There’s something decidedly far out about DRACULA A.D. 1972, a movie so hazy and nebulous that it feels out of time. The Hammer Film Productions effort from director Alan Gibson tries to resuscitate the DRACULA legend in a modern context, with Don Houghton’s screenplay providing the foundation for Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee to renew their classic enmity. But this picture is far removed from their bloody good HORROR OF DRACULA smackdown in 1958.
After a brief introduction that illustrates a skirmish between Count Dracula (Lee) and Van Helsing (Cushing), the action flings forward a century. A group of London “teens” is seeking a new thrill and they turn to Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame) for help. He drags them to a shadowy castle, where he performs a ritual to summon Satan or a reasonable facsimile. The sacrament brings Dracula back to life instead. Meanwhile, Van Helsing’s relations are battle-ready.
DRACULA A.D. 1972 is very much about ritual. The film exists in a ceremony of the 1970s, with the teenagers focused on partying and causing mayhem. They throw a party in a mansion. One of them dresses up like a monk and Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham) is doing her best to get along. Alucard, along with hoping nobody pays attention to how his name reads in reverse, is dreams of distant, gloomy power.
The rituals draw on a Count Dracula who, like the rest of the picture, is out of time. Lee’s intimidating aura is a perfect blend with Mike Vickers’ wacky score, which is likewise out of place. The gallant rancour that spills from the lead vampire is thrust upon the world and patent as a man waiting around for teenagers to provide his nourishment, like a rapacious agent without the will to go outside. Van Helsing is likewise stuck, at least until the end, and the promise of final peace is again thrown to the wind.