Cinema Sunday: Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968)

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Title: Dracula Has Risen From The Grave

Distributor: Warner Bros./Seven Arts (Hammer Studios)

Writer: Anthony Hinds

Director: Freddie Francis

Producer: Aida Young

Starring: Christopher Lee, Rupert Davies, Veronica Carlson, Barbara Ewing, Barry Andrews, Michael Ripper

Released: November 7th, 1968

MPAA: G (PG, by today’s standards)

 

As I continue with my look at the Dracula/vampire franchise from Hammer Studios, the next movie in order is this under-appreciated flick. It is missing Hammer stalwart, Peter Cushing, but it does feature the best Dracula ever, in Christopher Lee! There are a few minor roles that are good too, and we’ll take a look at them for sure! There were some different names attached to this film that you didn’t see before (or after for that matter), but it still did have that awesome Hammer atmospheric mood to it. Lets get down to business!

 

The film begins with a boy, Johann, as he’s going to clean the church before mass. He quickly notices something dripping from the bell rope, and we see blood, covering the rope. Outside, the priest (Ewan Hooper) hears a scream, then rushes into the church. He sees that a woman has been bitten on the neck (image below), and her blood is dripping down the rope, and into the church. The priest exclaims…”when shall we be free of his evil.” Fast forward to a year later, and that same priest is saying mass, to an empty church (except for Johann). He then seeks asylum at the local tavern for a drink. Within minutes, his superior, Monsignor Ernest Muller (Rupert Davies) is coming for an inspection, but finds only Johann in the church. Johann, who is now a mute (due to shock from the incident a year earlier), takes the Monsignor to the tavern where the priest is boozing.

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The Monsignor  questions the priest about why the church was empty. The patrons tell the Monsignor that they are still afraid of Dracula’s presence even though he’s supposedly dead (he was killed in the last flick). The Monsignor tells the priest that they will head up to the castle in the hills, and perform an exorcism to ease the villagers fears. The next morning the two holy men make the trek up the mountainside. As they approach the castle, the priest begins to waver, and begs to stay behind. The Monsignor tells him it’s OK if he does, and he continues on the journey by himself. As he reaches the castle, night falls, and a storm begins. He reads the service of exorcism, and places a cross on the door.

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Meanwhile, the priest is having a drink of booze, and the Monsignor begins the journey back down the mountain. The priest then slips, falling to the icy river below. This is the spot where Dracula was killed off, and we can see his ice-covered body right under the priest. The ice cracked from the fall, and some of the priest’s blood seeps into the ice, and on to the lips of Dracula. This is enough to revive the fiend, and before the priest can get his bearings, the bedeviled master of all that is evil, is ready to get down to business. He then enslaves the priest to be his daytime minion. The Monsignor theorizes that the priest went down before him, and leaves town for his home.

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Next, we see the Cafe’ where a young man, Paul (Barry Andrews-image below) works. His girlfriend, Maria (Veronica Carlson), who is the niece of the Monsignor, lives with her mother and Uncle. Max (Michael Ripper), the owner of the cafe’, gives Paul some advice before he heads out to meet Maria. In the bar, Zena (Barbara Ewing-image below) is entertaining the drunks with her wit and voluptuous figure. The regulars play a joke on Paul, and he gets soaked with beer, just as maria shows up to meet him. She seems to be quite upset at first, because Paul is meeting her mother this evening, but she quickly forgives him, and they head out to her home. Once there, Maria is shocked to see that her uncle has returned from his trip, and you get the feeling that she didn’t want Paul and him to meet. After dinner, we find out why Maria was uptight about them meeting each other. Paul is an Atheist, and he tells the Monsignor this, and they get into an argument. Paul then leaves, and Maria is very upset.

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As Paul returns to the cafe’, Zena is closing up. Paul orders a large Schnapps, and Zena uses this to try to put the moves on Paul. As Paul retires upstairs, Zena attempts to seduce a drunken Paul. Maria shows up however, and puts a damper on that idea. Paul and Maria then make whoopee, and maria sneaks home along the rooftops of the village. As Zena walks home in disappointment, a carriage runs her down, and chases her into the woods. As she twirls around, Dracula is there, and he bites her. The next morning, Paul finds Zena in the basement of the cafe’. She hides her bite marks, and heads upstairs.

