❉ Darren Floyd reflects on the guilty pleasure that is Dracula A.D. 1972.
A couple of years ago I was telling a mate about a Record Store Day release I was very interested in. It was a blood red vinyl single taken from the soundtrack of Hammer film ‘Dracula A.D. 1972’ in a limited edition of 666 copies. My mate was a little surprised (and maybe appalled?) not just that it was being released but that, in his own words: “…there are 665 other people interested in A.D.72?”
It was a very insightful comment. ‘Dracula A.D. 1972’ holds a particular sway over a niche set of fans of who are already within a select group of people interested in Hammer films. A flutter of excitement went through this niche when recently the soundtrack was re-released on 180grm vinyl with a groovy orange psychedelic pattern on it and sleeve notes by noted Horror scribe Kim Newman. I resisted buying for a while, God knows I tried, but clearly not hard enough because I’m listening to it now.
What has surprised me is that I’ve actually listened to it more than once. The White Noise track on side one (used in the film to resurrect Dracula) and more trippy tracks are hard work but the rest of the music has weathered well. In particular the ‘wacka wacka’ funky bass variations are a lot of fun and I could well imagine them being sampled now for something needing an authentic retro groove.
Buying the soundtrack has again made me wonder again why I love the film, because it is bloody awful. As a Horror film it’s as scary as a pint of milk. It was released in September 1972 and must have looked dated even back then. It was written by Don Houghton who wrote the two follow up films to A.D 1972 and wrote for ‘Doctor Who’. He was 32 when he wrote the screenplay for A.D 1972 so hardly the youthful young turk you might want to inject some new blood into a long standing series.
The film certainly looked dated when I saw it for the first time – I’m guessing when I was 15 – on HTV. Since then I may have watched the film going into three figures, and it’s dreadful (although I’ll suggest it’s not as bad as another Hammer film of around that time, ‘Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter,’ but that’s another story…).
So why the obsession, and why are there at least another 665 other people who share my interest?
Well, for a start, it’s the first time since 1958 that you see Christopher Lee’s Dracula and Peter Cushing’s Van Helsing together. Both actors individually have an onscreen charisma and together they have a very watchable chemistry. Film makers were not blind to this and cast them together in countless films, and the duo could be relied upon to lift up even the most lacklustre script. Lee had starred as the Count in four films since the original and Cushing had played Van Helsing without Lee in the 1960 ‘The Brides of Dracula’ so it is surprising that Hammer left it so long to team them up again in their most iconic roles.
‘Dracula A.D. 1972’ begins with a fight between Dracula and Van Helsing in 1872 upon a stage coach racing through a park in Victorian London. At the climax of the scene both Dracula and Van Helsing die! After the funeral we jump a hundred years and that’s when things go south for the film. The frustration I’ve always had with the film is that I actually want to watch the film which leads up to the start of ‘A.D 1972’ – that would be a much better film! A Victorian penny dreadful – which were Hammer’s stock in trade for a while – matching Dracula and Van Helsing would have been the perfect vehicle for the two actors, but we have ‘Dracula A.D. 1972’ instead.
I do love the film but I can’t really put my finger on exactly why. I suppose it’s because it’s more than a little daft, very comforting and is a snapshot of a swinging London that never actually existed.
“We shot it in the early ‘70s, but the dialogue, the clothes, the whole idea, the way it was shot, everything was kind of late ‘60s based”, Caroline Munro told Matthew Sweet in 2015. “I don’t know whether it was too well received at the time…”
Despite the surrounding film, Lee and Cushing are great and for all its faults ‘Dracula A.D 1972’ is a more entertaining film than ‘Batman v Superman’. So if you’ve never see it give the film a watch, but I warn you it’s terrible.