Friday, June 28, 2013

Review - "Dracula has Risen from the Grave" (1969)

I have always been partial to classic horror. It started as a kid when I saw the 1931 version of "Dracula" when it was being shown at the local library for Halloween. Despite my love for vintage macabre, I never really got into the films of Hammer Studios, who produced horror films from 1957 into the mid '70's. Perhaps as a younger person, I was always rather off-put by the fact that Hammer was the first studio to push the envelope with what was acceptable in horror films. I'm still not a fan of overt gore, so I have learned which Hammer films to shy away from, and which ought to be viewed.

To finally get a taste of what Hammer was all about, I recently bought TCM's Greatest Classic Films Collection, which featured four Hammer horror films. Included in the set of four films are: "Curse of Frankenstein," "Horror of Dracula," "Dracula has Risen from the Grave" and "Frankenstein Must be Destroyed." Having already seen some of the films, and spoken of how good they are, I thought I'd continue by reviewing yet another of the collection's horror classics.

"Dracula has Risen from the Grave" begins in blood-and-thunder style, as a young boy in a church discovers blood trickling out of one of the church's bells. It transpires that a young woman's body is discovered in the bell, the tell-tale bite marks of a vampire upon her throat. Fearing it to be the work of Count Dracula, whose castle stands on the outskirts of the village, the traveling Monsignor Ernst Muller (Rupert Davies), travels to the castle to get rid of any evil lingering therein. Placing a cross on the door, Dracula (Christopher Lee), who has been resurrected, vows revenge and follows the Monsignor to his own village, where he plans to turn the cleric's niece (Veronica Carlson) into a vampire. 

The film was the third movie in which Christopher Lee played Dracula. He continues to play the part of Count Dracula with great menace. What makes Dracula so creepy in this movie is that he is a shadowy figure, whose presence is felt throughout the story, but in the long run he has very little screen time. What's more, Dracula has only a few lines. He is a truly evil figure, and one cannot feel contempt as he puts Veronica Carlson and Barbra Ewing under his hypnotic control. Despite the fact that "Dracula has Risen from the Grave," the movie goes a long way to create a fairy tale-like atmosphere. Director, Freddie Francis, was a cameraman before he took over the position of director at Hammer studios, and he directed visuals incredibly well. In a large number of the scenes, red, yellow and amber filters are placed before the camera lens. This goes a long way to giving these scenes some atmosphere, and add some colour to the mainly monochromatic sets.

"Dracula has Risen from the Grave" was, as I mentioned above, re-released as part of the TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection series. If you're unfamiliar with the DVDs, the collections feature four films in a specific genre or category. Some examples of these sets include: Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, Sc-Fi movies, James Stewart films etc. Released alongside three other prime examples of Hammer's movie making, the four movies are released on two double-sided DVDs. I know some people are violently opposed to double-sided DVDs, but I have never had a problem with any of my collections. The collection sadly does not feature any special features, but I think these collections are intended as an introduction to classic films, instead of a collection for the avid historian.

I thought that "Dracula has Risen from the Grave" was an excellent horror film form the heyday of Hammer's reign. It was a well-made horror extravaganza, with plenty of Technicolor blood to go around. With some fine acting from Christopher Lee as the epitome of evil, the movie is a taut thriller. I give the movie 4 out of 5 stars. If you're interested, I'll post another review from this collection - next time "Frankenstein Must be Destroyed" starring the great Peter Cushing. 

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