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The following morning a priest comes to the cafe’ (Dracula’s new slave), and obtains a room with Zena’s help. He hides Dracula in the basement, and then Dracula orders Zena to bring Maria to him, so he can exact revenge on the Monsignor for the exorcism and the such. Zena doesn’t acre for this request, but Dracula pimp slaps her, and she changes her mind. Once Maria shows up, Zena quickly lies, and tells her that Paul is in the basement waiting for her. As Maria heads down, Zena jumps her from behind, putting a sack over her head. Zena then tosses her into the other room, and Dracula nearly bites her. Paul broke things up by calling out to Maria, and Dracula then takes out his frustrations on Zena. He bites her, and drains her blood, killing her (image above). Maria heads home after Max and Paul calm her down a bit. Maria sneaks into her bedroom, but her mother is waiting, and scolds her for sneaking out. As she does, Maria faints, and appears to be unconscious. Dracula then commands the priest to dispose of Zena’s corpse, and he does so by tossing her into the furnace!

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The next evening, Maria gets a visit from Dracula (image above), and this time, there is no one there to stop him from biting her. The Monsignor sees the bite marks on her neck, and realizes what’s going on. He waits for Dracula the next evening, and chases him across the rooftops. Just as he starts to catch up, the priest smashes a pot over his head, and leaves him to die. He doesn’t die right away, but crawls back to his home, and tells Maria’s mother to get Paul. He explains the situation to Paul, and how he must stop Dracula, or Maria will become his servant or die. Can Paul stop this bloody reign of terror? Or will Dracula keep Maria for his bride?

 

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OK, here we go:

This is my second favorite Dracula movie of all time. I really enjoy this one because it feels true to things Dracula would probably do if you crossed him. Think about it. If you did something to Dracula’s home, don’t you think he’d want revenge? Of course, you can’t guess about everything he would do, but his arrogance would definitely be something you could count on. Lee is very creepy in this film, and his action scenes are absolutely fantastic! He leaps out of a window like a panther in one scene, but also commands the room even when he’s stationary too.

The supporting roles were solid in this one as well. Rupert Davies was a great protagonist, and then was replaced after his demise by Barry Andrews. Both actors brought different things to the film, but both also delivered. The anguish of the priest was another very good angle in this movie. It added the last part that was needed to bring about some chaos in the movie. And let’s be honest, looking at Veronica Carlson doesn’t hurt the movie either.

Michael Ripper is his usual awesome self in this one too. You can always count on him to stabilize the dialogue, and bring some humor into the mix. He owns these secondary roles, by giving a strong performance, and being the utmost professional as well. He knows exactly how much energy is needed to bring to the table without stepping on the toes of the other actors performances. Another great film from the Hammer vault!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cinema Sunday: The Brides of Dracula (1960)

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Title: The Brides of Dracula

Distributor: Universal Pictures (Hammer Studios)

Writers: Peter Bryan, Edward Percy, Jimmy Sangster, Anthony Hinds

Director: Terence Fisher

Producer: Anthony Hinds

Starring: Peter Cushing, Martita Hunt, David Peel, Yvonne Monlaur, Michael Ripper

Released: July 7th, 1960

MPAA: Unrated

In this second installment of the Dracula/vampire franchise, Hammer threw a bit of a curve-ball at its audience. You see, “Dracula”, doesn’t appear in this film at all, and the absence of Christopher Lee was something that would be disconcerting normally, but this film rises above that fear. David Peel makes a fantastic vampire, that’s both creepy and demonstrative. He, along with horror stalwart, Peter Cushing, put on a performance that ranks right up there with any Hammer film, or horror film for that matter. Lets get to the story!

