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Friday, October 21, 2011

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave

     I find it was just as true back then as it is today- you just can't keep a good monster down.  Christopher Lee was a bona fide star by this point in time, and his third outing as Count Dracula came in 1968's "Dracula Has Risen From the Grave".  Fans either love or hate this installment, as both director Terence Fisher and Peter Cushing did not return for this entry.  No worries though- Christopher Lee as Dracula is as riveting as ever.  The plot really doesn't matter at this point, we don't watch Dracula or Frankenstein movies for new plotlines- we watch them because we love the original story. But here's the jist anyway.  A monsignor is trying to rid the castle of evil after the mysterious death of a local village girl, found hanging inside the bell of the local church.  In a very dramatic scene, the monsignor and the priest of the church where the young girl was found are attempting an exorcism on Dracula's castle.  There's a monstrous thunderstorm going on, and the priest falls on some rocks.  In a bit of a stretch, some of his blood just happens to trickle down to the frozen ice below, where if you remember, Dracula was last seen frozen under the ice in the climax of "Dracula, Prince of Darkness".  The blood of the priest awakens Dracula from his frozen slumber, and he rises again from the un-dead to wreak more havoc on the village still living in fear of his evil doings.

     Lee has some especially eerie scenes in this installment, and I found myself at this point marvelling at his take on Dracula- I think in his own way (and no disrespect to Bela Lugosi here at all...) he is every bit as good as Lugosi in the role.  "Dracula Has Risen From the Grave" is quintessential Hammer, and even brings an interesting subplot of atheism into the mix.  There are some genuinely well-done scenes of creepiness and horror, one being the pursuit and stalking of the barmaid through those eerie, sun-dappled forests.  It's quite effective.  Many scenes look as if they were filmed through some sort of color filter, and the effect works.  The film also boasts a spectacular climax as Count Dracula is impaled on a cross by the sexy Barry Andrews, crying tears of blood as he dies.  I had a rollicking good time with this Hammer film.  Despite the lack of director Terence Fisher or Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, "Dracula Has Risen From the Grave" is still mondo fun.  If there is one shining example of a Hammer film in all it's Gothic glory, then "Dracula Has Risen From the Grave" just might be the one.  Not because it's a great film, mind you. It's not as terrible as some make it out to be, but it's no masterpiece either.  But despite all the film's shortcoming, it offers some spectacular set pieces and scenes- it somehow manages to gleefully squeeze nearly all of the classic Hammer and horror cliches into one dizzying and satisfying flick.

      If you can leave your thinking cap off, and just lose yourself in the wonderfully weird world of Hammer horror, I promise you will have a great time.  Director Freddie Francis creates a great and morbid atmosphere here, and the film offers up some of the greatest Gothic horror sets I've ever seen in any Dracula film.  Seriously.  Peter Cushing is sorely missed here, and Lee could have been given more screen time (his fee was huge at this point...), but it's impossible not to enjoy this entry.  Christopher Lee is at his menacing best here- those eyes are still haunting, even today. I could watch these all day long.

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