SHOCK SCENES: DRACULA’S DEMISE- A Look at the Hammer Dracula Endings – Part 4

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SHOCK SCENES:  DRACULA’S DEMISE- A Look at the Hammer Dracula Endings

Part 4

By

Michael Arruda

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.

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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.

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Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham) isn’t doing her grandfather any favors when she removes the knife from Dracula’s (Christopher Lee) heart during the finale of DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972).

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!

Not really.

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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.

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Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) prepares to do battle with Dracula in THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973).

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.

 

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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!

 

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One of the seven golden vampires in THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES (1974), Hammer’s final Dracula movie.

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.

—END—

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THE QUOTABLE CUSHING: THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973)

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THE QUOTABLE CUSHING:  THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973)

BySatanic Rites of Dracula - Van Helsing

Michael Arruda

Welcome back to THE QUOTABLE CUSHING, that column where we celebrate classic lines of dialogue from Peter Cushing movies.

Today we look at the final Dracula movie starring both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973).

Hammer made the ill-fated decision— influenced by the enormous success of Dan Curtis’ THE NIGHT STALKER (1972) which featured a superhuman vampire terrorizing modern day Las Vegas— to update their Dracula series to modern times.  And so they came out with DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972) which brought Dracula (Christopher Lee) into the 1970s in the midst of the far-out groovy man culture while taking on Lorimer Van Helsing (Peter Cushing), a descendant of the original Van Helsing.

DRACULA A.D. 1972 bombed at the box office, which meant Hammer’s follow-up, THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, received a small release and didn’t make its way to the United States until five years later in 1978, under the alternate— and inferior— title COUNT DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDE.

 

I’ve always preferred the campy DRACULA A.D. 1972 over the more serious THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA. DRACULA A.D. 1972 is high camp and as such is a terribly fun movie. THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA tries to make Dracula a manipulative Bond-like villain, but the film just isn’t ambitious enough to work on this level.

Another reason I’ve never been a big fan of SATANIC RITES— and don’t get me wrong, I still like this movie— is that Peter Cushing doesn’t really have many memorable scenes or lines of dialogue in this movie.

The plot in SATANIC RITES largely follows Scotland Yard Inspector Murray (Michael Coles), back from DRACULA A.D. 1972, as we works closely with British intelligence as they try to break up a mysterious satanic cult which happens to be run by Dracula.  The intelligence agency is interested in this cult because some of the most powerful men in the country, including the head of their department, belong to it.  Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing is called in by Murray as a consultant, and he helps with the investigation, which of course, ultimately leads them to Dracula (Christopher Lee).

While there really aren’t a whole bunch of memorable Peter Cushing quotes in THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, there are some.  Here’s a look at some of these lines from THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA, screenplay by Don Houghton.

In this scene, Inspector Murray seeks Van Helsing’s advice as to what he thinks they’re dealing with, based on the evidence of their investigation so far:

INSPECTOR MURRAY:  So, what do you think, professor?  Is it just a black mass ritual?

VAN HELSING:  No.  No, not exactly.  In the Dark Ages, the worship of natural substances was quite common.  Soil, water, sand of the desert, various plants.  But the strongest cults were those that worshipped the most mystical substance of all, the fountainhead of life itself, the glorification of blood.  And more often than not, human blood.

A few moments later, British intelligence agent Torrence (William Franklyn) asks Van Helsing why these prominent men would join a satanic cult.  Van Helsing’s response is ripe with early 1970s flavor:

TORRENCE:  Are these men involved in this business because they’re under some kind of threat?  Or drugs?

VAN HELSING:  Or hypnosis?  This particular evil is more potent, more addictive than heroin, I assure you.  And the end result is just as fatal.