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The film opens with a narrator exclaiming that Dracula is dead, but that Transylvania is still full of magical and mystical entities. We next see a beautiful woman, Marianne (Yvonne Monlaur), as she’s making her way via coach to the Lange School for girls, to take a position as a teacher. The coach stops st the Running Boar Inn for some food and rest for the horses. The owners greet Marianne, but are wary that she’s traveling alone. The coach then inexplicably leaves without her, and she’s stranded. Suddenly, as the owners are panicking to find a way to get her out-of-town tonight, there’s a knock at the door. An old woman enters, and the owners are very frightened. The old woman (Martita Hunt), invites Marianne to come and dine with her, and after some coaxing, Marianne agrees to be her guest for the night, and head to her new job in the morning.

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Once they arrive at the Baroness Meinster’s castle, Marianne is readying herself for dinner, and she notices a young man in one of the other rooms. She questions the housekeeper, Greta (Freda Jackson), about him, and she blows her off about the subject. During supper, Marianne asks the Baroness about the man, and she tells her that he’s her son, but that he’s insane, and so he’s locked up. After the meal, Marianne once again retreats to the balcony, and she sees that same young man, and it seems as though he might jump off the balcony to kill himself. She shouts to him, and then runs to his room. He greets her, and asks her to come closer, and then she notices the reason he cannot come to her, is because he’s chained to the room. He convinces her that he is the Baron Meinster (David Peel), and the rightful heir to the castle and fortune, but his mother is evil, and keeps him locked up to keep the money to herself. He also convinces her to sneak into his mother’s room, and steal the key to open his bonds. She does it and then the Baroness confronts her, but the Baron Meinster is now loose, and he commands his mother to follow him into another room, while Marianne packs her things.

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As Marianne is getting ready, she hears Greta raving in another room. She asks her why she’s going crazy, and she tells him that the Baron isn’t mad, but that he’s dangerous, and basically a killer. Greta then shows Marianne the corpse of the Baroness, and this freaks her out, and she runs off into the forest. A carriage comes by the young woman, as she lays unconscious in the forest. This is when we see Doctor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing),  and his coachman. They revive her from her sleep, and take her back to the Inn in town. Meanwhile, there’s a funeral going on in the parlor, and Van Helsing goes in to investigate. He notices two bite marks on the girl’s neck, and he realizes that it was the work of a vampire.

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Next, Van Helsing takes Marianne to her new job, across the way in the next village. They enter, and meet Herr Lang (Henry Oscar), and his wife (Mona Washbourne). He’s quite upset by her lateness, but Van Helsing calms him down. The good doctor next meets the man who called him to the area, Father Stepnik. The two discuss a plan to wipe out this plague, and make ready for this  evenings festivities. As the sun sets, the recently killed girl rises from her grave, and we see that Greta is the daytime servant to her and Baron Meinster. As the new vampire is rising from the grave, Father Stepnik and Van Helsing try to stop the two of them. They didn’t count on a giant bat (Baron Meinster) swooping in and attacking them though! Van Helsing scares it off with a cross, and then he heads to the Meinster castle. Once inside, he meets the now undead Baroness, but before he can do anything, he’s accosted by the Baron Meinster himself! A quick tussle, and the Baron gets away, but then Van Helsing puts the Baroness in her final resting place.

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Van Helsing must somehow find where the Baron is hiding, and try to protect the townspeople too! Can he do it? C’mon,  it’s Peter Cushing we’re talking about here! In the end, it will come down to an all out brawl between Van Helsing, Baron Meinster, his two brides, and Greta!

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OK, here are my thoughts:

Listen, even though this flick doesn’t have Lee in it, it is still top-notch. David Peel makes a great vampire, and Cushing is his usual awesome self! Cushing really shows how much of a bad mamma jamma he is in this film. Jumping around like a grasshopper, fighting Peel, and his brides! Another great performance from Cushing and he and Peel definitely play off of each other quite well.

The older couple that own the school are hilarious, and add a lot of energy to the film. The moment when Baron Meinster meets the two of them is classic, and you couldn’t ask for a more comical scene. A quick scene with Michael Ripper adds his coolness to the film, and the other doctor, portrayed by Miles Malleson, another Hammer regular, is the icing on top of the cake!

A fantastic musical score, great cinematography, and the usual incredible production and directing crew, round out this very watchable film that somehow gets lost in the pile for non-Hammer fans. Believe me when I say, that this movie can hold its own against any other of its generation and genre.