LEADING LADIES: Veronica Carlson
By Michael Arruda
Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, the column where we look at leading ladies in horror movies, especially from years gone by.
Today we look at the career of Veronica Carlson, the Hammer starlet who burst onto the scene in the Hammer Dracula movie, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968) and would go on to add her beauty and elegance to several more Hammer Films before leaving the business altogether for two decades. She returned to films in the 1990s and has since appeared in a few low budget movies.
But she’s best known for her roles in the Hammer movies, and if you’ve seen her, you know the reason why. Sure, she was stunningly beautiful back in the day— she was a former model, after all— but she was also a decent actor. It’s really too bad she didn’t make more movies.
In DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE Carlson plays Maria, a young woman who ends up being Dracula’s most sought after victim. In this, the third film in the Hammer Dracula series, Dracula (Christopher Lee) seeks revenge against the Monsignor (Rupert Davies) who had exorcised his castle, and he does this by pursuing the Monsignor’s niece, Maria (Veronica Carlson).
Carlson is absolutely beautiful in this movie. She shares most of her screen time with her goofy intellectual boyfriend Paul (Barry Andrews) who eventually gets to be the hero in this one, and she’s very convincing as a young lover infatuated with her handsome boyfriend. She’s also sufficiently frightened and mesmerized by Dracula.
Carlson followed up this performance with the female lead in FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969), Hammer’s darkest Frankenstein movie. She plays Anna, engaged to a young doctor Karl (Simon Ward), and all is well until these two young lovers are blackmailed by Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) into helping him with his latest creation. This film also contains the most controversial scene in the entire series, where the Baron rapes Anna, a scene that Peter Cushing is on record as saying he did not want to do.
FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED is a lurid, brutal movie, and Veronica Carlson is up to the task at playing the tormented victim of Baron Frankenstein. One of her best scenes finds her dragging a dead body which has been unearthed by a busted water main in her courtyard, and she has to do this while she’s pummeled by a forceful water spray, because if she doesn’t hide the body and the authorities discover it, she’ll either be arrested or worse, have to face the wrath of Baron Frankenstein. It’s a chilling suspenseful scene.
Carlson also appeared in the next Hammer Frankenstein movie, THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970), the only film in the series not to star Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein. THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN was Hammer’s failed attempt to re-boot the series with Ralph Bates playing a younger Baron Frankenstein in what amounted to be a remake of sorts of their first Frankenstein movie, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957). THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN was directed by longtime Hammer screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, and unfortunately, he proved to be a better writer than a director. THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN is the worst film in the series with very little to offer other than a fine cast, which included Ralph Bates and Veronica Carlson. Carlson is quite good yet again, but she’s simply not enough to save this movie.
Veronica Carlson would star with Peter Cushing one more time in THE GHOUL (1974), a mediocre horror movie about an attic holding a sinister secret. This one also co-starred a young John Hurt.
Carlson may return to the big screen here in 2015. She’s listed in the credits of a still unreleased horror movie called THE RECTORY. It would be nice to see her on the big screen again, even now at 70 years old.
Here’s a partial list of Carlson’s 21screen credits, concentrating mostly on her horror films:
SMASHING TIME (1967) – Movie Actress At Premiere- Carlson’s first screen credit, a bit part in a musical comedy starring Michael York and Lynn Redgrave.
DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE (1968) – Maria- Carlson impresses in her first starring role in this third Christopher Lee Hammer Dracula movie, the studio’s most profitable horror movie ever. A box office smash.
FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED (1969) – Anna – tormented and terrorized by Peter Cushing’s evil Baron Frankenstein. Probably Carlson’s most riveting performance.
CROSSPLOT (1969) – Dinah- small role in this thriller starring Roger Moore which also features Moore’s future Bond boss “M” Bernard Lee as well as Hammer supporting actor Francis Matthews.
PUSSYCAT, PUSSYCAT, I LOVE YOU (1970) – Liz – comedy starring Ian McShane with a screenplay co-written by Woody Allen.
THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN (1970) – Elizabeth Heiss – stars in her second Frankenstein film for Hammer, the only one without Peter Cushing. Ralph Bates is OK as the devilish Baron Frankenstein, but Darth Vader himself David Prowse plays a pretty ineffective monster.
OLD DRACULA (1974) – Ritva – awful horror comedy starring David Niven as Count Dracula, released the same year as Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, no doubt trying to cash in on that film’s success. Also stars fellow Hammer actress Linda Hayden and Carlson’s FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED co-star Freddie Jones.
THE GHOUL (1975) – Daphne – Mediocre horror film starring Peter Cushing as a man with a sinister secret. Also stars John Hurt. Carlson’s last film appearance for 19 years.
BLACK EASTER (1994) – Veronica Carlson returns to horror movies in this B movie terror tale.
FREAKSHOW (1995) – Grace Harmsworth – Carlson in another B movie, this one an anthology, also starring Leatherface himself Gunnar Hansen from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). Reportedly Carlson’s segment is the best.
THE RECTORY – An as-of-yet unreleased horror movie evidently in production at present with Veronica Carlson’s name in the credits.
I was fortunate enough to meet Veronica Carlson at a horror movie convention in the late 1990s. It was one for the ages, as it was the same convention where I met Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, and Michael Ripper.
Veronica Carlson will be forever remembered for her notable performances in two of Hammer’s best shockers, DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, and FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED.
Hopefully we’ll see her on the big screen again.
Veronica Carlson was born on September 18, 1944, in Yorkshire, England, UK. At present she is 70 years old and living in the U.S. where she enjoys a successful painting career.
Thanks for reading!