Freddie Jones gets some of the best lines in the movie as Professor Keeley, Van Helsing’s colleague who is now part of Dracula’s cult.  In this scene, Van Helsing visits his old friend to find out if indeed he’s become part of the satanic cult.  Keeley takes the opportunity to sail into his former colleague, telling him about the value of evil.  It’s one of the best pieces of dialogue in the movie, superbly acted by Jones:

KEELEY:  Evil rules, you know.  It really does.  Evil and violence are the only two measures that hold any power.  Look at the world— chaos.  It is a preordained pattern.  Violence, greed, intolerance, sloth, jealousy.  The deadly sins.  All the deadly virtues.  The Supreme Being is the devil, Lorimer.  Serve him, and he offers you immortality.  He’ll remove death, the common enemy.  Nothing is too vile.  Nothing is too dreadful, too awful.  You need to know the terror, the horror, Lorimer.  You need to feel the threat of disgust, the beauty of obscenity.

VAN HELSING:  Julian!  In God’s name!

At which time Peter Cushing grabs Jones by the shoulders and slaps him across the face, in order to slap some sense into him.

The best scenes in this one are when Van Helsing and Dracula confront each other.  Van Helsing’s investigation has led him to a rich tycoon named D.D. Denham who seems to be financing the cult.  Denham is a recluse, and Van Helsing wisely believes that Denham is really Dracula.

When Van Helsing arrives at Denham’s high rise office, Denham aims a bright desk lamp at him, to prevent Van Helsing from seeing his face.  Denham also speaks with an accent.  These are both attempts by Dracula to conceal his identity from his adversary.  Christopher Lee chose to do this scene with a Bela Lugosi accent in homage to his Dracula predecessor.

DENHAM:  Professor Van Helsing.

VAN HELSING:  Mr. Denham.

DENHAM:  I have been expecting you.

VAN HELSING:  I rather thought you might.

A few minutes later, Denham outlines his plans to Van Helsing:

DENHAM:  There is a group of us who are determined that the decadence of the present day can and will be halted.  A new political regime is planned.

However, Van Helsing is not swayed.

VAN HELSING:  Evil begets evil.  There is an unholy aura in this place.  And it is not a question of a little occultism, or a touch of mysticism, Mr. Denham.  It is vampirism.  And there’s a host of damned souls at Pelham house.  What are you going to do with me?   You can’t let me go, can you?  I know too much.  Do you mind if I smoke?  A bad habit, I know, but it helps me to concentrate.

At this moment, Van Helsing “accidentally” knocks some books off Denham’s desk.  When he bends down to pick them up, he secretly slips in a Bible and places it on Denham’s desk.

DENHAM:  You are an interfering man, Professor.  Do not meddle, or you will have to deal with me!

As Denham pounds his desk, his fist lands on the Bible, and he hisses in pain as his hand sizzles with burning smoke.  Van Helsing leaps from his chair and turns the light on Denham’s face, seeing clearly that D.D. Denham is indeed Count Dracula.

VAN HELSING:  You are Count Dracula!  Of course, Mr. Denham, the powerful recluse.  Here, you’re safe.  No one expects to see him in the daytime.

Van Helsing pulls out a crucifix and prays in Latin.  He then pulls out a gun and aims it at Dracula, and Dracula smiles.  When Dracula next speaks, it is no longer with an accent but in Lee’s deep resonating voice.

DRACULA:  Foolish man.  Bullets cannot harm me.The-Satanic-Rites-of-Dracula-Count-Dracula-

VAN HELSING:  A silver bullet!

Dracula stops smiling, but his fear is short-lived, as members of his cult come to his rescue and overpower Van Helsing.  They tell Dracula to kill Van Helsing, but Dracula explains that he has other plans for his nemesis.

DRACULA:  It cannot be made so simple for him, not for Van Helsing. Nor for his granddaughter.

And it’s Lee’s Dracula who gets some of the best lines during the film’s climax.  Dracula leans into the unconscious Jessica Van Helsing while he speaks to a restrained Van Helsing.

DRACULA:  The girl you love is mine already, and through her you will yet do my bidding.

Sorry, Drac, you never win in these movies.  Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing always gets the upper hand.

But you do get some good lines, like this one, when you chase Van Helsing around the burning house:

DRACULA:  My revenge has spread over centuries and is just begun!

Wrong again.  You’re about to be destroyed by Van Helsing for the final time.

Okay, that’s it for now.  I hope you enjoyed today’s QUOTABLE CUSHING column on THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA. Join me again next time with more quotes from another Peter Cushing movie.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael