Saturday, October 2, 2010

Dracula Has Risen from the Grave

I go back and forth as to whether I consider Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee as the quintessential Dracula. My opinion generally rests on which gentleman I have seen portray the Lord of the Undead most recently. Needless to say, I am currently in the Lee camp. Dracula Has Risen from the Grave is obviously not Lee’s first turn as the Count, but it is my favorite. Hence, it earns first review status.

The movie begins where the previous left off. Dracula has been killed, but the locals still cower in fear. A monsignor arrives to place a golden cross on the door to Castle Dracula to remove the town’s curse. He rings along the local priest, who is a cowardly soul who will not go to the castle door. The monsignor leaves him behind as he goes to complete the blessing. In a freak mishap, the preacher is injured and bleeds. The lbood reaches the buried Dracula. It is enough to revive him.

Dracula is incensed his castle has desecrated y the cross, so he vows vengeance on the monsignor’s family. Unfortunately, he just happens to have a lovely, buxom niece named Lydia who serves as a perfect target for Dracula’s intentions.

The battle against Dracula’s kidnapping and eventual and eventual attempted murder of Lydia sets up an intriguing study about faith. The main protagonist is Paul, Lydia’s boyfriend and an avowed atheist among devout Christians. Both believers and non-believers are forced to deal with their worldviews in light of the supernatural evil of Dracula, something that conflicts with both of them.

The priest is such a coward, he allows himself to become Dracula’s assistant in the kidnapping plot. It is well into the climax before he realizes his faith in God is too strong to allow him to go through with his assigned task. Paul is brave enough to confront Dracula, but because of his lack of faith, the Christian rituals he has to undertake in order to destroy the vampire are not strong enough to work! He finally catches Dracula off guard and physically impales him on the golden cross barring the door to Castle Dracula. He also becomes a Christian for good measure. I am certain atheists are very fond of this movie.

What impresses me most about Dracula Has Risen from the Grave is how much Lee dominates even though he has very little screen time and virtually no dialogue. I think he says ten words at most throughout. But his mere presence is frighteningly staggering. It is enough to manipulate certain characters witout having to turn them into mindless slaves.

The movie has flaws, including one very large plot hole to begin the proceedings. In the first scene, an altar boy cleaning the church discovers the fresh corpse of a woman stuffed into the church ell. She has fang marks on her neck, so she has been murdered by Dracula. But how? The whole point of the first act is setting up his rising from the grave. He is not around to kill her yet. Looking at a screen cap of the scene, you can tell why it was thrown in despite the logical problem:Let us just assume Dracula’s spirit killed the poor girl and anyone who disagrees is a boob, all right?

A couple other minor quibbles are some incidental reflections cast by Dracula in background mirrors and once in a pool of water. Everyone attached the to production ought to know vampires do not cast reflections. That should have been an easily avoidable problem. The other problem I had is lee’s overacting in Dracula’s death scene. He is standing with the cross impaled in his chest, contorting about and grunting far longer than was necessary to get the pain of death across. He looked like he was engaged in an interpretive dance there.

Regardless of those two quibbles, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave is right up there wit the best of vampire flicks. It is certainly one of the best of Hammer Films’ offerings. A must see for fans of the genre.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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