The bizarre Dracula film that saw him meet the hippies
Newman – who would later use the Johnny Alucard name for one of the main characters in his Anno Dracula series of novels putting forward an alternate history where Count Dracula marries Queen Victoria – believes the film got a harsher reception than it should have done due to it being a later Hammer horror at a time when the company was struggling. “There wasn’t resistance to the idea of a contemporary-set vampire movie,” he says. “A few years later, Salem’s Lot was basically Dracula reset in Peyton Place . Hammer were struggling to stay in the game, and some at the time saw only gimmicks – see also Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde or The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires for odd hybrids.”
So though it was not quite sure what it wanted to be, and while it was perhaps not wholly successful in portraying the immortal Dracula at play in hip London town, Dracula AD 1972 has developed quite a following in the decades since. After its first DVD release in 2006, in particular, it found a new, appreciative audience. As the Classic Monsters website surmised, “the movie did what it was meant to, bringing a tired franchise up to date whilst retaining enough of its heritage to remain credible”. And as the Grindhouse Database said, it is “an example of 1970s exploitation filmmaking at its most quirky and capricious … a delightfully entertaining experience”.
What would Bram Stoker have thought of it? We’ll never know, of course, but his great grand-nephew Dacre Stoker, who has written many books on his ancestor’s creation, thinks that, if nothing else, the film paves the way for Dracula to escape his Victorian bounds.
“It did provide an opening for authors and screenwriters to modernise Bram Stoke’s Victorian horror story, and unleash the Transylvanian count on a wide variety of audiences,” he tells BBC Culture, adding jokily that “I would have thought that the music soundtrack was bad enough to kill the Count, but instead he was impaled by a spoke of a wooden carriage wheel, which I did think was quite clever.”
Without the ambition of Dracula AD 1972 and its at-the-time daring and controversial move to bring Dracula into the modern era, the seed might not have been sown for other writers and film-makers to update the vampire legend themselves. Three years later , Stephen King published the aforementioned Salem’s Lot, and the basic concept of the 1972 movie was repeated with turn-of-the-millennium Hollywood horror Dracula 2000, starring Gerard Butler as the Count, and its two sequels. Who knows, without AD 1972 we might never even have had modern-day vampire stories like Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire, published in 1976, or the Twilight series, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It may be a faintly humorous curio in the horror canon, but it’s an important one nonetheless.
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