then the setting jumps forward to a year after the end of Prince of Darkness, as he still lies under the water.

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