TITLE: Dracula has Risen from the Grave
YEAR RELEASED: 1968
DIRECTOR: Freddie Francis
CAST: Christopher Lee, Rupert Davies, Veronica Carlson, Barry Andrews, Barbara Ewing, Ewan Hooper
REVIEW BY RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES
A lot had happened to Hammer since 1965’s Dracula: Prince Of Darkness.
They had moved out of their old home at Bray Studios, and entered the world of hired stages at Elstree and, in the case of this particular film, Pinewood. The team/family atmosphere of old was gone, and naturally the look and feel of the films would be affected.
As if to further emphasise the changes taking place, this would be Hammer’s first outing for the Count without first choice Terence Fisher at the helm. When he was injured in an accident, Freddie Francis replaced him.
Picking up things a year on from its predecessor, the village in the shadow of Dracula’s castle has never recovered. The locals have lost their faith, and the priest says mass to an empty church before heading to the tavern to drown his sorrows. The Monsignor (Rupert Davies) pays a visit and is horrified by what he finds. Resolving to prove to the villagers once and for all that they no longer have anything to fear, he takes the reluctant priest (Ewan Hooper) to the castle to perform an exorcism and bar the entrance with a large cross. In the midst of the act, a thunderstorm breaks out and the priest inadvertently releases Dracula from his frozen resting place in the moat.
Dracula is not impressed when he finds the cross blocking his castle entrance. Tracking the Monsignor back to the city of Kleinenberg, the Count resolves to take revenge by making his niece Maria (Veronica Carlson) his vampire bride, and earmarks tavern barmaid Zena (Barbara Ewing) and the priest to assist him to this end.
Not only does Dracula Has Risen From The Grave look very different to what had come before, it looks quite unlike any other Hammer production, period. Francis wastes no time in putting his own stamp on things: He had used coloured filters with monochrome stock for Jack Clayton on The Innocents, in order to mask the Cinemascope frame which Clayton disliked. Here, Francis uses the same approach, but in Technicolor the effect is considerably different. Framing the outer sides of the image in reds and yellows at some critical points in the film has the general effect of pulling your focus to the centre part of the screen, and is occasionally quite disorientating. It doesn’t work all the time, but is a pleasingly original flourish.
There’s another unusual thing. The rooftop scenes are the closest Hammer ever came to full on expressionism – just look at all the skewed angles of the set and the painted backdrop. Someone had been watching The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari for sure. Francis adds to the effect by not shooting from the most obvious positions. If this does feel like a film that’s been directed by a cinematographer, it’s directed by a damn good one.
Again writing under his nom de plume of John Elder, Anthony Hinds turns in what may not be his best script, but does feature some great individual parts: The film’s opening scene is highly effective and still packs a punch, albeit leaving the rest of the script with a difficult act to follow. Then there is the idea that Maria’s boyfriend Paul (Barry Andrews) is the nominal hero of the piece but is a self avowed Atheist.
It certainly throws something fresh into the mix.
Sadly there is a nagging sense that Dracula is starting to be reduced to a supporting part in his own films, although a returning Christopher Lee does at least get some dialogue this time around, after the mute role of his previous outing. The script focuses more on the acts being carried out by the Count’s bedevilled servants, as well as the relationship between Paul and Maria.
Still, there is much to enjoy here. Hammer regulars Michael Ripper and George A. Cooper are excellent in their supporting turns, and having not one but two innkeepers in a Hammer production is a rare treat indeed.
Both Barry Andrews and Veronica Carlson are effective as the young lovers, and actually have quite a lot of the film to carry. Meanwhile, Carlson and Barbara Ewing both firmly earn their place in the Hammer girls’ hall of fame.
Off camera, James Bernard contributes another trademark score, Bernard Robinson does his best to make the new castle exterior match the old standing set at Bray and Arthur Grant and Moray Grant return on DP and camera duties respectively. All are Hammer mainstays, and an important bridge between the Bray years and this new phase in the company’s life.
If not the absolute pinnacle of Hammer’s output, the passing years have been quite kind to Dracula Has Risen From The Grave. The things which really date it, like some ill matching stock shots or scene dissolves, are the kind of thing which could be fixed with today’s digital correction. However, at the time of writing it has not been granted the kind of restoration afforded some of its stable mates. Here’s hoping that doesn’t remain the case.
RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES lives with his wife close to the Dorset Coast. He spends far too much of his spare time watching horror films and listening to psychedelic music (sometimes simultaneously). He also writes on Movies, Music, TV and other matters for his blog, The Purple Patch. You can follow him on Twitter @PurplePatchBlog