SHOCK SCENES: DRACULA’S DEMISE- A Look at the Hammer Dracula Endings
Welcome to Part 4 of our look at the endings to the Hammer DRACULA series, where we examine how Dracula met his demise in the various Hammer Dracula movies. Previously we looked at the endings to the first six Hammer Dracula pics. Here in Part 4 we’ll look at the rest of the series.
And remember, if you haven’t seen these films, there are major spoilers here, so proceed with caution.
DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972)
Dracula meets the 1970s!
After the success of the Dan Curtis film THE NIGHT STALKER (1972), the movie that introduced reporter Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) to the world and had Kolchak hunting a vampire in present day Las Vegas, Hammer decided that for its next Dracula movie they would take Dracula out of the 19th century and put him in the heart of present day London, which at the time happened to be 1972.
DRACULA A.D. 1972 also marked the return of Peter Cushing to the series, as he played Lorrimer Van Helsing, a descendant of the original Van Helsing. On paper, it sounded like a neat idea. In reality- mostly because “modern day” at the time was the groovin-yeah-baby year of 1972, the film really doesn’t work- at least not the way Hammer intended. THE NIGHT STALKER, it ain’t!
However, that being said, in spite of it being lambasted by critics and doing poorly at the box office, DRACULA A.D. 1972 is actually a pretty fun movie. I’ve always really liked this one. The dialogue is so over the top and overdone, it’s a hoot! It’s like watching an episode of SCOOBY-DOO.
It’s also a lot of fun seeing Peter Cushing return to the series as Van Helsing, even if he is playing one of Van Helsing’s descendants. As usual, Christopher Lee doesn’t have a lot to do as Dracula, but he makes the most of his few scenes.
Unfortunately, the ending isn’t anything to brag about, even with Cushing’s Van Helsing battling Lee’s Dracula once again. Compared to the ending of HORROR OF DRACULA, the ending to DRACULA A.D. 1972 is slow and tired. There’s a brief chase, this time with Dracula chasing Van Helsing, a brief scuffle, and then an all too easy death scene where Dracula falls into a pit of wooden stakes, set up there earlier by Van Helsing, although how he would know Dracula would fall inside is beyond me! This is followed by the obligatory and not very impressive Dracula-turns-to-dust scene.
Far out, man!
THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973)
Immediately after the release of DRACULA A.D. 1972, Hammer went into production with their next Dracula movie, THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973) which again starred both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and once more took place in the 1970s.
The attempt was made to improve upon DRACULA A.D. 1972, and so in this film the hippies are gone, and instead Dracula acts likes he’s a villain in a James Bond movie as he tries to take over the world with the help of other devil worshiping dignitaries. When Scotland Yard investigates and learns about the satanic cult, they turn to their resident expert, Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing).
It’s a fairly interesting plot, but it’s all rather flat, and I’ve always enjoyed DRACULA A.D. 1972 more. Because DRACULA A.D. 1972 performed so miserably at the box office, Hammer decided not to release SATANIC RITES in the U.S., until that is, five years later when it was released under the ridiculous title COUNT DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDE in 1978. The only good thing about the delay was I was 14 at the time, and when it opened at my local theater, it provided me with my first opportunity to see a Hammer horror film on the big screen. Cool!
The ending to SATANIC RITES is actually a bit better than the ending to DRACULA A.D. 1972. The confrontation between Dracula and Van Helsing is a bit longer this time. It starts in a fiery house and then continues outside, as Van Helsing leads Dracula into the woods where he is able to get Dracula caught in a thorn bush. See, in this movie, thorns are representative of Christ’s crown of thorns and as a result are fatal to vampires. At least Hammer always remained creative! Of course, what would a Dracula movie be without a good staking, and so Van Helsing drives a stake through Drac’s heart for good measure, which leads to the undead king’s umpteenth disintegration scene.
The best part about this ending is that after Dracula disintegrates, all that is left of Dracula is his ring, which hearkens back to the ending of the first film in the series, HORROR OF DRACULA (1958) where Dracula’s ring also remains after his disintegration. In HORROR OF DRACULA, Van Helsing does not take the ring, and when Dracula is resurrected in DRACULA-PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) he wears it again. This time around, at the end of SATANIC RITES, Van Helsing does take the ring, symbolizing that this time Dracula is truly done for, which is appropriate, since this was the final Christopher Lee film of the series.
I say final “Christopher Lee” film in the series because even though Lee said his days as Dracula were over, Hammer wasn’t finished, and they would bring back Dracula for one more movie, without Lee.
THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974)
This is one weird movie. After the commercial failure of their previous two Dracula movies, Hammer decided that Dracula in the 1970s was not a good idea, and so their next vampire tale would once more be a period piece. THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES was originally not going to be a Dracula film at all, but simply a vampire movie, but this horror-martial arts combo was co-produced with The Shaw Brothers Company who insisted that since their Asian audiences loved Dracula, that Dracula had to be incorporated into the movie.
And so an introduction was filmed with John Forbes-Robertson hamming it up in thick Joker-like make-up as Dracula, where we see his spirit enter into that of an Asian warrior who had visited Dracula’s castle. Dracula wants to seek out new blood in the Far East, and now inside a new body, he is able to assemble an army of Kung-fu vampires— the seven golden vampires— without people knowing who he is, except that old nemesis Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is also in the Far East and hot on his trail!
There are martial arts fights galore in this very unique film that somehow actually works. It also has a fantastic music score by James Bernard.
Unfortunately, the ending is rather lame. After all that choreographed martial arts fighting, Dracula returns to his old body where he is promptly done in— in very undramatic fashion- by Van Helsing. It’s a very weak way to end the series.
Aside from the ending, THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES is actually a pretty enjoyable movie. And even though he’s not really involved in the fight sequences, Peter Cushing still enjoys lots of screen time as Van Helsing, and as always, he’s excellent.
Look also for the inferior yet worth checking out re-edited version entitled THE SEVEN BROTHERS MEET DRACULA (1974). This version was originally released in the U.S. as an exploitation flick. It’s fun to compare the two. THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES plays out like an elegant atmospheric A-List Hammer vampire movie, whereas THE SEVEN BROTHERS MEETS DRACULA plays like a choppy incoherent blood fest shown at the Drive-In after midnight. Same movie, different editing. It’s fascinating to watch these two versions back to back.
So, that about wraps things up. Thanks for joining me on this four part look at the various Dracula demises in the Hammer Dracula movies.
Join me next time for another SHOCK SCENES when I’ll we’ll look at other memorable scenes in horror movie history.