Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Horror Movie Review: Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride



Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride

Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Coles, William Franklyn, and Joanna Lumley

Writer: Don Houghton

Director: Alan Gibson

Production Companies: Warner Bros. Pictures and Hammer Film Productions

Release Date: October 1978 (in the USA), original film released in West Germany on November 3, 1973

I've never understood why British movies ended up with new titles. Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride was originally called The Satanic Rites of Dracula. I suppose when this movie was released in the US after 5 years there was concern about the whole Satan reference. In the end, neither title really fits this bizarre Hammer film. I recommend Van Helsing: 00-Crucifix - A Bloody Black Death.



It's not a surprise that 6 years after this film was released, Hammer stopped making films and started the "Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense" television program. I'm glad to see they are returning to films with two 2010 releases, and I'm looking forward to a modern day Hammer, but things were turning screwy there in the 70's and Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride shows how screwy things were getting.


London police are investigating a group supposedly performing dark rituals. They find more than they were bargaining for when an undercover cop gets killed. He's able to get photos to the department and they find the men involved are some very powerful men in London. They call in Scotland Yard who in turn calls in Professor Lorrimer Van Helsing, descendant of Abraham Van Helsing.

Van Helsing theorizes that Dracula has returned and has had a new strain of Yersinia Pestis, the Black Death, developed. The more potent, deadlier version will surely wipe out mankind if they can't stop the vampire.


You may be asking, "Why, Orgy, would Dracula want to wipe out all of man?" Van Helsing figures ol' Drac is tired of existing for centuries and the best way to make sure he dies is to get rid of his food supply.

You may also be wondering, "What's any of this have to do with the so called 'Satanic' ritual?" Um, haven't figured that one out. It wasn't done for Drac to have a mid-day snack or anything, so I don't know. In fact, Satan doesn't play a role in Dracula's mechanations, so I'm not sure how the big S got top billing.


"But, Orgy," you inquire, "what about the bride mentioned in the US title?"

That would be Jessica Van Helsing, Lorrimer's daughter, whom Professor Van Helsing allows to get involved and then has to save once Dracula chooses her to be his bride. She's never a vampire, so, again, even the US title is misleading.

I've seen some titles say Count Dracula and His Vampire Brides, noting the plural "Brides". That's a little more accurate as there are several women vampires chained in the basement of Dracula's abode, but they are never referred to as brides, wives, or even the old Balls and Chains. But then if your husband kept you chained in the basement, you'd probably want a divorce, so maybe that was the problem. Would Jessica have tolerated the BDSM better than the others?


There's a lot to this movie that doesn't make sense. Why are the vampire women chained up? Is Dracula going to make Jessica his bride simply to piss off Lorrimer, or does he want companionship as he starves? Are there not easier ways for Dracula to kill himself? What was the purpose of the seemingly Satanic rituals? Why is Dracula still being called Count in the modern day? It certainly seems out of place.

Add to that a horribly pathetic death scene for Dracula, and motorcycle chases that help make this feel more like a James Bond film than a Dracula picture and there seems little appealing about this film.

And yet, much like the disjointed elements of this pictured, cobbled together despite their lack of connection, there is amusement to be found here. Certainly watching the Hammer greats of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing is part of it. And Joanna Lumley in a horror picture before her wonderfully funny role of Patsy in "Absolutely Fabulous" is worth a gander. Somewhere in here there is something fun to be had. A close up of a vampire breast as one of the possible brides gets staked possibly. I can't put my finger on it, but there is something appealing here. It doesn't make sense, but then, neither does the film.




Related Trailers

The Creeping Flesh

Both Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing also starred in the 1973 non-Hammer film The Creeping Flesh. A scientist comes to believe that evil is a disease of the blood and that the flesh of a skeleton he has brought back from New Guinea contains it in a pure form. Convinced that his wife, a Folies Bergere dancer who went insane, manifested this evil he is terrified that it will be passed on to their daughter. He tries to use the skeleton's blood to immunise her against this eventuality, but his attempt has anything but the desired result.



And Now the Screaming Starts!

Because The Creeping Flesh also has Peter Cushing, I almost let that cover Cushing's trailer as well. But a movie entitled And Now the Screaming Starts! which has a a malevolent severed hand can't be ignored. Also released in 1973 and starring Herbert Lom, from the Pink Panther movies, And Now the Screaming Starts! follows the young woman Catherine who moves to the house of her fiancé Charles Fengriffen in the country to get married with him. When she arrives, she feels interest in the portraits of the Fengriffen family, particularly in the one of Charle's grandfather Henry Fengriffen, which seems to have a sort of evil entity possessing it. While admiring Henry's face, a severed hand attacks Catherine through the picture on the wall. Later, she gets married with Charles, beginning her journey of mystery, eerie apparitions, secrets and deaths, and having her days filled with fear and the nights with horrors in a cursed family.



Dracula A.D. 1972

Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride was the sequel to Dracula A.D. 1972, which starred Lee, Cushing, and Michael Coles. In London 1872 - the final battle between Lawrence van Helsing and Count Dracula on top of a coach results in Dracula dying from a stake made from the remains of a wooden wheel. Lawrence dies from his wounds and, as he is buried, a servant of Dracula buries the remains of the stake by the grave and keeps a bottle of Dracula's ashes and the ring. One hundred years later, the colourful 1972, Johnny, the great-grandson of the servant joins up with a "group" containing Jessica, the grand-daughter of the present vampire hunter, Abraham van Helsing and with their unknowing help resurrect Dracula in the 20th Century who is determined to destroy the house of Van Helsing, but who can believe that The king of the Vampires really exists and is alive - in 20th Century London?



The House That Dripped Blood

Joanna Lumley had an uncredited part in The House That Dripped Blood. A Scotland Yard investigator looks into four mysterious cases involving an unoccupied house: 1) A writer encounters a strangler of his own creation, 2) Two men are obsessed with a wax figure of a woman from their past, 3) A little girl displays an interest in witchcraft, and 4) A film actor discovers a cloak which gives him a vampire's powers.



The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires

Don Houghton also wrote the screenplay for The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. Count Dracula journies to a remote Chinese village in the guise of a warlord to support six vampires who are dispirited after the loss of a seventh member of their cult. At the same time, vampire hunter Prof. Van Helsing happens to be lecturing in the country and is persuaded by villagers to help them fight this curse of the ages.


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